NEW ORLEANS — As the heat sticks around, some researchers at Loyola University believe the population of brown widow spiders is thriving.
Brown Widow Spiders are considered a “cousin” to black widow spiders and are venomous.
Researchers say parents should keep their eyes open because the spiders often make their nests in places kids are sticking their fingers.
Loyola Environmental Science major Katie Rompf does homework that would make most of us shutter, searching for brown widow spiders and their egg sacks. She then collects the samples and takes them back to the lab to study for her research project.
The egg sacks are small white or tan pea-sized sacks with spikes. They typically carry anywhere from 70-100 eggs inside. In one afternoon, Rompf found dozens of egg sacks underneath the playground equipment at the Walnut Street playground.
Experts believe brown widows are now out-competing the black widows in New Orleans, but there's not a lot of information out there about them.
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What researchers have discovered is the spiders are thriving inside man-made, low-lying structures like playgrounds.
The spiders aren't naturally aggressive, but are dangerous because of their venom. They are brown and tan colored with an orange hourglass. A bite could range from a painful blister, to a more serious hospital visit.
“It’s worth checking under the lips of benches if kids like to grab, put hands on things,” Rompf said. “You wouldn't want to stick your hand into a nest.”
Rompf’s Professor at Loyola, Dr. Aimee Thomas says people shouldn’t be afraid playgrounds but should keep their eyes open.
“If they're around your children's play equipment at home, remove them,” said Dr. Thomas. “You can do it easily with tongs from the kitchen and just place them in the trash away from the house.”
Brown widows do not always release venom with their bites. If you do believe you were bit Rompf suggests going to the doctor, but says most cases do not require an emergency room trip.