North Park and North Escondido dwellers have recently reported of “more” spiders crawling around their homes.
Natelle Bracken lives in North Park closer to the 805 freeway. In 2019, she has seen seven black and brown widows — with red or orange hourglass figures on the underside of their abdomens. “Their venom is more toxic than the average spider,” she said on August 26. “I do feel afraid the widows will bite me or my cats, and I know that if you threaten them by handling them or pushing against them — they will bite.”
Bracken says that when she gardens, she wears gloves “religiously” as a precaution. “The spiders don’t like the sun [and hide] inside my bougainvillea, spider plant, jade plant, and succulents,” she said. “I am not as afraid as I used to be, and do not hunt them out to kill them anymore, like I did when I first noticed them ten years ago.”
“The only poisonous spiders in San Diego County are the black widow, brown widow and the desert recluse,” states the county website. “Some poisonous spider bites can cause swelling, tissue damage and disturb the function between nerves and muscles that can lead to paralysis — [but] spiders rarely bite humans, and usually do not break the skin.”
Carl Liebold and his family lived between 30th and Boundary streets in North Park for four years. “We have lots of spiders outside,” he said, “we had some brown widows …. but the giant orb weavers are the scariest and the coolest: they seem very “Halloween” and it’s no fun to accidentally walk through their webs.”
“The amount of rain the region has had [earlier] this year has produced more vegetation and insects,” Chris Conlan said on a Fox 5 News report on August 16, “which means spiders, including orb weavers, have more bugs to eat. These spiders spin circular webs that can stretch from tree to tree and are much larger than the small strands of webs many spiders spin in corners to catch prey. Orb weaver spiders only bite if they feel very threatened and are generally harmless to people.”
While Liebold regularly hires a pest control company to spray his home’s surroundings, Bracken lets the eight-legged arachnids hang around.
“I know that they keep my plants healthy from aphids,” Bracken said, and thus are essential to a healthy garden. Also, if you let a skunk or a opossum into your domain, you will find they keep the bugs [and arachnids] in check. I have even started liking a garden spider or two in my house; as long as they don’t crawl on me.”
Another local chimed in and said: “Praying mantises and alligator lizards are their natural predators ….You can get praying mantis egg sacks from either Armstrong or Walter Andersen nurseries ….. If I see the black or brown widow egg sacks while watering the yard — usually under the window sills, overhang from the roof or a deck, or under flower pots — I’d come back with a creme brûlée torch and finish them off.”
North Escondido and Valley Center Facebook posters have been reporting about the larger tarantula spiders coming into their properties and homes. Since the beginning of August, ten residents came forward and posted Facebook photos of tarantulas that they captured with their smart devices.
Matthew Bakthasekaran found a five-inch tarantula in his kitchen on August 1. “They’re great,” he said.
Although “more menacing” in appearance and size compared to the widows, tarantulas are said to be “less venomous.”
“In the front of the head here, you have these two big lumps where they have the fangs underneath,” Jim Berrian explained, as he held a tarantula in his hands during an NBC 7 news report. “The venom that’s injected is fairly mild [and] you will hurt probably more from the big fangs ripping into your skin that anything else.”
Berrian is a field entomologist with the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. In the report, he added that there are three different native species of tarantulas in San Diego County and can be found “in most areas, with the exception of beach communities.”
If you are bitten by a spider, the county advises to: “Wash the bite mark with soap and water to help prevent infection; rub ice cubes on the bite to numb and reduce the pain; seek medical attention right away for black widow, brown widow and desert recluse spider bites — and for other spider bites, seek medical attention when necessary.”
Symptoms of a black widow spider bite: The initial pain from a spider bite can cause an intense and burning sensation — common symptoms include: blurred vision; nausea; sweating; rapid heartbeat; muscle spasms; trouble breathing and swallowing.”