Black Widow and Brown Widow spiders

in Port St Lucie & Stuart 

Both Black Widow and Brown Widow Spiders are common pests in South Florida. While the Southern Black Widow is a native species, the invasive Brown Widow has become the more common spider in Port St Lucie and Palm City. This article we will cover how to identify them, where they are most commonly found around homes, and why their unique anatomy makes professional pest control more important for spiders than for most other pests.

VARIETIES OF WIDOW SPIDERS FOUND ON THE TREASURE COAST

Red Widow Spider

Red Widow Spider

The Red Widow Spider is uncommon, and classified as “Threatened” by the IUNC (the organization widely known for classifying species risk of extinction). The Red Widow is endemic to Central and South Florida. The Red Widow lives only in the endangered dry scrub habitats such as those found in Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound and Sheraton Scrub Preserve in Fort Pierce. Because of their limited range and unique living environment, this species rarely encounters humans. In fact, in researching this article we were unable to find a single recorded instance of a Red Widow Bite. Like many of the other species endemic to Florida’s scrub habitat, the Red Widow is threatened with extinction mostly due to habitat destruction.   The Red Widow Spider is a nominal threat to humans rarely encountered outside of its native habitat. Due to its threatened status, Red Widow Spiders should be left alone rather than killed.

Brown Widow Spider

 

Brown Widow Spider abdomen pattern

Widow Spider egg sac

The Brown Widow Spider may be the most relevant widow spider on the Treasure Coast. There is evidence in other parts of the country that Black Widow Spiders fail to compete against invasive Brown Widows and based upon the personal experience of technicians at Green Pest Services, Brown Widows appear to be supplanting Black Widows in our area as well. Certainly, if you live west of I-95 and south of Tradition Parkway (34987), you’re more likely to encounter Brown Widow Spiders than Black Widows.

Brown Widow spiders can be identified by the black and brown pattern on their legs. The more famous (or infamous) Black Widow has solid black legs. Another way of identifying a Brown Widow is their unique eggs. It is common for a Brown Widow web to also contain egg sacs. Brown Widow egg sacs are unique in that they have noticeable spikes on them.  There are other more subtle differences between the two but most people tend to not want to get too close to these potentially dangerous arachnids.

Brown Widows are not considered more dangerous than other species of widow spider. Though their venom is equally or more toxic, they possess less venom and tend to inject a lesser quantity when they bite. For this reason, Brown Widow bites of people tend to have better outcomes when compared to bites by Black Widows.

Black Widow

Black Widow Spider hourglass pattern

  Black Widow Spiders are present throughout North America. There are several varieties but only the Southern Widow is found in South Florida. The Panhandle west of Tallahassee has established populations of both the Southern and Northern Widow. Black Widow spiders are common in Florida and their behavior is similar to that of the Brown Widow.  The Black Widow is considered somewhat more dangerous than the Brown because it tends to inject more venom. Cluttered dark areas such as garages and sheds are prime locations for Black Widow Spiders to live. Gloves and long-sleeved shirts should be considered if you will be working in these areas, particularly if the items aren’t often moved or messed with.

Widow Spiders in Florida

Widow Spiders are an infamous genus of spider known for their poisonous bite and for exhibiting a behavior called sexual cannibalism – some female spiders will kill and consume their partner after mating. There are 5 species of Widow Spider in North America. The Northern Widow, the Southern Widow, the Western Widow, the Red Widow Spider, and lastly the invasive but increasingly common, Brown Widow Spider. Among the 4 native Widow Spiders in North America, the Red Widow is unique in that it is endemic only to Florida.

Natural Predators of Widow Spiders

Spiders inside of a Mud Wasp Nest

Beyond the help of an exterminator for controlling Widow Spiders, there are natural predators in Florida that help to keep the population down. Numerous other spider species will prey on Widows including Jumping Spiders. However the most important natural predator of the Black Widow Spiders is various species of Mud Dauber. Sometimes referred to as Mud Wasps or Dirt Daubers, this family of wasps are well known in Florida for their characteristic mud nests. While the nests are sometimes an unsightly nuisance, they are also evidence of the mud daubers hard work controlling the spider population around the home. Dirt Dauber often build their mud nests on the walls, eaves, and entryways of homes. Inside these nests the Mud Dauber lays its eggs, and importantly,  deposits food for her offspring once they’ve hatched. Mud daubers will sting and paralyze spiders, including Black Widows, then carry the immobilized spider back to their nest. They then pack the spider into the nest with mud as food for their growing larvae.

