Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How to Avoid Florida Black Widows and Wasp Stings

 How to Avoid Florida Black Widows and Wasp Stings - R. Mark Sink

If you live in the midst of Florida and have a back yard, you are most likely going to have many spiders. Most of these varieties are harmless unless noticeably vivid in color. However, I've begun to see a different variety that is not vivid black, but a chameleon color that is hard to see.

From Red Orbit Reference Library

The Brown Widow (Latrodectus geometricus), also known as the Brown Button Spider, Geometric Button Spider, or Gray Widow, is a species of arachnid that is related to the famous Black Widow Spider. The Brown Widow is found in the northern and southern United States. States include Florida, Alabama, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. It is also found in some regions in Japan, Australia, South Africa and Cyprus. The origins of the species is unknown as it was independently discovered in both Africa and the Americas. They are commonly found in buildings.

The color of the Brown Widow can range from tan to dark brown or even black, though its generally lighter in color than the Black Widow. Some shades of gray have also been recorded in this species. There is an “hourglass” marking on the underside of the abdomen. This hourglass is orange or yellow in color. There is also a black and white geometric pattern on the upper side of the abdomen. The pattern is not always visible, especially as the spider darkens in color over time.

An easy way to find a Brown Widow is by searching for the easily identifiable egg sac. The egg sacs resemble sandspur (having pointy projections all over that resemble small spikes). The eggs hatch in about 20 days.

The neurotoxic venom of this species has been reported as being more potent than that of the Black Widow, but is usually confined to the bite area and surrounding tissue. Other sources believe the toxin is less venomous. Either way, people that have been bitten describe the experience as quite painful. Extreme care should be taken when playing or working in areas that this species are abundant.

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An easy way to recognize their presence is their eggs that resemble a brown sack-looking spiked apparatus that is approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter. If you see the eggs, you can guarantee the mother is near. They gather at all locations approximately 1 to 2 feet off the ground in and around anything that accommodates a hub of protection. 

I have many ladders that are often stored outside so killing black widows has become a past time as these locations are guaranteed infestations. If you spray your yard with pesticides, you will reduce their presence while also exposing your family to neurotoxins.

Today, I killed a rather large brown widow by using a stick to draw her out which she then immediately created a silk escape line approaching the ground where she then was destroyed. Any type of ledge or inside corner, underneath patio furniture, and in the approximate height zone is capable infestation. I've killed hundreds while living in Florida, mostly black, and it is recommended to become aware of the practice of ensuring your interaction with the stuff we accumulate has not become their home.

From Florida Wasps
Avoiding black widows may seem scary, actually I've never been bit by one. That is not the case for the wasp, as understanding how to avoid them is quite different in nature. They most often require higher ground clearance to build their nests automatically out of your normal view. They also have range factor, if you are within their range and disturb them, an attack is announced to the entire crew. They fly similar to F-15s to acquire their target and can sting you many times.

The paper wasps is more common where I live which is central Florida. If the wasps don't look as wimpy as these, be sure and increase your range. These require a range of approximately 10 feet, so a stick 10 feet long can be used to remove the nest attachment. There is no reason to kill the wasps as they only care about the nest. Once the nest is removed, they will wander around and eventually build another nest, and sometimes in the same location.

For the more scary looking variety, use a 16 foot stick as this is out of range, although you do want to retreat once your attempt is completed just as assurance they cannot set you as a target. The paper wasps range is rather small, but a minimum of 10 feet is recommended with the additional retreat upon displacing unwanted nests.

Nests can be difficult to spot and wasps love to hide under areas you would not expect. Their nesting is broader than the spider and also can be close to the ground unexpectedly. Their sting is quite painful depending on the location. Anywhere on the hands or arms is critical, the back and neck not so much, and the face of course critical.

I use a Melaleuca oil bath immediately on all stings and repeat applications. Some more natural methods of treatments are available from Natural News.

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