Monday, June 29, 2009

Balls Of Doom And The Widder Woman Down Under

QUICK! Without scrolling down, ... what are these?

Yup, Black Widow egg cases ... inside each one are all the black widows you could ever want to see.

In my back porch renovation work, I had to demolish the old water damaged stoop. I actually did that step earlier, but had left a small pile of debris for later removal.
When I got back at it last week, the first thing I grabbed to move was a half plastic barrel that had been upside down.
This involved reaching under the edge to get a grip. As I did, the thought crossed my mind that I should have flipped it with a stick first, in case there was a widow under there.

By that time though, my fingers were already committed and I flipped the barrel to find ...

... this young lady about 10 inches from my fingers ... which was way TOO close for ANY spider (aaaaaaacckkkkk!), but especially this one.

Here is a topside view of my southern black widow spider ... just before she and her children were killed in an industrial accident.
I knew Florida had a brown widow spider, but did not realize that we actually have 4 species of widow spiders in the state ... 3 natives and one introduced species.
What the hell? Native outnumbering exotics? Can this be?

The Florida Department of Agriculture site says,
"Formerly, most bites by black widows (almost all by female spiders) occurred in outhouses, but presently, Latrodectus bites occur most frequently when the spider is trapped against human skin, either by reaching under objects where the spider is hiding or when putting on clothing, gloves or shoes containing the spider. Widow spiders are generally very timid and only bite in self-defense when they accidentally contact humans. "
You picturing what I'm picturing?
" Bite symptoms are systemic, spreading through the lymphatic system, and usually start about 1-3 hours after the bite. The most common symptoms are intense pain, rigid abdominal muscles, muscle cramping, malaise, local sweating, nausea, vomiting, and hypertension. If left untreated, Latrodectus bite symptoms usually last 3-5 days. Calcium gluconate and/or antivenin may be administered to relieve or counteract symptoms."
So, it doesn't sound like most folks would die from the widow's bite, but for a few days, you might wish you had.
So, be careful out there and take a moment to safely check anything that's been stored for awhile.
Be especially careful on those trips to the outhouse.


roger said...

wasps favored my outhouse. their annoyed buzzing lent a certain urgency to the transaction. i discovered that while wd-40 did not exactly kill them it did repel them quite effectively. i never thought to look for widows in there, they seemed to prefer the woodpile.

Doug Taron said...

We have western black widows (L. hesperus). Their egg sacs are covered with a lot more silk than your photo shows. Interesting. A friend in southern Arizona got nailed a couple of months ago. Not fun.

Doug Taron said...

I just re-read my comment. I don't mean that we have western black widows in Illinois, we have them on display here at the museum.

tai haku said...

We found a brown widow in our bedroom down here once. No idea if they are establsihed or native or what. Even I don't like the little poisonous ones.

Anonymous said...

FC-As always....thanks for the spider picture!
Thunder needs to "talk" to you and Jr.... we got a problem down there! However I was able to meet another neighbor on the phone yesterday! Really nice to know we will neighbors looking out for us! Unfortunately not all the people of that county are as thoughful as our neighbors!

Carol said...

Now I know what to look for...just spent a couple of days loading a trailer full of stuff that has been stored in a barn for years...sure glad we didn't see any.

Dani said...

We found a brown widow under Elizabeth's bike seat over the weekend. Thank goodness she didn't get bit! I still get a little queasy when I think about it.

Sandcastle Momma said...

That's a big widow! We see them up at our property in the Blackwater Forest often and have warned the kids repeatedly to be careful before picking stuff up.
Here at home we see the brown recluse a lot. Our neighbor got bit by one and it's a really nasty looking bite - a black, quarter size hole in his arm.
As for seeing them in outhouses? Thank God for indoor plumbing!

nfmgirl said...

My mother has come across several down here. She catches them and moves them away from the house. My father had one crawling on him when he lived in Texas. He calmly got it off of himself. I have arachnophobia, so I prefer not to encounter ANY spiders! But seeing those egg sacks, I now realize what all of those things are at the top of my garage door. Perhaps not Black Widow eggs, but spider eggs nonetheless.

Miz S said...

