Unveiling the Secrets of the black widow spider.

Black Widow 101

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The black widow spider is one of the most well known as recognized, not just because of its defining physical features, but also because of the potential for the harm they can cause. Check out some interesting facts about these pesky spiders, and the problems they can cause.


Their Appearance

Black widows are thought to be some of the most easily identified spiders because of their red hourglass shape on their abdomens. But this is only partially true. The male and the female spiders of this species look very different from one another. The females are the ones with the defining marks, the shiny black bodies accompanied by the red hourglass shape. It is important to note that this hourglass can range from the familiar red to an orangish-yellow color.


The male black widows in comparison are much smaller, usually about half the size of the female’s inch and a half body length. Their coloring will also be lighter. Instead of the red hourglass, the males will often have pink or red spots on the back.


Food Habits

Black widows have a similar diet to many spiders, eating what is caught in their web including insects and other arachnids. A female black widow will hang from her web, waiting for prey to wander in. Sitting in this position puts the red hourglass into full view. Biologists think that making this mark so obvious gives a warning to the black widow predators. Despite this, hunters such as birds do not take this warning.


The most common foods eaten by the black widow include grasshoppers, mosquitoes, caterpillars, and beetles. Once the prey is trapped in the web, the spider will use what are known as comb feet, wrapping the insect or arachnid in silk. From here the black widow uses its fangs to puncture the prey. Digestive enzymes are injected to liquefy the corpse. Now the spider can easily consume the fluid remains.


The Bite

The black widow has earned its reputation as the most venomous spider found in North America. It is estimated that the black widow’s venom carries as much as 15 times the strength of that of a rattlesnake.

Despite this high level of poison, black widows will only bite when they are disturbed. In addition to this, only the female black widow’s bite can be considered a threat to your health. The initial pin prick the bite delivers will eventually lead to a more severe pain that spreads quickly. If you think you have been bitten, get to a doctor to stop the symptoms before they start. You may require a dose of black widow antivenom.




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