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'Charlotte's Web' spiders proliferating in La Cañada Flintridge

September 8, 2011 |  9:35 am

 La Cañada Flintridge residents are noticing some new guests in their backyards and gardens as fall arrives — spiders, usually brown, with striped legs, that are stretching their webs all over the place.

Leanne Lowden Mothershead, who has lived in La Cañada for five years, told the La Cañada Valley Sun that this summer the spiders have proliferated to the point of being a nuisance.

“They come every summer, but this summer has been the worst since I’ve lived in La Cañada,” said Mothershead.

UC Riverside arachnologist Rick Vetter, an expert on brown recluse and brown widow spiders, looked at photos of spiders from Mothershead’s home and identified them as members of the common orb weaver family. Vetter described orb weavers as “basically the same spider as [in the book] ‘Charlotte’s Web.’”

Vetter said orb weavers are annuals, and this is the time of year when the current generation of spiders is fully grown.

“This is when people find them,” said Vetter. “They sprout in the spring and grow up and get big; they’re making eggs right about now, and then die off.”

According to Vetter, the orb weaver cuts down and eats its web each morning, recycling the protein to build a new web once night falls.

Larry Moss, who lives on Palm Drive near Palm Crest Elementary, said that despite his broom-wielding efforts to clear his driveway of the spiders’ webs, they keep coming.

“I walk down to get the paper and there’s about 10 or 15 little webs of spiders; and then by the time I walk back, they’re back again,” said Moss. “They aren’t really a bother except when you walk through them and they start climbing on you.”

Vetter said the venom of the orb weaver isn’t toxic for humans, so they pose no real danger, even though they might be a nuisance.

“It’s annoying to run in to the webs,” said Vetter. The spiders are "big enough that if they bit you, it’d be painful from the mechanical piercing of the skin.”

While there might be a variety of orb weavers in La Cañada right now, Vetter said that they’ll die off around November, after they’ve laid the eggs for the next generation of spiders.


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-- Daniel Siegal, Times Community News

Photo: A spider sits in the middle of its web on the 700 block of Foothill Boulevard in La Canada Flintridge on Wednesday. Credit: Raul Roa / Times Community News