Earlier this month, California Governor Jerry Brown declared the drought officially over.
We've all seen the before and after pictures ...
Winter rains have replenished fallow fields ...
They've made our hillsides more verdant, giving rise to bunches of wildflowers ...
But with the extra green comes extra critters to munch on it. And the things that like to munch on those critters.
That's right, spiders.
"I expect there to be a bumper crop this year now that the drought has officially ended," says Brian Brown. He's curator of entomology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
"We have a lot more plant growth so that we have a lot more insects that feed on those plants available for the spiders to eat," he continues. "We have moister conditions for the spiders to live in. Not so many of them will just desiccate and dry out because of the dry conditions."
Brown says no one knows how the drought impacted the insect kingdom, but the research community has a rough idea: less food equals fewer bugs, meaning fewer spiders. But happy days are here again for arachnids.
As the population continues to grow, those who take a moment to examine them before hitting them with the nearest object might notice that there's a newer spider in town: the brown widow.
"They are obviously new to the area. People see something, and they say 'I've never seen this kinda spider before. It looks like a black widow but it has a Caltrans orange hourglass on its underside.' That's one that we get the most calls about," Brown says.
Brown says that the brown widow came from South Africa. It thrives in the warm climate. They likely made their way here clinging to the underbelly of shipping containers.
"Spiders are great hitchhikers ... They're naturals for being distributed by human activity," Brown says.
The curator of entomology says the widows started coming to Southern California about 15 years ago, squeezing out our resident spider: the black widow. Brown widows went on to take over some of their favorite hiding spots.
"Brown widows are found under almost every piece of yard furniture in the Los Angeles area," Brian Brown says. "So if you're wondering if you have them, look under your garden chair in the back yard. If you see any webbing, you've likely got them there."
But Brown says there are two reasons why you shouldn't worry:
"Number one, we don't hear about legions of people being [bitten] by them, and that's because — number two — they're not very aggressive."
Brown says you still might want to watch where you're putting your hands when you're outside.
That is, unless you want to make a new friend.
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