The Prevalence of Brown Widow and Black Widow Spiders(Araneae: Theridiidae) in Urban Southern California
RICHARD S. VETTER,
LEONARD S. VINCENT,
DOUGLAS W. R. DANIELSEN,
KATHRYN I. REINKER,
DANIEL E. CLARKE,
AMELIA A. ITNYRE,
JOHN N. KABASHIMA,
MICHAEL K. RUST
J. Med. Entomol. 49(4): 947Ð951 (2012); DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/ME11285
The brown widow spider,
C. L. Koch, has become newlyestablished in southern California during the Þrst decade of the 21st century. Brown widows and eggsacs were collected within the urban Los Angeles Basin using timed searches. We also collected andcompared the abundance and distribution of the native western black widow spider,
Chamberlin & Ivie, to brown widows. Brown widows were very common around urbanstructures especially outside homes, in parks, under playground equipment, in plant nurseries andlandscaping areas, greatly outnumbering native western black widows, and were very rare or non-existentingarages,agriculturalcrops,andnaturalareas.Westernblackwidowspredominatedinxerichabitatsandwerelessprevalentaroundhomes.Neitherspecieswasfoundinthelivingspaceofhomes.In southern California, envenomation risk exists because brown widows are now common in urbanareas and the spiders hide where people place their Þngers and exert pressure to move objects (e.g.,underthecurledlipofpottedplants,intherecessedhandleofplastictrashbins).Nonetheless,brownwidow spiderbites are less toxic than those of native western blackwidow spiders and, hence, if theyare displacing black widows, overall widow envenomation risk may actually be lower than beforebrown widow establishment.
, Arachnida, urban entomology, invasive speciesIn North America, the brown widow spider,
C.L.Koch,wasÞrstdocumentedinFloridain1935(Pearson1936)whereithadrestricteddistribution for decades in the peninsular portion of the state. In the Þrst decade of the 21st century, itexperienced a robust range expansion. By 2011, itbecame well established in the southeastern UnitedStates from Texas through South Carolina (Brown etal.2008,Vincentetal.2008).InsouthernCalifornia,itwas Þrst discovered in Torrance (Los AngelesCounty) in 2003 (Vincent et al. 2008) and has sincespread throughout the Los Angeles and San Diegometropolitan areas through western Los AngelesCounty,easttowesternRiversideandSanBernardinocounties and to the Mexican border. The brownwidowwasnoticednotonlybyarachnologistsbutalsobythegeneralpublicbecauseoftheirproliÞcnumbersanddistinctivespikedeggsacsthatcanoftenbefoundinconspicuousclumpsofseveraltodozensatonewebsite.When the brown widow was originally named in1841, it was already known from Africa and SouthAmerica (Garb et al. 2004), somewhat obscuring itslikely place of origin. Garb et al. (2004) suggestedAfrica as the place of origin because of the widedistribution of brown widows on that continent andthepresenceofitsclosestsisterspecies,
Mackay. The brown widow is pantropical in distribu-tion,alsobeingfoundinsuchenvironmentallydiverselocations as Hawaii, the southeastern United States,Jamaica, Bermuda, Haiti, Cuba, Israel, Turkey, India,Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Phillip-ines, and Japan (Baerg 1954, Levi 1967, Levy 1998,MurphyandMurphy2000,Garbetal.2004,Bayrametal. 2008, Brown et al. 2008). However, as brown wid-ows expanded throughout southern California, thequestion arose as to which of the many habitats theywere newly colonizing; it would be surprising if thebrown widow used these different environmentsequally. Although the brown widow is pantropical,there is little information reported about its micro-habitat use.Wedocumentedthepresenceofbrownwidowspi-ders in southern California by performing timedsearches in various habitats such as urban property,
Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside,CA 92521.
Corresponding author, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Division of Natural Sciences, Fullerton College, Fullerton, CA92634.
Department of Biological Sciences, Humboldt State University,Arcata, CA 95521.
University of California Cooperative Extension, Orange County,1045 Arlington Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626.0022-2585/12/0947Ð0951$04.00/0
2012 Entomological Society of America