Monday, November 8, 2010

Non-plant non-secateur: South African Brown Widow

With all the talk these days of illegal immigrants it's hard to understand why no one seems to be talking about this guy, the South African Brown Widow (SABW).  Latrodectus geometricus, for those who care about scientific names.  This guy has venom and may be taking bugs from American spiders... talk about your anchor babies, they're having gazillions.

I don't have a real strong fear of spiders, scorpions a little more and ticks a lot. We really don't have problems with spiders in this part of Southern California.  The Brown Recluse and its nasty wound are certainly cause for alarm but they aren't in the area that I know of.  And the Black Widow is not found in great numbers and is always in predictable places.  So, I just don't worry about spiders in the garden.

The preponderance of the SABW is a little bit troubling though. This weekend I wanted to grab a pup off of an Aloe I quite like, and there was a SABW,  I lifted a brick that was in the garden, there was a SABW, and I was cleaning up some 4" pots... there was a SABW!  Once I realized what I was seeing I began to find them everywhere.  They do have that very strong crunchy web like the Black Widow so you know by touch when you are in their web. And they look a lot like the Black Widow but they tend to be dark brown still with the red-orange hourglass on the belly.  And the one thing that is very clear is the weird spiky egg sack, it looks like it's studded.

I have been killing the little lady just out of principal.   But with so many of them in the garden I decided to investigate.  I mean should I be nervous?   What I have noticed is that the SABW is very passive, more passive than the Black Widow.   In my experience, If discovered she will drop into the fetal position.   So, when I picked up that brick and thought "what the...', I decided to see what she was made of.  It took, for the record, three strong jabs with a stick to get her to lash out. Apparently she is much harder on her mate, so I have read.  But it really seems that you have to have a lot of bad luck to be bit.

For now I choose to believe that I am still safe in the garden... even though I found a SABW in my laundry room... dun dun dun!

I want to know if anyone else is seeing them, tell me if you are.


  1. I'm in san diego, mira mesa, and I see them all the time

  2. Im in san marcos and i see them every where.

  3. I kiled about 10 spiders and 8 sacks in my back yard this morning!