Wolf Spiders vs. Brown Recluse Spiders: What’s the Difference

Spiders are among the most numerous and decorated arthropods in the world. While their presence may cause fear and panic to many, spiders provide an important ecological balance by aiding in insect control. They tend to shy away from people, but even so, it is important to be able to recognize them when they do happen to appear.

One of the groups that holds a great deal of interest is the family Lycosidae, commonly known as wolf spiders. Most of these spiders hunt their prey and live independently while others of this family form colonies and share the workload when hunting prey.

On the other hand, some species within the genus Loxosceles, more commonly known as brown recluse spiders are all too common in certain areas of North America. These spiders prefer a drier environment where humans often reside leading to potential dangerous potential encounters for humans. These two groups have been studied extensively for both medical and ecological reasons due to their similarities in behavior yet distinct features which allow them to be categorized accordingly.

While wolf spiders often blend into their background making themselves nearly unnoticeable, brown recluses can create an array of problems for humans who cross paths with these arachnids. In this article we will outline how one can distinguish wolf spiders from brown recluses as well as how one should proceed if bitten by either spider group.


Physical Characteristics

Wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders, although both belonging to the same arachnid family, have notable differences in physical characteristics. Wolf spiders are usually grey or dark brown in color and have a furry body, while brown recluse spiders have a light tan to dark brown color and a smooth, glossy body.

These spiders also have a distinct pattern and markings that can easily help one identify them. Let’s take a look at the physical characteristics to find out more about these spiders.


Wolf Spiders


Wolf spiders are robust spiders that can range in size from a few millimeters to two inches in length. They typically have stout, short legs and move quickly and erratically when disturbed due to their many densely arranged eyes.

Notable features include grayish-gray color (brown or black with white or yellowish markings), the front side of the cephalothorax is dominated by three pair of eyes, large oval abdomen with a light line down the middle and small spines on each segment, dark longitudinal line over the rear end of the abdomen that may also be further marked by pairs of whitish spots, and eight neuromuscular layers on one side to move their legs. Wolf spiders have long bristles on their body including their chelicerae or fangs which are used to capture prey.


Brown Recluse Spiders


Brown recluse spiders are members of the genus Loxosceles and can be identified by the characteristic violin shape found on their back. They typically range from 6-20 mm in size, with a uniformly colored body that ranges from tan to dark brown. Brown recluse spiders have long, slender legs which are covered in short hairs and feature three distinct claws at the end.

Brown recluses also have strongly developed eyesight and can be seen using their rear eyes at night to find prey. The brown recluse spider lives for about 1-2 years and typically avoids people; however, when threatened it will bite as a defense mechanism if it feels trapped or threatened. It is not considered an aggressive spider, but if its venom is injected into humans, it can cause tissue destruction in some cases.

Unlike wolf spiders, brown recluse spiders don’t chase after you – they just hang out in dark places and happen to bite when a person comes along due to feeling startled or threatened.



Wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders both live in different habitats.

  • Wolf spiders prefer to stay near the ground, often dwelling in leaf litter or debris near a body of water. They also can be found hiding under logs or in thick, grassy areas.
  • Brown recluses prefer to stay in drier, sheltered areas such as crevices, beneath rocks and wood, or inside homes. They generally avoid the outdoors, so will rarely be seen in leaf litter or thick grass.


Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders are the largest family of spiders, containing over 2000 species. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, ranging from deserts and savannas to wooded areas. Wolf spiders vary in size, typically ranging from 0.04 to 1 inch in length. They normally range in color from grey to brown but can also be spotted or striped. They come with a distinct eye arrangement: two large eyes form a row across the head and four smaller eyes flank the row on either side.

Wolf spiders are active predators that hunt their prey by running after them and catching them with their front legs and fangs (known as chelicerae). During the day they hide under rocks, logs, or loosened tree bark, or make holes in sand dunes near vegetation suitable for hunting. At night they emerge to hunt in open fields or along woodland edges and build burrows so they can hide during the day.



Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown Recluse spiders, also known as fiddleback, violin and brown fiddler spiders, are typically identified by the characteristic dark brown violin or fiddle mark on their backs that resembles a shape of a very small violin or “fiddler”. They usually measure in size between 6 and 20 millimeters long. Their bodily color can range from light yellowish-brown to dark grey-brown.

