Brown widows getting renewed attention in metro area since Isaac

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 24, 2012 at 6:59 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 11 at 6:53 AM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

SLIDELL, La.-- In cleaning up after Hurricane Isaac, Randy Carollo adopted a new pet.

"I kept him to teach my daughter and my son about the spiders and venomous animals and stuff like that," he said. "And, really, just became part of the family now."

What Carollo found is a brown widow, a relative of the black widow. Brown widows began making an appearance in greater numbers seven years ago.

"Brown widows are potentially dangerous. They're related to black widows, and it's safe to assume they have a similar venom, which is neurotoxic and dangerous to people," said Zack Lemann of the Audubon Insectarium.

Experts believe that brown widows originated in Africa, but they ended up making an appearance after Hurricane Katrina-- not only in New Orleans, but also on the Northshore and all the way to Baton Rouge.

How they traveled from their established presence in Florida all the way to Louisiana is not clear. However, they are getting renewed attention since Hurricane Isaac, as people encounter them around their homes. Lemann said he has not noticed a spike in the local brown widow population.

"But if other people are seeing them more, it could be similar to what happened in Katrina," he said. "The problem is, we don't really know what Katrina did that made us have more brown widows in the area."

Either way, Lemann said a brown widow bite is rare and most healthy adults would be able survive it. Yet, it could potentially kill a small child or a pet, and would require treatment.

That doesn't faze Randy Carollo, though.

"I'm not afraid to find more on my property because I've taught my kids about animals and stuff like that, so they know what not to touch," he said.

Experts say brown widow bites are hard to diagnose because you might not even know you've been bitten. Most of the time, people can't even feel the bite, and by the time they realize it, the culprit is gone.

Those who are bitten can experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and fever. In that case, the anti-venom for the black widow would likely be used with a brown widow bite if needed.

 

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