The Black Widow Spider—the Cold Hard Facts
A black widow is one of those creepy, crawly pests that you want to pretend does not exist. You have heard all about their reclusive nature, their poisonous bite and the potentially deadly venom from a multitude of sources--but you are not quite sure what to believe. Sure, you are terrified at the thought of black widows, but you are almost more scared to get answers to the many questions that you have about these mysterious spiders. Well, procrastinate no further. Get the information that you want (and need) to keep you and your family safe right now.
What They Look Like
Male and female black widow spiders have strikingly different appearances. While both male and females both have 8 legs, just like all spiders do, that is where the similarities end. The females are noticeably bigger than the males, at about 40 mm long, while males measure about 30 mm in length. Females are black and have large round abdomens. They also typically have a characteristic bright red dot on their abdomen. The males are lighter in coloring and typically have a brown stripe down their back.
What They Eat
Black widows are carnivores by nature and feed on a variety of insects including the fly, ants, and other small spiders. They will pretty much eat anything small that they can trap in their webs. And because they are carnivores, they will also bite humans and other large animals when given the chance.
Where They Live
Black widow spiders are found in many areas of the world, but are found mostly in the Western Hemisphere, particularly North America. They tend to favor warmer climates and are therefore not usually found in Canada.
Black widows typically prefer to be outdoors when the weather is warm and tend to make their homes under ledges, rocks and plants. They will only make their homes in a place where a web can be easily strung. However, black widows are not exclusively outdoor animals and will sometimes come indoors when the weather becomes too cold. Indoors they can often be found in barns, basements, small crawl spaces and attics.
Black Widow Behavior
Black widows are typically solitary creatures and travel by themselves all year long except for a short period of time when males and females come together to mate. The notorious black widow mating is particularly violent and occasionally ends in the female spider eating her male partner. This violent ritual is the reason why these spiders were given the particular name 'black widow'. When not mating, these spiders spend most of their time spinning large webs. The females will suspend a cocoon with dozens of eggs inside from their webs. Black widows also use these webs to catch their prey.
Black Widow Breeding and Offspring
When ready to mate, male black widow spiders will wander in search of a female. At the end of the mating process, the female lays several batches of eggs, with some batches containing up to 750 eggs. Female spiders typically lay their eggs during the summer months. The egg incubation period is usually about a month long. Young black widow spiders are typically an orange and white color when they first hatch. Females are mature in about 3 months and can live up to a year and a half. Male spiders, on the other hand, mature in about 70 days and usually live for only about 6 months.
How to Detect a Black Widow Bite
Black widow spider bites are fairly easy to detect and individuals should seek medical attention the instant the suspect they have become a victim of this deadly spider. Victims will usually feel a pin prick the instant that they are bitten. The pain will quickly spread throughout the body and will reach the arms, legs and chest within minutes. Symptoms including chills, violent vomiting, abdominal cramps and difficult breathing will typically manifest themselves rather quickly.
Damage to Humans
Black widows do not typically bite humans unless disturbed or provoked. However, they will sometimes bite humans if they are hungry or feel threatened. A bite from a black widow spider can potentially be very dangerous to humans, especially young children and elderly individuals. The female black widow spider possesses venom that is 15 times stronger than the venom of a rattlesnake. Even though their venom is particularly potent, only about 5% of black widows attacks are fatal and victims usually recover in less than a week. However, when an individual suspects that they have been bitten by a black widow, they should seek medical assistance immediately.
Not everyone who is bitten by a black widow spider will require medical treatment. However, it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to black widows. Especially if you are experiencing severe pain, you will need to seek treatment as soon as possible. You will usually be given a narcotic pain reliever. You will also typically be given a muscle relaxant and an antivenin when you reach the hospital as well.
It is best to avoid diagnosing your symptoms or the severity of the bite yourself. Seek medical attention immediately and have the professionals determine whether or not you need certain medications.