Roots, Shoot, Fruits & Flowers: Brown Widow Spider, Predatory Plant, Bedbugs, Crazy Ants, and Fire Ants

Brown widow spider.

Brown widow spider. Note the hourglass marking which is like the hourglass on the black widow spider. Photo: University of Florida

Brown Widow Spider

Jerry brought in a dead spider from his workplace and suspected it was a venomous spider. The spider was sent to the LSU AgCenter, and an entomologist confirmed that it was a brown widow spider, an introduced, non-native relative of the black widow spider. The good news is that the brown widow spider is very shy, and the unwelcome news is that its venom is as deadly as a black widow spider. Fortunately, household insecticides will kill this spider.

Jack in the pulpit.

Jack in the Pulpit in the spring. Photos: Connecticut Botanical Society

Predatory Plant

Another homeowner brought a plant specimen with bright red berries. He wanted to know what the plant was and if the berries were toxic. The plant he brought is Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and its berries are non-toxic and are edible. AHA tasted these berries and survived, but he thought the flavor was unremarkable. There are beautiful stands of this plant in areas of the Kisatchie National Forest. These are predatory plants and attracts insects which become entrapped tube-like flower.

Red berries.

Jack in the Pulpit in late summer with berries.


Adult bedbug. Photo: Texas A&M University


A lady brought a specimen to our AgCenter office, and she found it on her dress after returning from a Bible study. She was concerned about what it was, and her concern was justified. She picked up a bedbug from the hostess of the Bible study.

There are a couple of concerns in this case. The ladies attending this Bible study need to relocate their gathering to avoid spreading bedbugs to their own homes. The other concern is how to apprise the elderly hostess about her infestation. Treating bedbugs is difficult and requires the services of professional exterminators. Bedbugs require a bloodmeal and leave bites on people.

Crazy ant.

Tawny crazy ant. Photo: Dr. Linda Hooper-Bui, LSU AgCenter

Crazy Ants

Dianne sent this email, “We have small ants crawling everywhere on our plants on our patio by the pool thousands of them just running. I have sprayed them, and it is doing no good. They are everywhere. They do not seem to bite, just an epidemic. How do you kill them?” Based on this description, AHA thinks these are tawny crazy ants. According to Dr. Linda Hooper-Bui, “Crazy ant populations reach extremely high numbers of individuals and may overwhelm large areas. They short out electrical circuits, kill bees and may disrupt ground-nesting wildlife. They are most problematic because they enter structures in mass and irritate humans.” Louisiana has a quarantine exemption for a product called Termidor SC to treat for crazy ants until 2025. Dianne then asked if “it’s pet friendly?” Yes, the active ingredient in Termidor SC™ is called fipronil, the same active ingredient found in Frontline, a flea and tick treatment for pets.

Fire ants.

Red imported fire ants. Photo: Dr. Linda Hooper-Bui, LSU AgCenter.

Fire Ants

Laura asked a tricky question, “Hello, my children's sandbox has fire ants living in it. I am doubtful that ant poison is safe in an area where kids play with their hands, although they are old enough to know not to eat the sand. I cannot find any answers on Google other than to spray vinegar, which seems like more of a prevention. Is there a safe ant poison or some other method? Thank you. Have a great day!”

The reason this question is tricky is because AHA would usually recommend an insecticide. However, fire ants tend to move away from their nest after two or three disturbances. That is why golf courses tend to avoid fire ant infestations. These venues are heavily maintained, and fire ants dislike these kinds of sites. Laura can disturb the ant nest in the sandbox with boiling water repeatedly to disinfest her children’s play site.

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits, and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337.284.5188 or

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

8/9/2023 7:43:32 PM
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