Foley says brown widows nest in secluded areas and love to hide under cars, trucks and campers. The bodies of brown widows can range from light tan to very dark brown, and spots on their backs may be yellow, brown, orange or even white. The telltale hourglass of brown widows isn’t red; it’s orange.
Just as distinctive is the egg sac, which looks like a ball covered with tiny spikes or tufts. The eggs sac is typically less than half an inch wide. Each female can produce 10 to 20 sacs during her lifetime, and each sac may contain up to 250 eggs. The eggs hatch within about two weeks.
Foley says brown widows are not aggressive, but will bite when surprised or disturbed, such as when accidently trapped next to skin by a person putting on clothes or reaching into where the spider is hiding.
Brown widow venom has been found to be twice as potent as black widow venom. The bite is often painless, or similar to a pinprick. But soon the neurotoxin causes a dull ache in the region of the bite, progressing to painful muscle cramps. Other symptoms may include: sweating, nausea and vomiting, high blood pressure, muscle tremors, irregular heartbeat. Death is rare; young children and elderly adults are most susceptible. If you suspect you have been bitten by a brown widow, seek medical attention immediately.
The brown widow builds its web in secluded, protected sites in and around homes. Typical sites include: garages, crawl spaces, wood piles, buckets and planters, unused equipment, recessed grips of plastic totes, vehicle undercarriages, underneath patio chairs.
Foley says cleaning is the best way to eliminate spiders and discourage their return. Wear gloves when you reduce clutter. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove webs, egg sacs and spiders, then dispose of the vacuum cleaner back by sealing it in a plastic trash bag. Follow up with regular inspections.
Outside the home, potential hiding places such as firewood and other items should be moved away from the building. Cracks, holes and spaces around windows and doors should be sealed or fitted with weather stripping.