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Wolf Spider vs Brown Recluse (Similarities & Differences)

The wolf spider and a brown recluse do have overlapping habitats, but there are some distinct differences between the two. The most important, of course, is that the brown recluse bite can be more harmful than that of the wolf spider.

wolf spider

The main differences between the two species include:

  • Appearance – brown recluses are darker and much thinner.
  • Size – wolf spiders are up to 3x larger than the brown recluse.
  • Patterns on the body – the wolf spider has patterns on the back of its body, while the brown recluse has only one distinctive pattern – a violin shape on its head.
  • Leg thickness – a good way to tell which spider you’re dealing with is to look at the legs – brown recluse has thinner legs than the wolf spider.
  • Venom – The brown recluse’s venom causes more harm to humans than the wolf spider.

The brown recluse is found in certain parts of North America, especially in the southern states (Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana, as well as some other states). In comparison, the wolf spider is found almost across entire America, as well as almost all other continents in the world.

Important Note: This is general information for entertainment purposes only. If you have been bitten, seek professional medical attention immediately. Always have professionals identify and manage your pest control needs.

Wolf Spider vs Brown Recluse

FeatureBrown RecluseWolf Spider
1. Scientific NameLoxosceles reclusaLycosidae
2. Body Size (not including legs)10 mm10 – 35 mm
3. HabitatSouthern StatesAll of North America
4. ColorUniform BrownBrown, Gray & Yellow
5. Identifying PatternNoneBlack Stripes
6. Eyes6 in a triangle shape8 in rows
7. Bite VenomVery DangerousMild
8. Type of WebTangled WebNone

Brown Recluse Spiders – Overview

The brown recluse is one of the deadliest spiders in the United States. Generally found in the southern states, it’s a rather rare creature that you might find nestled inside your shoes one morning!

It’s a ground dwelling creature known for its extremely painful and sometimes deadly bite. One feature is that the brown recluse is just that – brown! And while many other spiders are brown, this one is remarkably uniform without patterns on its back. (Note that other spiders may present as all-brown, too, making them hard to identify).

According to most identification guides, the most defining feature of the brown recluse is its six triangle-shaped eges. You get a great view of them in the video above.

Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders have their name for their remarkable hunting skills. These furry spiders are found all over the United States and are perhaps best known for the fact they carry their babies on their backs for up to 6 months after birth.

They are also unique in that they don’t weave webs. Instead, they live in holes in the ground or other hidden natural spaces. 

A bite from a wolf spider will not kill a human.

It’s hard to identify a wolf spider because their patterns and colors can vary significantly. However, the fact they carry their babies on their backs and carry their eggs around with them means you can identify some female wolf spiders very quickly.

Similarities

Let’s take a look at the similarities between these two species.

1. Habitat

These two spider species are both found in certain parts of North America. While the wolf spider is found in most states of North America as well as all over the world, the brown recluse spider is typically found in the southern states only.

They both like to hide in closed spaces where they have some peace. They both prefer dark, closed corners where they have enough freedom and peace to wait patiently for their animals of prey to show up. They both don’t like contact with humans as they’re quite shy, and they won’t attack free willingly.

2. They Both Look Terrifying

Apart from living in similar conditions and hiding in spaces where they can’t be found, these two animals both look terrifying at first sight, so they’re both quite feared. However, wolf spiders have earned this reputation unjustly.

As you will see in this article, wolf spiders are not as dangerous as they appear to be. Brown recluse spiders, on the other hand, are much more dangerous because their venom can cause severe damage, so it’s absolutely essential that you’re able to recognize which spider you see and distinguish between these two.

Differences

There are many more differences between these two species than there are similarities, so let’s take a look at them.

1. Size

The wolf spider is larger than the brown recluse. Its body (not including legs) might grow to up to 1.5 inches in size, while the brown recluse might not even reach an inch in size. A good way to see which spider you’re dealing with is to take a look at the size of the spider and see whether it fits the description. If it appears quite small and less hairy, you may have a brown recluse!

2. Stripes and Body Color

The most obvious difference between the two spiders will be visual. Namely, the wolf spider has a much more diverse color pattern on its body, and it will often have black and yellowish stripes on the back of its body.

