Like some alien invasion from another planet people are discovering a new eight-legged pest in their homes and backyards; the ‘Brown Widow’ (NOT to be confused with the similarly named ‘Brown Recluse’ which is an entirely unrelated spider). The Entomologists who specialize in spiders, have been noticing a drop in the Black Widow population in Southern California over the past few years and a corresponding increase in ‘Brown Widows’.
Even though there is no general consensus as to what is causing this decline, it would be safe to assume that more vigilant pest control measures on the part of homeowners has been a major contribution to their demise.
On the surface this sounds like good news for homeowners but alas, like all things in nature there is a downside to it. Nature, as usual, makes every effort to fill a void and in this case the void being created by the vanishing Black widows is quickly and aggressively being filled by their sister species the ‘Brown Widow’.
At this point most people are wondering just where the spider came from and what is it doing here? Well the ‘Brown Widow’ is a native of Africa. There is no conclusive evidence to support any one route or entry point, but there are several theories about how this spider was introduced to California. Based on recent publications, here are three possible ways the spider could have gotten here. 1) An Air Force report from 2001 notes the discovery of Brown Widows on the island of Guam and gives an in-depth report on the spider. From there it would have been a simple plane flight to the United States to complete the last leg of its voyage. 2) Another possible entry route is from cargo containers on ships coming into the United States and having the spiders disembark from them on arrival. And 3) There is evidence that the spider originally landed in Florida and from there hitched a ride west by following various trucking routes until it hit California. Whatever route they took one fact is certain, they’re now firmly established here.
The first thing most people wonder is whether or not the Brown Widow is poisonous. The answer is ‘yes’. Some tests suggest their venom is more toxic than the Black Widows poison. Fortunately the Brown Widow is much less aggressive than the Black Widow and, so far, there have been no confirmed reports of bites or deaths from Brown Widows. Another down side is that the Brown Widow is much more fertile than the Black Widow. On top of that, for reasons that we don’t complete understand, the Brown Widow can occupy more niches than the Black Widow can. So, not only is the Brown Widow’s population exploding, it is finding more places to move into! These two facts will make it a much more difficult pest to control.
So, what can the average home owner do? Well, for the most part just be vigilant. Look under lawn and patio furniture to make sure it doesn’t hide any spiders or egg sacs. Contract with a local pest control service. Unlike alien invasion movies where mankind wins the final battle, this looks like the invaders are now permanent residents of the state.