Brown Widows for Breakfast?

| August 2, 2014 | 2 Replies

Brown Widows for Breakfast? As I contemplated the hunger pangs in my stomach yearning for a late breakfast, and armed with encouragement from online gardeners +Learn to Grow, +CragfireGardening, +Double Dog Farm +Cheryl Krause and others, and a can of Raid®, I ventured out to face the enemy, a spider.

Brown Widows for Breakfast?-spider1

Brown Widow Female Spider #1 with egg sac

Late yesterday, my new, young garden helper Dylan spotted what he thought was a Black Widow and its egg sac in the hidden part of my fence gate hinge. I’d seen the cobweb for a while, but had been ignoring it. Generally, you want spiders in your garden. But, all agree, not Black Widows!

I shot a photo in the waning light and then it was time for research. UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research says one way to distinguish between a black and brown widow is “the egg sac of a brown widow has multiple silk spicules projecting out from the surface. The egg sac has been described as looking like a large pollen grain or a World War II harbor mine designed to blow up ships.” This is exactly what my egg sac looked like, so I went to bed convinced the terrorist threat was “Elevated,” but not “High.” 

Since Brown Widows are taking over Southern California according to the LA Times, gardeners here can expect to see them. I found one inside a cauliflower last year, and I wasn’t wearing gloves at the time.

Brown Widows for Breakfast?cauliflower

Brown Widow Spider on Cauliflower

Brown Widow venom is just as toxic as a Black Widow, but they can’t deliver as much in a single bite, therefore a bite is not as dangerous. Naturally, this morning, I consulted with my gardeners on the Google+ group vegetable gardening.

+Kyle Thompson said hose it and stomp on it, but +Wendi Phan said they move fast when provoked, Joe said shove a stick in it and stomp it. +Rainbow Gardens said, “Kill it fast,” but, what I did…..was grab my occasional helper, gardener Rene who fortuitously was working two houses down. Standing eight feet up a ladder sawing the limb of a dead birch tree, he immediately came to my rescue. I’m brave, but not necessarily with black widows and snakes (thankfully, we don’t have alligators and scorpions here).

Brown Widow Spiders for Breakfast?Spider1 sprayed

Brown widow spider #1 after soaking with Raid

He sprayed with Raid, which only stunned them. Did I say “them?” YES, he discovered two more spiders in the fence with a total of 12 egg sacs!! They all came in contact with the sole of his boot.

Brown Widow Spiders for Breakfast?spider sacs2

Brown Widow Spider egg sacs, 2nd location

Brown Widow Spiders for Breakfast?spider2sprayed

Brown Widow Spider #2, sprayed

Heaven knows how many spiders would have exploded from those clusters of evil. They lay about 120-150 eggs per sac and can make 20 egg sacs over a lifetime. Sometimes harsh chemicals come in handy. The egg sacs all looked like harbor mines, but Rene was sure they were black widows. After studying the detailed photos at the UCR website, I am convinced they were all dark brown widow females.

Brown Widow Spiders for Breakfast?spider#3

Brown Widow Female #3, sprayed, with clear identifying marks

Brown Widows for Breakfast?egg sac cluster

Brown widow egg sacs, wet

Another piece of advice I got from +Rainbow Gardens, check your gloves and boots if you store them outside, before you put them on! This is our fence where the spiders love to hide.

Brown Widows for Breakfast? gate

Scene of the crime, my garden gate and fence

Anyone have any widow spider stories to share? Thanks for reading! This grisly business did not detract from my breakfast of homemade biscuits, eggs and fresh homegrown tomatoes! – Kaye





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Category: Critters, Insects, Pest Management

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  1. Joree says:

    Good-ness! We moved into our home a year ago and I have since been working on my front yard raised bed gardens. To my surprise I found a black widow… basking in the Florida sun. I called for my husband (who thought I was crazy, because black widows don’t sunbathe)who was just as shocked to see her. After a once, twice, and thrice over my garden we found more than a dozen black and brown widows in my garden beds and on my picket fence. I was sure there was more we could not see. I’ve always practiced organic gardening, but I also don’t want myself, my children, or my pets to get bit… so I called in the professionals. I am glad I did. After they treated my yard and the bricks I use in my raised bed gardens I found at least 4 more dead widows the next day. Now that things seem to be back to normal I cut open a store bought, organic orange cauliflower and guess what I found inside… YES! A brown widow! It brought bag some bad memories, but I still brave forward and continue to garden with organic practices. I just pay closer attention to those little webs all over my yard!

    • Thanks for sharing, Joree! I have been keeping an eye out, and see even if you have professionals, that doesn’t mean you might not see a brown. I’m surprised there was a black in the sun, though. Yes, technically they are our friends, so take care and give them a wide berth, or if you must…. I keep a stick by the fence, where they really seem to love. Also, check under lawn furniture. Don’t want to sit on one! Thanks so much for following Late Bloomer. Please share with a friend. – Kaye

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