An Internet offer was made to identify any spider in the United States perceived to be a brown recluse spider, Loxosceles reclusa Gertsch & Mulaik (Sicariidae). In total, 1,773 arachnids from 49 states represented three orders (Araneae, Solifugae, and Opiliones) and the identifiable spiders (Araneae) consisted of 38 families, 88 genera, and 158 recognizable species. Participants from states at least half within the known brown recluse distribution submitted Loxosceles spiders 32–89% of the time, except Louisiana and Mississippi with no submissions. From 25 of 29 states completely or almost completely outside of the range of Loxosceles spiders, no recluse spiders were submitted. Only two discoveries of brown recluses and two of the worldwide tramp species Loxosceles rufescens (Dufour) were submitted from nonendemic Loxosceles areas. States on distribution margins of brown recluse or other native Loxosceles spiders were intermediate in their Loxosceles submissions. This study showed that 1) the general public perceives brown recluses to occur over wide-ranging areas of the United States; and 2) brown recluses are frequently submitted from endemic states and almost never from nonendemic states, and therefore are virtually limited to their known distributions. This study corroborates opinions that diagnosis of brown recluse spider bites is best restricted to areas historically supporting proven, widespread populations of Loxosceles spiders.
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Vol. 42 • No. 4