Brown Recluse Spiders have 8 eyes arranged in three groups of four – two eyes are positioned along the bottom row at the front, two more eyes arranged on either side right behind them, with the remaining four set in pairs in between those aforementioned groupings.

Brown Recluse Spiders generally prefer places where they can easily find food and shelter from predators. As such, they tend to inhabit private houses and more rarely commercial establishments like offices and stores due to reduced human presence during night hours. Brown Recluse Spiders dwell indoors mostly under furniture like beds or sofas, inside linens like clothes or towels, amongst books stored away for extended periods of time as well as in quiet crannies where food is more readily available for them. Outdoors they like to be around stones or bricks stacked neatly together forming ideal hideouts from predators.



Diet is an important factor when it comes to distinguishing between wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders. Wolf spiders are carnivorous, meaning they feed on insects, small vertebrates, and arachnids. On the other hand, brown recluse spiders are omnivorous and can feed on both animals and plants. They are scavengers and will consume whatever is available.


Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders are one of the most common spider species found in North America. They have robust, dark-colored bodies with long banded legs and large, distinct eyes that appear to form a star pattern on the head when viewed from above. They are hairy and vary in size from 1/2 to 2 inches long.

Wolf spiders do not build webs, instead they roam the ground looking for prey including insects, earthworms, and other spiders.

These spiders can survive cold weather and many live outdoors throughout much of their lives. Some species move indoors during fall months or if environmental conditions become extremely dry or hot due to drought or extreme temperatures. Other species construct silken tubes in lawns, beneath stones or logs and remain there permanently.

Wolf spiders are mostly found outdoors under logs and rocks but can come indoors when hunting food or fleeing injury — especially at night when they like to be most active.


Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown Recluse spiders are a species of spiders found in many parts of the world, including the United States. They are sometimes referred to as Violin spiders because of the distinctive marking on their abdomen that is shaped like a violin. They range in size from just under 1/4″ to over 1/2″ long, making them one of the larger spider species.

Brown Recluse Spiders have an active diet, meaning they hunt and capture their prey rather than building webs to catch prey as some other spider species do. These spiders generally feed on other insects such as cockroaches and other small insects, and sometimes small mice or lizards if they can find them. They use their venomous bite to inject toxins into prey that paralyzes it and then liquefies it for digestion through their stomachs. They are not aggressive and rarely bite humans unless provoked or disturbed directly.

The Brown Recluse Spider can be identified by its brown coloration, either light tan or dark brown with a dark black line or “violin” shape running across its dark abdomen from front to back. Legs on a brown recluse spider are all unpatterned except for the pedipalps which have striking red tufts at their tips. This helps set them apart from other spiders where legs are longer and lighter with patterned bands like wolf spiders which also have long legs and light colored bodies for camouflage when hunting at night time.



The behavior of Wolf Spiders and Brown Recluse spiders are quite different. Wolf Spiders are known to be more active during the day while Brown Recluse spiders are active at night. Wolf spiders are also considered to be more aggressive, while Brown Recluse spiders possess a timid demeanor. Though both spiders are venomous, the venom of a Wolf Spider is typically not harmful to humans, while the venom of a Brown Recluse can be very dangerous.

Let’s explore the behaviors of these two spiders in more detail:

  • Wolf Spiders – active during the day, more aggressive
  • Brown Recluse Spiders – active at night, timid demeanor, venom can be dangerous to humans


Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders (family Lycosidae) are found in a variety of habitats, such as meadows, pastures and urban areas. Some wolf spider species are ground dwellers, while others live in burrows or crevices of rocks or wood piles.

Wolf spiders have an unmistakable appearance, with an enlarged cephalothorax and long slim legs. They range in size from one quarter of an inch to nearly two inches long and can vary in color from dark brown to black with some having light striping near the head and eyes.

Wolf spiders don’t build webs to capture prey; they hunt actively during the day, running after their prey across open ground with the aid of their excellent vision and swift running ability.

Unlike other spider groups, wolf spiders do not rely on silk webbing to help them catch food or find mates. During mating season male wolf spiders will seek out a female by searching for her scent trail ‘pheromone’ that she leaves behind for him to follow. When mating occurs it can take up several hours before the male leaves from being attached to the female’s back by specially adapted hooks on his feet. The female then lays up to four batches of eggs which she carries around on her body until they hatch about one week later after which time the spiderlings disperse away from each other.


Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown Recluse spiders are often confused with Wolf Spiders, due to their similar color and anatomy. However, there are key distinguishing factors that you can use to tell them apart.