Where They Live and What Can Be Done

Widow Spider web in Port St Lucie

 

Unfortunately, Black Widow Spiders and Brown Widow Spiders are widespread in Port St Lucie and Stuart. They prefer dark and somewhat secluded areas. Cluttered areas of a garage being a prime area. The framing around a patio screen kickplate, in the top corners of a front door entryway, and along the bottom trim board in a garage are a few other examples where these spiders are commonly found around Florida homes.

There is an irony to where Black Widows often choose to make their webs. While they prefer darker areas, their food is most abundant in areas that are well lit at night. This is because prey for these spiders is usually attracted to light. Building a web around a frequently lit exterior light fixture is lucrative business for a Black Widow Spider. Leaving exterior lighting off at night can have a huge impact on spider populations around your home.  It will also save you money. We recommend installing motion sensors on exterior light fixtures so that they turn on only if someone approaches the property. A perpetually lit light fixture outside of a home is essentially baiting that home with food for other insects, including spiders.

The Tradition area of Port St Lucie seems to be the area most habitually infested with Black & Brown Widow Spiders. Most of the communities in Port St Lucie west of I-95 have multiple manmade lakes and ponds. These ponds are a prime breeding ground for small flying insects such as mosquitoes and midges. Flying insects are the base food source for web-producing spiders, therefore the overabundance of prey in the Tradition area seems to be contributing to a relatively high spider population. This is particularly true of newly constructed neighborhoods. The full ecosystem of potential predators for midges, such as fish, frogs, and tadpoles, take time to become well established. Meanwhile, the midges and mosquitoes begin to reproduce in these new water sources almost immediately.  

In the experience of pest control technicians at Green Pest Services, Brown Widows make up the vast majority of Widow Spider encounters on the Treasure Coast.

While there are steps homeowners can take to prevent pests, if you’ve noticed Widow Spiders around your home it may be worth it to contact a pest control company for service. Because of their reclusive nature and the potential consequences of an encounter, hiring a well-trained exterminator is likely the best choice for most homeowners.

A note on the Brown Recluse (Loxosceles Reclusa):

The Brown Recluse is not at all common in Florida. G. B. Edwards of the Florida State Collection of Arthropods looked closely into alleged Brown Recluse bites in Florida and published his findings. He found what we at Green Pest Services have been telling our customers for years now – Brown Recluse Spiders are not at all common in Florida. Most confirmed sightings of Brown Recluse in Florida have been easily associated with the transportation of vehicles and goods from areas where the Brown Recluse Spiders ARE common.

Regarding bites, Edwards was able to uncover only one (1) confirmed Brown Recluse Spider bite in Florida. This is not to say there is zero possibility of Brown Recluse encounter, but they are rare and should not be the first suspect when investigating a presumed spider bite.

To sum up – are there Brown Recluse Spiders in Florida? There is no evidence of a sustained population of Brown Recluse Spiders in Florida. There have been incidents where multiple Loxosceles Reclusa were found in individual buildings. Some might consider those instances “infestations” but again, there is no evidence a sustained breeding population has ever established itself in the environment here in Florida.

Why Pest Control is More Important for Spider Control Than Other Pests

If you are experiencing a spider infestation in your home it might be wise to consider the service of a professional pest control company in your area. Because Spiders aren’t insects – they’re arachnids – they don’t pick up pesticides the way insects do.

Often people assume that an insect walking over a treated area will die, while this is often true, it is not simply because the product touched the feet or legs of the insect. Insects groom themselves. They clean their legs, feet, and antenna with their mouths. This grooming behavior causes them to consume insecticides on surfaces that they may have walked over or investigated with their antenna. Spiders lack antennae, they have somewhat unique mouthparts, and they don’t exhibit grooming behavior. For these reasons, spiders are less likely to be affected by residual insecticides than insects. Simply walking around your house with an over-the-counter spray bottle is more likely to hurt your wallet than the spiders in your home. Knowledge and experience are the most powerful tools in the battle against spiders. A professional pest control company should come equipped with both.

Green Pest Services – Spider Control in Port St. Lucie 34953

 

Green Pest Services is a locally owned and operated Pest Control services based in Port St. Lucie. We have decades of combined experience in the control and extermination of spiders here on the Treasure Coast. Our services are affordable and, most importantly, effective at controlling spiders in and around homes. 

If you would like a free quote right over the phone, give us a call at 772-528-5839.

pest control service van for Green Pest Services

We take a bottom-line approach to each project. Our clients consistently leave great reviews on our service.

-Shane Green. CEO, Green Pest Services FL