The brown recluse, as its name suggests, is a very secretive spider and prefers to stay hidden as much as possible. These spiders tend to live in dark and undisturbed areas.
Outdoors, this can include a number of places such as under wood piles, rocks, utility boxes, decks, logs and the like. They may also be found in sheltered outbuildings such as sheds, dog houses, barns, or tree houses.
Indoors, the brown recluse can be found in less-frequented areas such as basements, closets, crawl spaces or attics. They seek shelter in places like boxes or other storage containers, as well as folded linens, and rarely worn shoes or clothing. For example, a person may encounter a brown recluse while putting on a pair of shoes or item of clothing that has not been worn for a long time.
Because brown recluse spiders are hunters, they spin their webs more as places of retreat than a means to catch prey. These webs are loosely woven, irregular masses of fibers spun by the female and are typically found near ground level in corners, crevices, and other secluded areas.
The brown recluse roams at night in search of prey, particularly insects and other arthropods. The males will also roam in search of females. The spider seems to prefer its prey to be live unless it is large. The brown recluse will also go after prey that is somewhat dangerous, such as certain other spiders and ants. If attacking live prey, the brown recluse will inject its venom, then wait for its victim to succumb to paralysis before moving in to dine.
Generally speaking, the brown recluse spider is found in the central and southern parts of the United States. It does not tend to be found along the eastern seaboard of the United States, the upper Midwest or western states, including the Pacific Northwest.
On a map, if you were to outline the area where the brown recluse is found, you would draw a line starting in mid-Iowa, eastward to southern Ohio and down to central Georgia. You would continue to the extreme western part of the Florida panhandle, encompassing Alabama (with the exception of the far southeastern corner of the state). From there, the line continues westward through all of Mississippi and Louisiana and includes the majority of Texas. This area continues northward into Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, and southeastern Nebraska, then back to Iowa.
There are a few other varieties of recluse spiders, which are mostly found in the Southwest. One variety (Loxosceles laeta) inhabits southern California and Massachusetts, while the Loxosceles rufescens is found sporadically throughout the country.