Identification Tips for Brown Spiders of the Eastern US
Knowing What is and is Not A Brown Recluse or Wolf Spider
I'm often amazed at the number of times I've been outdoors with someone and when we see a brown spider immediately someone says, "Look, there's a wolf spider." I have to admit, I hate identifying "little brown jobs" or LBJs (a term we use commonly for brown sparrows when birding) because it's hard to find the fine distinctions between species, especially when the creatures are moving or you're just skeezed out by the hairy eight legged creature crawling across your floor. However, it is important to understand that not all brown spiders are wolf spiders.
There are many different types of brown spiders and this blog post will help you begin to differentiate between them. I'm going to write mostly about the spiders common to Eastern and Mid-western North America, because this is my home range, but there is some overlap with Western species.
A great starting place to learn spider ID and to become familiar with their body parts, names, and the eye placement of spiders is on the website "Spider Identification Guide." I am particularly fond of their great graphic on the 25 different eye patterns you can find on spiders (I wonder if they make this in poster form?). Begin with the basics of spider anatomy on their website if you need a refresher. They also have a great guide for finding spiders by region and color. Check out their page on "Brown Spiders" for a quick browse of the diversity out there.