Black Widow Spiders
- Latin Name: Latrodectus hesperus
- Size: 1.5” long, 3/4” in diameter; males are much smaller than females
- Color: Black with a red hour glass on their abdomen
- Shape: Two body segments, eight legs, eight eyes, no antennae or wings
- Found in: Primarily in the Southern United states
- Overview: The black widow spider is shy and likes to stay to herself, however if you accidentally get too close, you risk being bitten and injected with her neurotoxic venom.
Origin: Both brown and black widow spiders are said to have originated in Africa.
Climate: Black widow spiders are found in temperate regions all over the world.
Favorite Foods: Black widow spiders are carnivores and use a web to capture their food. Mosquitos, caterpillars, flies and beetles will often become trapped in the web. The black widow will wrap her meal in silk before piercing it with her fangs and inserting an enzyme that will liquefy the insect.
Family: Black widow spiders live alone and only interact with other spiders during mating season. The female may attack male spiders after mating but they are likely to survive. The female’s venom is three times stronger than the males. Females will lay eggs on the web. After the eggs hatch, the larvae will leave the web.
Unique Facts: Black widow spiders are the most poisonous spiders in North America. They live between one and three years. Black widows got their name because they may kill the male and eat him after mating. Black widow spiders have what appears to be a messy web, but it is actually carefully constructed in three different parts. The top section is sustaining threads, the middle is twisted threads and the bottom is a vertical trap. Black widow spiders have poor eye sight so they have to rely on the vibrations of the web to sense when a bug has landed.
Signs of a problem: The black widows’ irregularly shaped webs are typically close to the ground in a dark place such as a wood pile. Black widow spiders may form webs in garages or basements, be sure to check the corners for any signs of spiders. Also check fire wood for webs before bringing it inside. Black widows are nocturnal and may be found upside down on their webs during the day.
Do they attack humans? Yes, but only in self-defense. They are said to have venom 15 times strong than rattlesnakes. The venom can kill children and seniors. The bite may also cause nausea, difficulty breathing and muscle aches. The FDA does produce an antivenin that can reduce the side effects of a bite. If you are bitten, try to take the spider with you in an air-tight container to show the doctor.
Stopping an infestation: Do not try and control black widow spiders on your own. If you find them on your property, call a pest control professional immediately for assistance. To avoid attracting black widow spiders, eliminate the number of places they have to hide in your basement and garage. Always shake out clothing and shoes that have been stored for a long period before putting them on.