Although the temperatures at which the brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is active have been described, no work has been done on lethal thermal limits that may influence the distribution of this medically important species. We tested the cold tolerance of L. reclusa at temperatures ranging from 3° C to −14° C. First, we tested spiders over brief 4-h exposures to a test temperature. Second, we tested spider tolerance to long-term, 30-da exposures to constant, low temperatures to simulate overwintering conditions. We also recorded temperatures beneath the plant litter layer and compared these to ambient surface air temperatures to estimate the effect of litter insulation. We then used the regression of ambient temperature to litter temperature to predict isotherms of litter retreats in Illinois during January, the month of lowest mean winter temperatures. Using the cold temperature lethal limits we found in the lab, we predicted a theoretical distribution of L. reclusa based solely on temperature that approximately matches its currently known distribution in Illinois.
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