During collecting episodes in urban southern California, brown widow spiders, Latrodectus geometricus C. L. Koch, 1841, were observed to reside most often in specific locations such as acute angles within patio furniture or on the underside of railings. In this laboratory study, we tested several variables to determine which factors brown widow females may use for web site selection. All tests were conducted with corrugated cardboard refugia in enclosed dome-shaped insect cages. Brown widows were found to significantly prefer: 1) 30º angles compared to 60º or 90º angles, 2) cavities of 75 and 100 mm depth compared to 25 or 50 mm depth, 3) cavities lined with single-faced corrugated cardboard compared to smooth surfaces, and 4) refuges that had previously housed a brown widow compared to similar but previously unoccupied refugia. These data provide unusually detailed information about microhabitat selection by an urban pest, with possible implications for the pest control industry for eradication or for home owners to avoid envenomations.
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Vol. 44 • No. 1