The recluse spider or violin spider is a modestly sized arachnid whose name derives from the typical stain that recalls the musical instrument on the body. The shape of the violin, however, is not always well defined.
Violin spider features.
The Loxosceles rufescens, commonly known as the European “violin spider” or “recluse spider“, is a spider originating from the countries of the Mediterranean area and is only a relative of other much more famous and dangerous spiders (such as Loxosceles recluse and Loxosceles laeta).
It is a fairly small animal (maximum 9 mm body size and 4-5 cm with legs), the male’s body can reach 7 mm, the female’s body 9 mm; it is light brown in colour, with a uniform abdomen and a spot on the prosome.
Unlike most other spiders, it has 6 eyes instead of 8, arranged characteristically in three pairs.
Its legs are elongated, slender and flattened laterally, allowing it to hide in narrow ravines and very small crevices.
It has a very fine, short hair on its body.
Unlike other spiders, it has no spines on its legs or body.
It prefers dry and not very frequented areas.
It does not build showy cobwebs but generally only weaves messy threads in the areas it uses as a hiding place. Its cobwebs are soft and sticky, greyish or off-white in colour.
The species is native to the Mediterranean area, in particular from southern Europe and North Africa to Iran; as far as Europe is concerned, its presence is attested in the Iberian Peninsula, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece and Turkey.
It has been introduced in the continental United States, Macaronesia, South Africa, India, China, Japan, Korea, Laos, Thailand, Australia and the Hawaii Islands.
The violin spider is mainly present in spider-ridden, arid environments, under stones and in cracks in rocks.
It cannot stand winter temperatures and for this reason it is often found also in houses and buildings, in houses it can be found mainly behind furniture, skirting boards, under cardboard boxes or even inside gloves, shoes and especially among linen.
It is only during the quietest and darkest hours that you will find it on the move, however, in the vicinity of the shelter, for this reason its presence often goes unnoticed and observations are fortuitous.
The reproduction of this spider takes place at approximately one year of life, when it reaches sexual maturity.
From this moment on, the male weaves a spider’s web, where after he has gone in search of the female, mating takes place.
After about two weeks the female will look for a safe place, usually in the ground to lay her eggs. These jealously hidden eggs will hatch after about 10 days.
The violin spider is characterised by a good longevity, it can live up to 4 years.
Violin spider feeding
The violin spider mainly feeds on small insects, ants, cockroaches and other spiders, but it also feeds on dead arthropods and it is also for this reason that it sometimes ventures inside houses.
This spider has nocturnal habits, it comes out of its hiding place and goes in search of prey, only at night and does not use its web to catch prey, but simply attacks its prey directly and injects poison into it. After a while the spider will literally suck out the liquefied tissue.
What are the characteristics of the violin spider bite?
The bite is painless immediately and the symptoms appear even several hours later; in two thirds of cases the spider inflicts a dry bite or injects a low amount of poison for defensive purposes, causing only moderate soreness and local redness, which passes alone in a short time without further complications.
In addition to injecting the poison, the violin spider with the bite can carry anaerobic bacteria (microorganisms that live in the absence of oxygen) into the tissue, which proliferate and complicate the course of the injury.
Its venom has a cytotoxic action, therefore it acts causing a liquefaction of the tissues around the affected area.
In about one in three cases the spider injects its cytotoxin which, especially in weak or debilitated subjects, can cause loxoscelism, i.e. the formation first of an oedema, and then, over the following 48-72 hours, of a more or less extensive necrotic ulcer.
Its very shy and not at all aggressive nature means that this spider will only bite in very rare cases, for example if it is found in clothes or shoes and is inadvertently crushed.
It is not easy to have a complete case history of this spider for a number of reasons.
In the meantime its bite is practically painless immediately and any symptoms appear within 24/48 hours.
Therefore, those who are bitten are usually not immediately aware of it.
Secondly, the consequences of the violin spider bite are indistinguishable from many injuries that can be caused by other arthropods, as well as skin infections of other origins.
What to do in case of a violin spider bite?
- Wash thoroughly with soap and water.
- If we somehow notice the presence of the spider try to catch the animal and, even if killed, keep it.
- Identification is possible even if the spider is damaged: assessing the head under a microscope shows the presence of 6 eyes instead of 8.
- A photo can also help, taking care that the front of the spider is well visible and in focus, see violin spider images.
- Contact the poison control centre, especially in case of acute symptoms such as high fever, severe redness, skin rash or echymosis.