The underside of a brown widow spider clearly shows the telltale red hourglass shape. Beware!
Brown widows have recently moved into California and could keep spreading—but that’s no reason to release your inner arachnophobe. Brown widows, like most spiders in the West, are extremely unlikely to cause any harm, says Rick Vetter, a leading arachnid expert with UC-Riverside.
The bite of a brown widow is far less likely to cause a painful reaction than to leave a simple red mark, he says. Even black widows—found throughout the West—are no longer as worrisome as they once were. Their bites can cause flu-like symptoms that quickly fade with antivenom treatment. And despite many rumors and reports, the much-feared brown recluse spider is not migrating into the Rockies or to the West Coast; sightings have been rare and isolated.
Vetter says most so-called spider bites are intriguing but ultimately impossible to verify. “Spiders don’t bite that often,” he says. His own experience? A single bite in decades of handling arachnids of all kinds.
Photography courtesy of Matthew Field/Wikimedia Commons
This article was first published in January 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.