Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ask An Expert: Brown Widow Spider Venom

Western Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus hesperus), photo by Jeremy Gatten.

The brown widow spider bite is said to have a stronger venom than black widows. True or false?

Answer (by Robb Bennett)  

The venoms of brown widows (Latrodectus geometricus) and black widows (Latrodectus mactans and other species) are generally believed to be of similar toxicity. However, in the rare instance of a true bite from a brown widow, the effects are almost always quite minor -- some amount of pain and redness at the site of the bite.

And, just in case you were wondering --the likelihood of brown widow spiders becoming established in British Columbia (or elsewhere in Canada) is remote.  Brown widows prefer tropical and subtropical habitats and, in North America, are restricted to the southeastern and southwestern United States.

Rick Vetter of the University of California, Riverside's "Centre for Invasive Species Research" has written an excellent account on brown widows -- check it out here.

Robb Bennett, Ph.D., F.E.S.C.
Research Associate, Entomology
Royal British Columbia Museum
675 Belleville Street, Victoria BC Canada V8W 9W2 

Learn about the distribution of the Western Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus hesperus) in BC.

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