Authored by Rodney Southern in Nature and Wildlife
Published on 09-07-2009
The brown widow spider is a little known spider that can be found throughout the Southeast and parts of the Northeast in North America. This spider is a cousin to the black widow, and has a very similar makeup. There are some major differences in the black widow and the brown widow, but they are very similar species. There are also other versions of widow spiders such as the red widow, the Northern black widow, and the Southern black widow. Each of these spiders are variations of the typical black widow, but are independent spiders.
The brown widow is about the same size as the black widow on the whole, though they tend to be slightly smaller. Like the black widow, the brown widow is a very shy creature. They are even less aggressive than the black widow in that they do not protect their egg sac. A black widow will often be highly aggressive around their egg sacs. The brown widow will generally hide.
The brown widow can vary wildly in color. They can be any color from light tan to black, though the majority are brown. As they get older, they begin to darken and look more like their famous cousins. The black widow is a shiny black, where the dark versions of the brown widow will have a flatter black coloration. Another marked difference in the two is the hourglass. The brown widow’s hourglass marking on the abdomen is usually an orange or yellow color. The black widow’s are always red.
The brown widow has a bite that is very painful but rarely lethal. Unlike the black widow, the brown widow usually does not inject very much venom. The toxicity of this venom is subject to some debate in the spider world. Some believe it is twice as toxic as the black widow, while others say it is not as toxic. What is known is that the bite is not as serious as a black widow as a rule, regardless of why. Still, the bite is very painful and needs medical attention to be sure.
The easiest way to detect a brown widow spider is by the egg sac they lay. The egg sac is round with spikes throughout. It resembles an old ocean mine with the spikes sticking out on all sides. This egg sac is distinctive, and always signals brown widow spiders. If you find this type of egg sac, then you should take great care and contact a professional to remove them.
While the brown widow spider does not get the press that the black widow and even brown recluse does, it is still a serious spider bite. Be very careful of these spiders, and always wear gloves when working around their habitats. If you suspect you have been bitten by a brown widow, you should contact a doctor just to be safe. Most brown widow spider bites are highly painful, but pass without incident rather quickly with the proper care.