A venomous spider native to Africa has apparently made its way into Oregon after one local reported finding a brown widow spider in her backyard, per Katu.
Scientifically known as Latrodectus geometricus, this species is related to the black widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus) and has made a home in the southeastern, southern, and southwestern United States, notes Desert USA.
While the brown widow spider is no stranger to Southern California, as the Inquisitr previously reported — and can also be found anywhere from Texas to South Carolina — this is the first time that the arachnid was spotted in the northern state of Oregon.
According to Oregon Live, it’s still unclear how the brown widow spider, which was sighted in the Portland area, ended up this far north.
The exotic specimen was found in September by Oregon City resident Marci Beddingfield, who initially thought that the spider was a black widow.
Beddingfield discovered the critter underneath the grill in her backyard — and eventually realized that she had stumbled upon a completely new type of invader.
“Upon examining it, we saw the hourglass that wasn’t red. It was orange. And the spider was brown, and not black,” she said in a statement. “I was shocked that not one has been reported in Oregon.”
Marci Beddingfield found the spider underneath the grill in her backyard last month. Upon closer examination, she noticed it had an orange hourglass and a tan body, not a black widow. Experts confirmed it was, in fact, a brown widow. pic.twitter.com/rOpn6oyPa7
— Keaton Thomas (@keaton_thomas) October 4, 2018
This particular specimen is believed to have come from California, perhaps after hitching a ride in a piece of luggage or inside of a car. Although experts have deemed it unlikely that the species will take up permanent residency in Oregon, state authorities have asked locals to examine their homes to see if any other brown widow spiders turn up in the area.
The easiest way to identify a brown widow is if the arachnid has already laid eggs, notes the University of California, Riverside. This is because the egg sack of a brown widow has a very distinctive look — one that bears a striking resemblance to the durian fruit — and is impossible to miss.
“The egg sack of the brown widow is round and yellow with many little silk spikes sticking out from its surface, looking like a big pollen grain or one of those harbor mines from World War II,” explains the university.
By comparison, the black widow weaves a round and smooth egg sack.
Another way to verify if an arachnid is a brown widow is to look for the distinctive red or orange hourglass on the underside of its abdomen. Additionally, a Latrodectus geometricus should have a light-colored body, ranging from tan to dark brown.
The brown widow spotted in Oregon City was identified after Beddingfield’s boyfriend, who is employed at a local pest control agency, sent the spider and its egg sack to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA).
The brown widow is both venomous and invasive. While experts reassure the population that the spider is less dangerous than its feared cousin — the black widow — its bite is nevertheless “medically significant.”
Similar to the black widow, a bite from a brown widow can cause fever and muscle spasm in humans. However, the ODA emphasized that there is no cause for alarm. This heat-loving spider, which thrives in tropical climate, will probably not survive the temperature transition to the northern state.
“If they are outside already, then they will probably be wiped out by the freezing weather because they are subtropical animals,” said Tom Valente, an ODA entomologist.
In addition, this particular species is notoriously shy and is less likely to bite when compared to the black widow.
“Brown widows are not generally as hazardous to people as black widows. And black widows have existed in southern and eastern Oregon from time immemorial. So, an occasional brown widow is not exactly a new desperate danger for people to worry about!” said spider expert Rod Crawford.