Brown Widow Spider (Latrodectus geometricus)
Physical characteristics: Like the black widow (Latrodectus hesperus, L. mactans), the body of the female adult brown widow spider – also known as the gray widow spider and geometric button spider – is about 1/2 inch long, with long, banded (tiger-striped) legs, and a geometric pattern on its back. Females typically are light to medium brown in color, although they may range from almost white to gray to almost black, with an identifiable marking of an orange or yellowish hourglass. Males are about half that size, with longer legs than L. Hesperus males. Egg sacs are easily identifiable – tan, spherical, with spiky protrusions, not unlike World War II sea mines.
Behavior: L. geometricus is a recent transplant from southern Africa; it’s a tropical spider that has spread throughout the American southeast, specifically the Gulf Coast. So far in California, it’s been found from San Diego County in the south to Los Angeles County in the north, and as far east as Riverside County. Of all the Latrodectus species, brown widows are the most prolific breeders; one female can bear 5,000 young spiders per season. Brown widow spiders weave messy webs that can be found in lots of places around buildings and gardens. Favorite harborages include plastic lawn chairs, plastic flower pots and bird-of-paradise plant leaves – anywhere sheltered that offers hiding. It’s the females that bite, but brown widows reportedly are far more timid than their black widow cousins. Bites are rarely fatal. If you are bitten, call a physician or visit an emergency room right away.
Treatment: The best way to be rid of brown widow spiders is to keep your environment free of them, by removing their webbing and any spiky egg sacs you find. Should you choose to do the job, be sure to wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt (and long pants and shoes) when moving stored firewood, boxes and lumber. Exclude the spiders from coming indoors by installing tight-fitting screens on doors and windows, and caulk any cracks or crevices they might use to enter. Remove any clutter, indoors and outdoors, that might provide harborage for these spiders, like old boxes, clothing and lumber, and don’t store firewood stacked against your house. Your Clark Pest Control technician will physically sweep down all accessible spider webs as part of the service he provides, and can advise on and implement any additional control methods.