Black widow spiders on playground worry parents

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Most parents worry about cuts and scrapes, sunburns, even mosquito bites while taking their children to play at a park. Black widow spiders, however, don’t cross many minds.

“I can’t say my guard is up looking for poisonous insects and stuff at the playground,” says Richmond mother Caitlin Hunt.

On Monday, another Richmond mother sent CBS 6 pictures of several black widow spiders she found while playing with her three young children at the tot lot near Thomas Jefferson High School.

The mother says several of the spiders were hidden under playground equipment and toys, while others were found out in the open.

Biologists says it’s unusual to find black widows in high traffic areas, like a public playground.

“They like to be places where there’s shelter, where there’s not much going on,” says University or Richmond professor Peter Smallwood.

While not aggressive, the spiders can inflict a very painful and even deadly bite. The spider can be distinguished by the red or yellow hourglass or triangle shape on the belly.

Several areas across the country have reported an increase of black widow spiders over the past few years because of mild winters and extremely hot summers, which have increased the spiders’ food source.

According to the Virginia Poison Control Center, there’s been an increase in black widow bites over the past four years in the commonwealth. So far in 2012, there’s been 32 reported bites, with three of the cases being classified as severe.

The CDC says about five or six people die each year as a result of black widow or brown recluse spider bites, however nearly 60 people die each year because of bee stings.

“It’s really scary,” says Caitlin Hunt. “Especially thinking about all the little ones here.”

While many parents say the spider sightings at the tot lot won’t keep them away from the park, they say it’s definitely one more thing for a mom to worry about.

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