Why 2020 has become a bumper year for black widow spiders - InfoNews

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Why 2020 has become a bumper year for black widow spiders

Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Vernon Spider Control
September 22, 2020 - 7:00 AM

It's the only venomous spider in the Okanagan, and it's the one spider that's decided to show up in force in 2020.

"It's been an exceptional year for black widows," Vernon Spider Control owner Darcy Stass told iNFOnews.ca. "(There are) more webs... more nests... more actual spiders... more of a presence as a whole."

Stass says it's very hard to quantify how many more black widow spiders he's seeing this year but says there is definitely a noticeable increase in the number of them around.

"When people find one or two and call us in for that, we end up finding close to a dozen per house, sometimes even three dozen per house," he said.

Luckily black widows favour garages over houses and are far more likely to found on cold concrete than inside a warm home.

"We've been finding a lot of them on cinderblock retaining walls," Stass said.

READ MORE: The shy, the venomous, and the mythical: 6 spiders of the Thompson-Okanagan

While the notorious spider is venomous, Stass said the black widow is not aggressive, a particularly fast mover, and tends to be reclusive. Nor are the spiders particularly dangerous and should only cause problems for young children, the elderly, and those allergic.

However,  a recent call led him to find an infestation in some children's play equipment in a backyard.

"There were black widows under the toy trucks in the sandbox," he said, adding parents should check children's toys lefts outside.

Stass said the spiders, which range in size from the size of a quarter to a toonie, normally have two major hatches, one in the spring and one late July early August. Stass thinks the weather no doubt has something to do with the sheer number of spiders this year.

And according to bug expert Stuart Brown he's right.

"The summer has been very ideal for a lot of creatures," Brown said. "It was a really prime year for prey items."

Prey items include creatures such as flies, crickets and grasshoppers. All a tasty treat for a hungry spider.

Brown, who owns Lake Country's pet store, The Bug Guys Pets and Exotics said the wet and mild spring was great for plants and grasses, which in turn meant a lot of food for the insects that eat them, and meant a lot of food the arachnids who in turn eat those insects.

"The more the predators get to eat, the more they get to reproduce," Brown said.

Brown said a black widow in captivity can live for five to eight years and produce up to 300 fertilized eggs after mating. While all of the eggs will hatch very few of the hatched spiders will survive. With survival rates low and plenty of other creatures up the food chain looking for something to eat, there are a lot of variables as to why some years are more plentiful than others.

"Everything goes in cycles ... usually they will have huge boom years and then quite years, it will fluctuate a lot," Brown said.

And this year appears to be a boom year.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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