Latrodectus, the Black Widow, the spider with the red hourglass on its back is one of the most iconic and feared spiders in the world. Its likeness can be found in movies, both monstrous and mundane, and even in the form of a certain superhero assassin. Are they truly so deserving of this reputation? What is the real story of the Black Widow?
The Black Widow is easily recognized by the iconic red hourglass on the underside of their abdomen. They are shiny black in color. Most are between 3 and 10 mm in size, the males generally smaller than females, and some females can grow up to 13 mm in body length. Some variations of the species can be dark or pale brown, and may even lack the hourglass marking they are best known for. Black Widows typically live for 1 to 3 years.
Black Widow spiders prefer dark, secluded areas, often found in crevices and woodpiles. In houses, they prefer to hide in dimly lit areas such as closets, attics, and garages, and even a shoe that has been sitting around for too long. They do not always stick to this habit, however, and I have found them on the eaves of houses, in window sills between the screen and the glass, and once I found one hanging out by the pool. Black Widow webs and a tangled mess of sticky silk, unlike the majestic webs some of the other spiders build; and they are very tough, you can actually hear an audible “snap” when breaking their web! Like most spiders, Black Widows feed on a variety of insects and other arthropods, including ants, grasshoppers, roaches, and even scorpions. The females lay their eggs in a large tan or gray sack made of a paper-like structure. Each sac contains hundreds of eggs, though only a few of these will survive to adulthood.
Have you ever wondered why this spider is called what it is called? The Black part is obvious, but why is it called a Widow? Well.. these spiders have a tendency to kill their husbands, leaving them as widows. After a pair of these spiders have mated, the female will sometimes kill the male. Some people might wonder if this is worth the risk. Well, the males sure seem to think so. The truth is, most of the time this does not happen, and most of the male black widows will go on to live another day.
The Black Widow is known for many things, from it’s dark coloration to the bright red hourglass on its abdomen, but what this arachnid is most known for is its lethal bite. Widow spiders have a venom called latrotoxin, which they can inject into other bugs, killing them so that they can eat them. Sometimes, and unsuspecting human, or some other animal, will find themselves the victim of this bite. Despite all the fear out there regarding this spider, the bite is rarely fatal. The bite can produce severe muscle pain, cramps, and a variety of other symptoms. If you find yourself the victim of one of these bites, the best thing you can do is to seek medical treatment. Most people recover within 24 hours with treatment.