5 Interesting Black Widow Spider Facts

If you see a black widow spider, don’t touch it! Why? Because it’s one of the most dangerous species of spider in the world. Find out all there is to know about this insect and how to protect yourself against it.

The black widow is also known as Southern black widow (Latrodectus mactans). It’s part of the Latrodectus genus which contains many extremely venomous spiders. Theridiidae is the name of the family these spiders belong to. They’re better known as comb-footed spiders. The term refers to some stiff short hairs on their legs which are used when the spider’s feeding (we’ll talk about that later).

In fact the females are the ones to keep away from. If you’ve just seen a spider in your home and you think it’s a poisonous one, see if it fits the description below:

  • shiny black body;
  • rounded abdomen;
  • red (or orange yellow) hourglass-shaped mark on the underside of the belly;
  • 1.5 in (38 mm) long and 0.25 in (6.4 mm) in diameter.

Adult Female Black Widow (Latrodectus mactans)

This is the description of a Southern black widow female spider. There’s also one called Northern black widow:

  • a row of red-colored spots down the middle of the upper surface of the abdomen;
  • 2 crosswise bars on the under surface;
  • it can also have red or brown legs;
  • the color of the markings can be white or yellow, too.

Interesting facts about this species are available below:

  1. Males are significantly smaller than the females (less than 0.25 in or 0.75 cm). The abdomen is spotted with orange or yellow; it can be black or grayish white white-colored stripes across it;
  2. Black widow spiders can be found in the US, South America, Australia, southern Asia and Europe, and Africa. The US alone has 5 species. According to the North Carolina State University, this spider enjoys places that are dry and dark. As such, they can be seen in trash, garages, dense vegetation, outdoor toilets barns and so on;
  3. This species isn’t active during the day. It hunts at night using a special method. The female will hang upside down from her web and patiently wait the arrival of prey. The latter consists of mosquitoes, moths, and caterpillars. These spiders can also feed on beetles, grasshoppers, and flies. Once their food finds itself trapped in the spider’s web, it will be covered in silk (which is one of the strongest types in the world). This is done with the spider’s hind legs which are covered in bristles (we referred to them in the opening paragraphs). The actual feeding process starts when the insect uses its fangs to cut the prey. Digestive enzymes are then inserted into it through those fangs. The body of the prey becomes liquefied, making it easy for the spider to suck the nutritious content;
  4. Female black widows enter mating season in late spring. Their behavior during that time turns them into cannibalistic creatures. After the mating is over, a black widow will kill and eat its mate. That’s why females live 3 years; males are only alive for up to 2 months. Once mating’s done, the female will give birth to 100-400 eggs. The spider babies are deposited in egg sacs (4-9 will be enough). These make sure the offspring is safe from harm. Incubation period is 1 month. About 30 eggs will hatch in the end. Another interesting fact: the young spiders reach maturity in 6-9 months;
  5. The same North Carolina State University report that this insect’s venom is 15 times more vigorous than the one secreted by a rattlesnake. However, a female black widow spider doesn’t go around biting people. In fact it only does that if her eggs are disturbed or she herself is annoyed (for instance, if you sit on her by accident).

It’s important to know what happens if you’re bit by a female black widow:

  • you feel a pinprick;
  • symptoms begin 20 minutes – 1 hour after you’ve been bitten;
  • local pain;
  • severe abdominal pain and muscle cramps (back, shoulder);
  • weakness;
  • tremor;
  • nausea;
  • vomiting;
  • fainting;
  • dizziness;
  • chest pain;
  • respiratory issues;
  • intense sweating;
  • hypertension.

Pain will generally last for 8-12 hours. The ones most at risk are people who are either very young, very old or sick/very sick. If the situation is life-threating, it’s best to call 911. In case you only feel local pain, self-care should include over-the-counter pain relievers.

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