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Will There Be A Super Bloom Of Spiders?

(Photo by Orbitgal via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The drought's over. While you may think there's absolutely no way there could be a downside to this, we have some bad news if you're squeamish around bugs: the conditions may be ripe for spiders.

Brian Brown, curator of entomology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, told KPCC that he foresees a "bumper crop" of spiders in the near future. "We have a lot more plant growth so that we have a lot more insects that feed on those plants available for the spiders to eat," said Brown. "We have moister conditions for the spiders to live in. Not so many of them will just desiccate and dry out because of the dry conditions."

As Brown further elaborated, we may be seeing more of the brown widow, specifically. The species, while not native to Southern California, is believed to have migrated from South Africa sometime 15 years ago, and has been proliferating ever since. "Brown widows are found under almost every piece of yard furniture in the Los Angeles area," Brown added.

In 2012, researchers from UC Riverside found that brown widows were more prevalent than its cousin, the black widow. In fact, they found that brown widows appeared at a rate that was 20 times more than the black widow when they collected samples in Orange and Riverside counties. What's especially unsettling is that the brown widow, compared to the black widow, is less shy about where they're willing to hang out at. As noted by the L.A. Times, while black widows like to climb into dark crevices, brown widows like to hang out on the undersides chairs and the recessed handles of garbage cans. “Cheap patio furniture is great stuff. They love it,” Richard Vetter, a staff research associate at UC Riverside, told the Times.

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According to the Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside, identifying a brown widow is not an easy task. While they are distinguished by their tan bodies and series of white stripes, these characteristics are also shared by the immature versions of the black widow.

But you might not have to go through the trouble of identifying them, anyway, as they're not all that dangerous. According to researchers at UCR, "the brown widow is not a dangerous nor deadly spider. Even though it has venom of high toxicity, this is typically determined with injections of venom into mice or rabbits and conclusions from this are inferred with little real-world relevance."

And, as one vector control specialist told NBC 7, instances of bites are few and far between. “I’ve been in the department for 15 years and can count on one hand on how many people have been bitten so it's pretty rare,” said Greg Slawson, a vector ecologist with the County of San Diego.

Still, if you get the heebie jeebies from spiders (like me) they're all one in the same.

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