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Invasive Brown Widow Spider Spotted In Oregon For The First Time

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The brown widow spider looks fairly like the black widow spider but for its brownish coloration and orange "hourglass" instead of red. It is most easily recognized by its egg sacs, which look like small spiky balls.  ( Oregon Department of Agriculture )

A single brown widow spider was spotted in the state of Oregon for the first time ever. It is believed that the spider may have hitchhiked from California, and authorities are already investigating whether there could be more.

Brown Widow Spider Spotted

Last September, Oregon resident Marci Beddingfield spotted a spider under the grill behind her home. She was unsure what species the spider was at first because it looked rather like a black widow spider, but she noticed that the spider was brown in color and not black, and that the distinctive hourglass on its abdomen was orange and not the typical red.

Upon research, they figured that it might be a brown widow spider and a colleague of her boyfriend who works for a pest control company helped them to identify it. They sent the spider and its spiky-looking egg sacs to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) who confirmed that the spider was indeed a brown widow spider.

A First In Oregon

While it’s naturally unnerving to find a spider at home, what’s even more unique about Beddingfield’s find is that this was the first time ever that the brown widow spider was spotted in the state of Oregon. Typically, such spiders live in more tropical locations such as in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and California. In regard to the spider they found, authorities suspect that it might have hitchhiked from California.

Typically, such spiders die quickly because they are not used to the colder climate in non-tropical regions but even so, ODA is investigating the matter and is encouraging members of the public to take pictures of spiders they believe might be brown widow spiders and send them to ODA for identification.

Is There A Threat?

Authorities are urging the public not to panic. For one thing, they don’t believe that it is likely for the spiders to establish a population in Oregon, and the brown spider is said to be avoidant of human interaction and rarely bites. In fact, the males and the immature brown widow spiders do not bite at all.

Even when they do, while it is venomous just like its cousin the black widow spider, its venom is said to be less harmful than the black widow’s. This is because while its venom is twice as potent as the black widow’s, they inject less of the neurotoxin when they bite, leading to less severe symptoms. Further, some research even suggests that the invasive brown widow tends to overtake the black widow population where it is established, thereby lessening its threat to humans.

To educate members of the public about spider species in Oregon, ODA is expected to hold a Facebook livestream on Oct. 10 at noon.

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