On the other hand, the brown recluse will be entirely brown, so you won’t see any patterns on its body (except for the violin-like shape near its head). The brown recluse is much easier to distinguish than the wolf spider, which is mainly thanks to its uni-color body pattern.

So the best way to find the difference between the two is to look at the color of the spider. If it is entirely brown and a smaller spider, then most likely, it is the brown recluse. If it has some patterns, then it’s probably the wolf spider.

3. Eyes

A wolf spider has eight eyes arranged in rows while a brown recluse has six eyes arranged in a triangle.

Wolf spiders are famous for their three rows of eyes. The bottom row is four small eyes next to one another. Above that is a row of two larger eyes. Then, above that again are two eyes pointing out to the sides. So, the pattern is: 4-2-2.

A brown recluse, on the other hand, has six not eight eyes. These eyes are in three pairs. The pairs form a triangle of eyes on the animal’s face.

4. Hair and Thickness

Wolf spiders have hairs on their bodies that are much more apparent and easily visible, which makes them easier to spot. Brown recluses, on the other hand, don’t have hairs that are so visible, which makes them appear as though they are thinner.

Even though the hairs make the wolf spider appear more intimidating, you’ll see that in truth, the wolf spider is actually not that scary. In fact, it’s the brown recluse that is more dangerous thanks to its dangerous-looking appearance. It doesn’t have many hairs on its body, though.

Because of this fact, you’ll see that the brown recluse might appear to be slightly thinner, while the wolf spider will be bulkier and much thicker. This is, again, another good way to distinguish between the two. The legs, in particular, will be thinner with the brown recluse as compared to the wolf spider.

5. Web Weaving

Another crucial difference between these two spiders is their web-weaving habits. The wolf spider will not make any webs at all, while the brown recluse might make some webs that have an irregular shape.

The brown recluse’s web will appear irregular and not very evenly shaped. However, this can’t be a difinitive determiner of whether the spider is a brown recluse. Many other spiders also have irregular shaped webs.

However, it’s easy to eliminate the chances a spider is a brown recluse by looking at the web. If it’s a web that looks like a net between trees (think: Charlotte’s web), then it’s not a brown recluse. What you’d have there is some variety of an orb weaving spider.

The webs of a brown recluse don’t play the role of catching the prey as it does with the vast majority of other spiders. Instead, it plays a more protective role where the brown recluse can hide if it finds itself in danger.

6. Jumping

Wolf spiders have the capacity to jump, while the brown recluse doesn’t do that at all. Instead, it prefers to hide in dark corners and spots of your home, so it might find itself in your shoes and your wardrobe. 

The most common way that people get stung by the brown recluse is when they try to put on their shoes and the spider is inside that shoe. That is when the spider will bite, and the bite might cause a severe reaction. 

That’s why the most important thing when a brown recluse bites is to take swift action. You need to seek immediate attention.

Which is More Venomous?

The brown recluse is much more venomous than the wolf spider, without a shadow of a doubt.

Brown recluse bites can cause severe reactions: sweating, irritation, dizziness, lightheadedness, irregular heartbeat, and if not treated quickly enough, some long-term issues might occur. But despite that, 90% of these brown recluse bites will heal on their own, while a small percentage will cause long-lasting damage.

On the other hand, the bite of a wolf spider is largely harmless. It might not cause any damage at all, while some people will experience irritation of the skin, pain at the bite site, and some other minor signs, but nothing major at all. This bite might only be dangerous to people who are allergic to spider bites.

This might come as a surprise to some people, as the wolf spider appears to be so dangerous, so you would naturally think that a bite from this spider will cause long-lasting damage as well. However, it is the brown recluse that is far more dangerous out of these two species.

Other Spider Comparisons:

Conclusion

Identifying a wolf spider and a brown recluse might be the difference between getting stung by one of the most dangerous spider species in the world and a harmless spider. Luckily, the differences between the two spiders are quite apparent and should be quite easy to spot, even at first sight.

Look for stripes on their bodies, their colors, and the size of the spider to identify them quickly. The wolf spider is much stockier and hairier, and it has patterns on its back. The brown recluse, on the other hand, will be entirely brown and might not have any patterns at all that is clearly visible.