Black Widow Spiders

Latrodectus spp.

Color: Black abdomen with red hourglass marking on back
Shape Spherical
Size 1 1/2 – 1 3/8 inches long
Region Various species found throughout the U.S.

Overview

The spider gets its name from the popular belief that the female eats the male after mating, although this rarely happens in nature. Black widow spiders are most recognized for the red hourglass shape under their abdomen.

Habits

Outside, black widows commonly live in protected areas such as under stones or decks and in firewood piles, tree stumps, and shrubs. They are also commonly found in barns, outhouses, sheds, and barrels. Indoors, black windows prefer the undisturbed and cluttered areas of garages, basements, and crawl spaces. Black windows spin irregular webs, which they usually build at night.

Threats

The biggest threat posed by black widow spiders is their bite. Males are not often of concern as they lack potent venom and rarely bite, but females are known to be especially aggressive after laying, and when guarding, eggs. Pain is usually immediate, but black window bites are not always felt. In this case, the only reliable evidence is a slight swelling with two tiny fang marks. Symptoms of a black window bite include fever, increased blood pressure, sweating, and nausea.

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