Black Widow Spiders

Black Widow spiders are reputedly one of the deadliest and most secretive spiders in the US. Contrary to popular belief, the black widow is not a single species but rather a genus (Latrodectus) that includes four species that can be found across every state in America. Although black widows do have potent venom, much of what makes people dread them are myths and their depiction in films. 

Despite having venom that’s reportedly fifteen times stronger than a rattlesnake’s, these spiders rarely bite humans, and if they do, they cannot inject nearly as much venom as a rattlesnake, so it’s very rare for a bite to be lethal.

How To Identify Black Widow Spiders

The most distinctive element that will help you identify the Black Widow is the red mark on the underside of the female spider. Males also have this pattern in the same place, but it can be red or pink. Here are other features to help you identify Black Widows.

Color: Male and female black widows have distinctive colors. Females have a shiny black body, while males have a reddish-brown or dark body.

Size: Females measure up to 1.5 inches, while males are typically about half that size. 

Bodily Features: Nearly all black widow females have the hour-glass-shape pattern under the abdomen. Males are smaller in size but have long legs. All black widow spiders have curved feet covered with bristles and are known for making irregular and messy webs.

Habitat: The black widow spider habitat is usually outdoors, but they’re also capable of living inside homes if the conditions are right. Outside, they are often found in protected areas such as under pieces of wood, stones, rodent burrows, woodpiles, and hollow tree stumps. Inside the house, you’ll find these spiders in quiet and rarely disturbed places such as the basement, cluttered boxes, and storage areas.

Diet: Black widows eat flying and climbing insects, and thanks to their strong venom they’ve even been seen trapping small vertebrates such as lizards and snakes.

As their name suggests, female black widows are known to sometimes eat male black widows after mating, but this is not true of all the black widow species, and not nearly as common as most people might think. This behavior is also not exclusive to black widows, there are several other species that are known to occasionally cannibalize the males after the mating process.

Are Black Widow Spiders Dangerous?

Black widows are not aggressive and prefer to be left alone but will inflict a bite if they feel threatened. A lot of bites are accidental, when humans unknowingly touch or trap them by sitting on them, rolling over onto them, or reaching into areas where they are hiding.

The bite itself may not even be felt at the time, but can lead to various symptoms quickly, usually within an hour. These are usually mild, and include: redness and swelling around the bite, sweating, cramping of muscles or muscle stiffness, pain, and vomiting.

Black widow bites are rarely fatal, but sensitivity varies per person, with young children and the elderly at the highest risk.  If you think you have been bitten by a black widow and you have more than minor pain or have full body symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. If you can, bring the spider with you in a plastic bag or other small container.

Preventing and Controlling Black Widows

The best way to prevent and control black widows is to make it difficult for them to build their webs on your property in the first place. Regularly sweep door frames, garages, storage areas, basements, and corners of rooms, and either get rid of all woodpiles, rocks, permanent dumpsters, or move them away from the house.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with black widow spiders, or if you are looking for regular treatments to help prevent them, contact Domain Pest Control for a free quote!

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