There are varying degrees of arachnophobia that can cause reactions from a slight startle to a shrieking scream with a full sprint and flailing hands in the air. The sight of a black widow spider is no exception. This bright red hourglass, eight-legged creature has been causing unnerving scares to people since its existence.
But could these days of chilling terrors and spinning silk webs be over for the black widow?
We can’t say for sure but there is definitely some competition for living territories with the west coast’s new widow – The brown widow.
The brown widow has been spotted more frequently in territories that are expected to contain black widows, according to study researcher Richard Vetter of the University of California, Riverside. Agricultural settings are still predominately inhabited by black widows, but in urban settings the black widow seems to be displaced by this newcomer.
Researchers tested various habitats in Southern California where black widows would normally nest – including urban areas, farms, and undeveloped lands. Twenty times more brown widows were spotted at the 72 sites tested with the most common locations being underneath outdoor tables and chairs, and hidden within crevices of exterior walls and fences.
From a human standpoint, this may be good news since the brown widow spiders are less toxic and none (thus far) have been found inside homes or buildings. This occurrence can reduce the number and frequency of black widow spider bites in the region.
Currently, there are approximately 2,500 black widow bites every year in the United States. The venom released affects the body’s nervous system causing severe abdominal pain and muscle cramps. It is rare for a bite to be fatal – only commonly seen with small children and the elderly.
Black widows are native to Southern California, but the brown widow is no stranger to the United States. They were confirmed in southern U.S. by the 1930s and first spotted in Torrance, CA by 2003.