The bites can be fatal to the elderly, so it's good that you whacked her. I wouldn't want you to get bit and die on us.

Ha ha. I am slaying myself over here.

Dani said...

We would be lost without Mary!lol

Pablo said...

We must have black widow spiders at my office because I get most of those symptoms as soon as I sit down at my desk. Last about five days in my case.

myamuhnative said...

I don't much care for spiders.
So when I found three of these egg cases recently on the inside of a milk crate,they they soon suffered an aquatic accident.I know I'd seen them before and something told me they were not good spiders,but I kind of forgot to do my research to see what they were because hey, they were already good and dead..
Thanks to your id, I now know that we have to be careful around the shed.
Thanks FC!

BTW my word verification is "ingstshe"! even blogger knows I coulda been stung?

robin andrea said...

What a fine looking critter. I used to see black widow spiders around my work place at the university years ago. It was my job to do an orientation for students who were going to be using the building, which they did 24 hours a day. One of the things I had to show them was black widow webs, nests, eggs, etc. I had to remind them all the time not to reach under desks without taking a very good look around first. I had one very good surprise finding one under my desk in a shallow box of inter-campus memo envelopes. That really was a wake-up call I have to admit I always liked seeing the spiders and were sorry when we had the building sprayed. But now that I read the symptoms after a bite, I think we made the right decision to get rid of all of them.

robin andrea said...

Oh yeah, the outhouse part of the story. Really makes the experience even worse than it already is, and that's saying something.

Caroline said...

BW spiders suffer industrial accidents here on a regular basis. Find them in the garage and shed and other hidey holes. People at this house would probably die of heart failure before the bite got them!
More blog topog for you tomorrow.

swamp4me said...

Tsk, tsk, tsk...I guess this means you would not like the one that lives in a jar on our kitchen cabinet ;)

lisa said...

OOOOOOOOh, I hate spiders!! Now, I will be always looking when I go to an outhouse. (which we will have when we go camping in 2 weeks)
I am glad that I now know what it looks like!!

threecollie said...

I do not ever want to meet one of those things, especially not at camp where there is an outhouse, which is in fact the only option if you get my drift. So far the only things I have ever met in there are mosquitoes, moths and the odd robin or chipmunk...thankfully.
I am very glad you weren't bitten!

Floridacracker said...

wd-40 and a match.
just kidding ... sorta.

With a tight lid on that cage I hope.

Spiders, even the good ones, must keep a safe distance from me or they are toast.

I can imagine ... meth lab? poachers?

It's maybe better to see them LOL!

Yikes! Too scary to think about.

Brown recluses are not native to FL and are pretty rare. A lot of "recluse" spider bites turn out to be staph infections in everyday bites or cuts. You get similar necrotic damage.
Scary stuff either way.

I move them away too ... to the toilet, to the bottom of my shoe ...
Your Mom has a kind heart :)

Miz S,
Har har! You must be counting in dog years.

Dani 2,
Don't you love her? She cracks me up on a regular basis. Everybody stop what you are doing and go visit Miz S's blog. You'll find a link on my sidebar.
Shame about her divorce though ...

Don't those comfy chairs at RR have the same effect?

Yes, be careful around any place with dark nooks and crannies. Spiders love em. Glad that this post was actually useful!

Yikes girl! In your office supplies? That is really too close for comfort.
Spiders are pretty amazing devices, but sheeese!
I'd fumigate that desk in a heartbeat.

Here too. My son has a worse phobia about them then I do. I love to watch him after he walks into a web! What a riot.

Swampy ol pal,
Now, we've had this conversation before oh brave lady. They are not cute or cuddly.
I like the idea of the opossum in your kitchen drawer better than this tiny widow in the jar!

Lisa and Three Collie,
I had no idea outhouses were still in common use. Are we talkin' portolets or real pit outhouses?

Freste said...

It could be atmospheric pressure on the left coast, but critters of that category seem to commonly experience Sudden. Quantifiable. Unrestricted. Size. Handicap.


SophieMae said...

