Brown Widow Spider: How to Identify the False Widow

The two best things that can be said about the brown widow spider are its bite isn’t that painful or venomous, and it prefers to live outside.

Given that they are spreading quickly into new areas, that’s probably the best news possible.

Brown widow spider
Female Adult Brown Widow of the species Latrodectus geometricus. Photo credit: R. Souza

Brown widow spider: Description.

The color of the brown widow spider (Latrodectus geometricus) is a mix of brown and tan spots and smears with contrasting black marks. It also has a black-and-white geometric pattern on the dorsal side of its abdomen, three diagonal stripes on each side, and bands on its legs. A prominent black mark is on the top of the diagonal stripes.

Like its cousin, the black widow spider, the brown widow spider has an hourglass on its abdomen. However, the color is muted orange and not the bright blood red found on the black widow.

Brown spider egg sacs
Brown widow spider with egg sacs and spiderlings on a lamppost. Photo credit: Schmidt.

The egg sacs of brown widow spiders.

For the layperson, telling a brown widow spider apart from younger black widow spiders is difficult to impossible. Fortunately, unlike most spider egg sacs best described as tiny, smooth cotton balls, the brown widow eggs sac looks like a sea mine.

The silk spikes covering the egg sac’s surface make positively identifying them as brown widow spiders easy for enough for anyone.

During her lifetime, a female brown widow spider can lay up to 150 eggs per sac, and produce about 20 eggs sacs.

Brown widow spiders: Regions, habitats, and locations.

Brown widow spiders are currently found in Southern and Central California, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Georgia. Along with its native Africa distribution, they have been confirmed in Dominican Republic, Cyprus, the Americas, Poland, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Australia, Japan, China, and Hawaii.

Brown widow spiders prefer not to enter and build webs in homes, garages, or sheds, but they might. Instead, they like the protected spaces around your home. Empty buckets, underneath the seats of patio furniture, thick wooden vegetation, rockeries, mailboxes, the bottom of recessed garbage can handles, and eaves all make great places to build undisturbed webs.

Just noting the possible web locations raises an obvious point, when working or playing outdoors, you are much more likely to encounter and be bitten by a brown widow spider

Brown widow spider
Beautiful example of a False Widow (aka Brown Widow) spider. This species is also dangerous to humans but not life threatening as is the case with the Black Widow or Black Button Spider. Photo Credit: Speeth Photography

Brown widow spider bites: Effects and symptoms.

According to this study: Black and brown widow spider bites in South Africa.

“The bite of the brown widow spider usually causes a mild form of envenomation characterised chiefly by local symptoms and signs. Most adult patients complain of a local burning sensation which often spreads to the regional lymph nodes.

Paraesthesiae in the surrounding skin and stiffness of the local muscles are often described. In a small percentage of patients abdominal and general muscular pain, as well as weakness in the legs, are experienced. On examination the bite site can usually be identified. It often manifests as a red macular spot or centrally blanched area surrounded by a 2 – 3 cm eryiliematous reaction.

Occasionally there is localised increase in sweat secretion in the form of small droplets. A low-grade raised temperature is sometimes noted. The condition is self-limiting and usually clears up within 1 – 2 days, although some patients may experience a feeling of local discomfort for an extended period.

Children may present with hyperactivity or restlessness and are more inclined to develop symptoms and signs of systemic envenomation.”

Controlling brown widow spiders.

Controlling brown widow spiders begins outdoors. First, use a spider-killing treatment to create a barrier around your yard and garden. Be sure to soak crevices, undersides of patio furniture, and holes you find.

Inside garages, keep items sealed inside plastic bags and keep the clutter to a minimum. Seasonal clothing should also be secured inside spider-proof bags and containers.

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Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for

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