Look Out Black Widow, Here Comes Brown Widow

Less toxic rivals may be taking over in West

By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 7, 2012 9:36 AM CDT

(Newser) – Good news: You may now be slightly less likely to find a black widow spider hiding in your shoe. Researchers discovered that the deadly arachnid is being crowded out of swaths of its native US territory by a new creepy crawler to the scene—the brown widow, reports LiveScience. The upside for humans is that the brown widow's bite is less toxic. It would probably just hurt a lot.

Scientists were investigating natural habitats in Southern California where they expected to encounter black widows, but at more than 70 of the sites, they found 20 times as many brown widows. "There may be some competition where brown widows are displacing black widows because there is some habitat overlap," says one researcher. The black widows may be heading to more agricultural areas, notes the LA Times. Their brown cousins seem to prefer hiding around human structures, with a special affinity for "cheap patio furniture," adds the researcher.

A brown widow spider guarding her egg sacs in Florida.
A brown widow spider guarding her egg sacs in Florida.   (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)
A jar of preserved black widows at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington.
A jar of preserved black widows at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A female brown widow in Florida.
A female brown widow in Florida.   (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
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