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Spiders on the loose

Editor’s note: The fifth-graders in Ginny LaRowe’s class at Bird Rock Elementary School were given an assignment to report on and write a feature story. Today we publish two selected by classmates as the best. Next week, we’ll publish two more.

By Camryn Johnson

Everyone knows about black widows, but a lot of people don’t know about brown widows. Most people think, “Oh just another spider, nothing to worry about,” but the thing is, they aren’t just any other spider. The brown widow and the black widow are both incredibly dangerous. This wasn’t a problem before, but now their population is growing to a dangerous level, so watch out for these spiders in the small community of La Jolla, California.

Brown widow spiders can be light brown to black, on the top. On the bottom of the brown widow spider, instead of the dark red hourglass, it is a bright orange hourglass. The distinct markings on the legs are three rings that look like bracelets. The brown widow’s scientific name is Lactrodectus geometricus, and it has a white and black geometric pattern on its abdomen unlike the black widow. Over time, the brown widow changes its color, so the geometric pattern may not be visible.

They feed mostly on small mammals, reptiles and insects. The brown widow’s web is so strong that it can catch a bird in it. Sometimes they eat things that are much bigger than themselves. The male brown widow lives a much shorter life than the female brown widow, who lives for up to five years. A brown widow lays approximately 1,600 eggs in a lifetime. They lay about 100-400 eggs per sac and have three to five egg sacs total. They are the only spiders that have egg sacs with pointed projections on them.

The brown widow spider’s venom is much stronger than the black widow, but the brown widow releases less venom, resulting in the same toxicity. The venom of both spiders will send you to the hospital. Bites occur when the spider gets accidentally pressed against the skin. Brown widow spiders live in small, crowded spaces such as under branches or on the sides of a flowerpot.

These brown widows are non-native to the United States. It is believed that they traveled here from Africa on ships. Some people believe that we should kill the brown widow spider because it is non-native. Others debate that we should leave them alone because they are part of nature. Many people have different opinions on what to do in this situation, and I think we have no business in destroying them. I think that it is important that everyone is aware of this interesting spider that has invaded San Diego. So watch out for these dangerous spiders that might be lurking and crawling around your bushes and fences, but be careful not to kill them.