SPIDER CONTROL AND TREATMENT
Types of Spiders In Phoenix and Arizona
There are many spiders native to our desert home and all of them can bite. Fortunately, most of our local spiders are not a threat to humans and that is a good thing. We need the spiders desperately because they are very helpful. They feed mainly on insects. Without the spiders, we could easily be inundated. Spiders as a whole help keep nature in balance, particularly where those six-legged critters are concerned.
Black Widow (Most Common / Most Venomous)
The adult black widow spider is probably the best known of the two. They are pretty common. The female is colored glossy-black with a bright orange to red hourglass-shaped marking on the underside of the abdomen. The body of the female is about one-half inch long and, with legs extended, may be up to two inches long. The males also have the red hourglass on the underside of their abdomen, but are cream and tan in color and much smaller in size.
Newly hatched black widows are white with black spots on their abdomen with a cream-colored hourglass. Later, as they mature, they become cream and brown-striped. All stages of both sexes are venomous. Even the egg sacs contain venom so don’t touch them directly. When you find one, it should be carefully removed and crushed to kill any young that might still be within before discarding.
Webs made by black widow spiders are irregularly shaped with strands running in many directions. The somewhat stiff webs are said to appear “messy”, meaning that they have no particular pattern. The spiders hide during the day, and hang upside down in their webs at night. When mature, the female mates and lays several hundred eggs. She then wraps the eggs in a silken cocoon called the “egg sac.” Female black widows guard the sac until the eggs hatch. During this time she is most likely to bite when threatened. Egg sacs are most frequently encountered from May to October.
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Arizona Brown / Brown Recluse Spiders
Arizona brown spiders are often mistaken for the brown recluse spider, which is not a normal resident of Arizona. The only brown recluse spiders found here are the ones that have been brought into the state in luggage or other belongings of people who recently come from regions where it does occur. This hitch hiking, fortunately, does not happen frequently. However, because these spiders are so closely related and because the venom of each causes similar symptoms, they are often treated, and feared, as one in the same.
The two species of brown spiders in Arizona closely have a dark brown marking on the front portion of their body that resembles a violin. They appear two-toned, with a tan front and gray rear body region. These spiders have three pairs of eyes in a crescent shape across the top, rather than the four pairs of most other spiders. Arizona brown spiders are usually small. Including legs, their total size is only about the area of a nickel. The body region of adults is one-third inch long.
Arizona brown spiders normally nest in protected areas, such as under wood or dead cacti in the desert, their native habitat. They can be found in urban areas, but it usually is because they have been brought in from the desert on firewood or pieces of cactus skeleton acquired for landscape purposes. They build a loose web of white silk where they stay during the daylight hours. As with the black widow, Arizona brown spiders are active at night.
Common household pests in the fall when they are looking for a warm place over winter. They are commonly found around doors, windows, house plants, basements, garages, and in almost all terrestrial habitats. They do not spin a web but roam at night to hunt for food. Wolf spiders are often confused with the brown recluse, but they lack the unmistakable violin-shaped marking behind the head. The wolf spider is shy and seeks to run away when disturbed.
Wolf spiders range from about 1/2 inch to 2 inches in length, hairy, and are typically brown to gray in color with various markings or lines. Wolf spider mothers carry their large egg sacs around with them. When the young spiderlings hatch they climb onto their mother’s back and ride around until partially grown. Wolf spiders are not poisonous, though as with all spiders, bites may cause reactions in certain individuals.
To avoid an unfortunate incident, be cautious when picking up or moving objects, particularly in outbuildings such as sheds or garages, or in shady, undisturbed areas such as under parked cars or in flower pots. Although they are not commonly found indoors, it is always a good idea to shake out and check clothing before dressing.
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Black widow venom is a nerve toxin, which means that as it acts on the nervous system, it causes progressive muscle pain and can sometimes cause difficulty in breathing. The initial bite has been described as anywhere between a pin prick and a sharp stabbing pain, but some people do not even realize that they have been bitten. Although bites are generally not fatal, they should be considered dangerous. Contact the Poison Control Center, 1-800-222-1222, immediately for information about treatment and care if someone is bitten.
Brown recluse spiders are normally quite timid and only bite when trapped. Persons bitten apparently at first feel no discomfort, but as time progresses a blister forms, which may become an open ulcer. Other symptoms include fever and nausea. Persons bitten should make every attempt to capture the spider for identification and seek medical advice as soon as possible. This is especially true if one begins to show allergic reactions. The Poison Control number provided above is a good first call.