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Creepy New Spider Is Taking Over Orange County

Brown widow spider.

Brown widow spider.

A creepy new spider, called the Brown Widow, has moved in and is spooking out a lot of people in Orange County. Until about ten years ago, most people living here hadn’t even heard of a brown widow spider. Now, this close relative of the black widow can be found almost everywhere in our area. Many homeowners are concerned, wondering if all those messy spiderwebs are home to a dangerous pest. Here is some information to help you deal with the new spider in town.

What Should You Know About Brown Widow Spiders?

Since it is related to the deadly black widow spider, the question on everyone’s mind about brown widows is “Are they poisonous?” Yes, the brown widow spider is poisonous and its venom, drop for drop, is just as potent as the black widow’s. However, a brown widow spider does not inject very much venom during a bite and that is why it is far less dangerous than a black widow. To minimize encounters with these spiders and to reduce the amount of spiderwebs around your home, regular management is needed.

Some entomologists suspect that the brown widow evolved in Africa, while others think it’s from South America. Once this spider found its way to North America, it was restricted to the Florida peninsula for decades. In 2003, it was spotted in Torrance, California. Soon after that, more and more of them were found in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

There are two widow spiders in California: the western black widow and the brown widow. These spiders generally prefer to live in cluttered outdoor areas and garages where they can be left undisturbed. They have similar shaped bodies and both construct their cobwebs in a very haphazard way.

The western black widow is a native species and can be found throughout California. A mature female is about a half inch long, shiny black in color and has a red hour glass pattern on its underside. The black widow is the spider that poses the greatest threat to humans in the Western United States.

Our newcomer, the brown widow, is about the same size but has a mottled collection of tan, brown and gray colors. It also has an orange hour glass on its underside. The easiest way to identify which type of spider you’re dealing with is to examine the egg sacs. The brown widow’s egg sac is light yellow in color and has multiple silk spicules projecting out from its surface. A black widow’s egg sac is white and looks similar to a small cotton ball.

Researchers say brown widows may be displacing the black widow in some urban habitats. This is probably good news for residents because there are very few reports of brown widows biting humans.

What Can You Do To Control Spiders?

  1. Reduce clutter on the inside and around the outside of your home. By doing this, you’ll eliminate places for spiders to live and breed.
  2. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove spiders, their egg sacs and webs. Pay extra attention to areas around windows, corners of rooms, storage areas and other seldom used areas.
  3. Clean out your garage. Regular use of a vacuum cleaner or broom can go a long way in keeping your garage free of spiders. Seasonal items, such as clothing or Christmas decorations, should be stored in boxes that can be taped up or in sealed plastic bags. When you’re cleaning up clutter in the garage, it is always a good idea to wear gloves to avoid accidental bites.
  4. Knock down major cobwebs on the outside of your home. You should also pay special attention to children’s toys and patio furniture. If spiders don’t have webs, they can’t catch anything and this will help encourage them to go elsewhere. This will also improve the appearance of your home.
  5. Keep plants and trees cut back away from the exterior of your home. It is best to keep all plants about one to two feet away from exterior walls. Trees should be cut back about four feet from the house and no branches should be left hanging over the roof.
  6. Seal up holes, cracks and gaps around your home to help keep pests out. Check door and window screens and repair or replace them if needed. Have outdoor lighting that is attracting flying insects? If possible, keep lighting fixtures off the walls and away from doors and windows. Special bug-resistant light bulbs may also help.
  7. Use household pest control products as a last resort. While most pesticides are not all that effective for direct control of spiders, they can be useful because they can help eliminate other pests that spiders eat. If you’re going to use any of these products, please follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
  8. These seven tips are simple, inexpensive and will make a big difference in protecting your family and pets from spiders. Do you have a spider problem that you need help with? Call us at (949) 631-7348 and we’ll be happy to assist.