GACK! I am not overly fond of spiders, though I can handle them much better than rodents. SOOOO glad you didn't get nailed!!! When I was a kid, a big spider actually chased me from the bathroom to the bedroom... then sat and watched me after I jumped up on the bed. And now you've reminded me of one more reason to hold it till I get home from the park. GAD, I hate portolets!

Word verif... movinvin, hmmm

Thunder Dave said...

Poachers and carcus dumpers! How does JR feel about putting acouple of posts in the ground with a sturdy chain across?

Hey, I was grabbing an old cooler out of the shed the other day and found that a lovely Brown Relcuse had made a home out of it! I absolutely hate spiders, except for the banana spiders. They're my new bestest buddies after having that one crawling on my face! AAAAHHHH!!!!! (insert spider get off me dance video here!)

Bill said...

Christmas tree stand, step stool, lawn chairs and trash cans are just the locations I have found black widows, spiders and eggs, this year. The brown recluse spiders have made a home of my garage, I bomb them once a year and they are still prolific. I think I have successfully relocated all the banana spiders from my yard to spider heaven. It is impossible to do the spider dance on a lawn tractor so you have to remove all the webs for safety sake. Thanks for sharing, I think.


jojo said...

hey FC,
do all spider egg sacs look exactly like that or just widows? i just found one yesterday. had to go recheck this morning and yup is exactly like the ones in you picture. :(

misti said...

We used to find them in the lab I worked at in Ft. Pierce. They are also common in dispensers at gas stations. Theory is that you don't have a leak problem if there are spiders in your dispensers (or UST sumps, etc).

Floridacracker said...

We have something similar here. I think it's related to shoeapheric pressure.

As if an portolet wasn't icky enough! Glad you survived your spider ambush.

We can do that, but I'll need directions again! Been a while since I was there!


The widow has spiky ones. Most spider sacs I see are smooth, so I think this is a pretty good clue to widowness.

That makes sense ... sort of a bio indicator of a good seal.

threecollie said...

As to the outhouses...the real thing. Not at all uncommon up here. We have hundreds of Amish and the Adirondacks too. My dad collects out house memorabilia .....believe it or not....

amarkonmywall said...

That does it. I'm moving out of this state.

Ivan said...

I love this blog... :-)

I worked at the UF Camp Blanding triggered lightning site in the 1990s while in grad school. It was essentially a 90-acre pasture. We placed instrumentation boxes and batteries in ~2'x2'x2' holes in the ground and then covered each of them with a half-sheet of celotex to keep the temperature down. The widows loved it. There were always 2 or 3 fat mamas in each pit hanging off of the boxes, so we always wore heavy leather gloves when working on the equipment. Nonetheless we had 1 "black widow purple heart" while I was there, one of which required a trip to the Starke ER, but thankfully didn't result in any venom symptoms for the unfortunate student.

Interestingly, the egg sacs at the site did not have the bumps on them like the illustration here. They were smooth, the same color yellow, and looked like a Sugar Pop (if you remember that 60s junk food breakfast). So, if you see an egg sac, the fact that it doesn't have bumps doesn't make it not a black widow; anything 1/2" in diameter and yellow is a good candidate.

I might add that there was an impressive wolf spider population at the site also, including a particularly large bluish-grey variety that I've never seen elsewhere. But I digress.

Any hidey-hole near ground level that provides some shelter from the heat is prime widow habitat. That includes shoes on your doorstep, so be careful.

Here in Brevard we have blacks (found one rappelling in my home foyer a few months ago when I got up in the morning, exiled to an observation jar and later executed by swirlie); I've also seen one red widow around the base of a gas pump locally. I have yet to see a confirmed brown here.

As for the lack of recluse, sorry, I don't buy it. My folks in south Volusia have a utility room that had dozens of suspects with the seemingly-correct fiddle marks and mandibles. They've thinned out in recent years, but at some point I need to catch one and count the eyes under a loupe, the only sure ID...

thingfish23 said...

I think it's brown widow egg cases that have the spikes, and black widow egg cases are smooth.

Just stopping by for old times' sake - and to be a pain in the ass.

Ivan said...

For the sake of the accurate historical record, after digging into the links above and beyond them, I have to modify my report of the Brevard "red widow" sighting to a brown one... Thanks for the re-education. ;-)