Brown Recluse spiders are a part of the Loxosceles genus and are of a light tan/ yellowish-brown color, with darker spots along their back and abdomen. They have three distinct pairs of eyes that form a somewhat unique ‘violin’ shaped marking. The most distinguishing factor is the dark brown cephalothorax (a fused head and thorax segment), which may give the spider the appearance of having an hourglass shaped marking on its back – depending on its posture relative to you.

Brown Recluse spiders usually prefer warm, dry areas such as attics or sheds, where they tend to hide in cracks or under piles of debris during the day and venture out for food at night. They can be found near bodies of water where there is abundant prey, such as dragonflies or mosquitoes, but will typically not enter homes unless disturbed through human activities like moving boxes in an attic or garden shed. Brown recluses possess a venom that can cause pain and swelling but generally isn’t fatal for healthy adults; however it is important to seek medical attention if bitten by one.



When it comes to the reproduction habits of wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders, there are some distinct differences.

  • Wolf spiders typically mate in the spring and summer months. They lay their eggs in sacs, which they store on the spinnerets at the end of their abdomen.
  • Brown recluse spiders, however, mate in the fall and winter months. After mating, the female will lay a single egg sac, which she also stores on the spinnerets at the end of her abdomen.


Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders are one of the more common species of spiders found in North America. They get their name from their method of “hunting” – they actively stalk and pursue their prey instead of waiting for prey to stumble upon a webbing trap. Wolf spiders are larger than house and brown recluse spiders, growing to a length between 8-20 millimeters, and can range from dark black to light brown and even tan in color.

Wolf spiders usually live outside in grassy areas near plants, trees, foliage and lawns, where food is available. They can also be found living near rocks, gardens and underneath objects near ground level. Wolf spiders burrow shallow tunnels or holes in the ground that help shield them from the elements or predators.

Wolf spider reproduction is an interesting process as male wolf spiders rarely cohabit with female counterparts unless mating or going through courtship rituals. Breeding typically begins with courtship dances performed by male wolf spiders to attract a female mate before starting her own egg sac containing up to several hundred eggs that develop throughout winter until emerging by late spring or early summer as fully fledged wolf spiderlings that look like miniature adults capable of survival straight away, but dependent on mom for nourishment till they’re fully developed young adults at about eight weeks old.


Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown Recluse Spiders, also known as violin spiders, are one of the species of spider found in the Loxosceles genus. Like other members of the spider family, they are predators that feed on insects, other arthropods, and even small animals. They can be found throughout much of United States and parts of Mexico. They range in size from about a half inch to about an inch and have a distinctive violin-shaped pattern on their cephalothorax.

Brown recluse spiders reproduce via an egg sac. The female will build an egg sac made up of silk and plant material which is carried around by the female until it hatches. After hatching the young spiderlings disperse on their own within a short period of time. The number of eggs produced depends on the age and condition of the female with most females producing around 100 eggs per season, although some may produce twice that amount. Brown recluse spiders have an average lifespan of two to three years with males living slightly longer than females on average.



It’s important to remember that while both wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders can be found in similar locations, they are distinct species with many differences.

  • Wolf spiders are usually larger, come in a variety of color patterns, and do not bite humans unless provoked.
  • Brown recluse spiders typically reside in warm climates, have a characteristic violin shape marking on their back, and their venomous bite can cause serious reactions in humans.

Knowing the difference between these two types of spiders is key to keeping safe in your home or outdoors.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the physical differences between wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders?
A: Wolf spiders are typically larger than brown recluse spiders, usually ranging from 1/2 to 2 inches in body length. Brown recluse spiders are usually 1/4 to 3/4 inches in body length. Wolf spiders also have longer legs than brown recluse spiders. In addition, wolf spiders have a distinct pattern of light and dark patches on their back, while brown recluse spiders have a distinct violin-shaped marking on their back.

Q: Where can wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders be found?
A: Wolf spiders can be found throughout the United States, while brown recluse spiders are most commonly found in the southern and central states. Wolf spiders prefer outdoor habitats like gardens, fields, and woods. Brown recluse spiders can be found in both outdoor and indoor environments, such as homes, sheds, and barns.

Q: Are wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders dangerous?
A: While wolf spiders are not considered to be dangerous, brown recluse spiders can be dangerous if their bite is left untreated. It is important to seek medical attention if you are bitten by a brown recluse spider.