Black Widow Spiders Can Hurt Humans
The black widow is the most venomous spider in the United States and one of the few spiders in the country capable of hurting a human. Black widows, part of the Latrodectus genus, thrive in the temperate climate of the south, but they are found throughout North America.
The female black spider has a very distinctive appearance: a shiny black body and a red or orange hourglass-shaped mark on the underside of the abdomen. Female spiders are about 1.5″ long. Males are about half the size and light in color with red or pink spots on the back. Black widow spiders have characteristic comb feet, or short, strong bristles on the hind legs.
All black widow spiders are reclusive. These solitary spiders only socialize to mate. Black widow spiders spin webs during the day and become active during the night. Like other spiders, black widows eat anthropods like caterpillars, ants, beetles, roaches, and scorpions. After prey is caught in the web, the spider injects it with digestive enzymes. The prey is consumed once it has liquefied.
Black widows build very irregular and tangled nests that may be located at ground level or under a protected ledge under wood piles or even under a porch. The female can often be seen hanging upside-down in the nest with the hourglass visible.
It is only the female black widow spider that is dangerous. Black widow venom contains latrotoxin and it may cause muscle pain, cramps, tachycardia, and hyperhidrosis. Black widow bites are rarely fatal, but the symptoms can last for weeks. Antivenom treatment can be used to relieve the pain.
Black widow spiders mate during the spring and early summer. Female black widow spiders are known to consume the male after mating, but this does not always happen. The female can produce many egg sacs throughout the summer. These sacs are protected until they hatch. Black widow eggs are gray, tan, or white and up to 15 mm in diameter. Each egg sac may have hundreds of eggs, but only a few dozen will survive. Spiderlings are cannibalistic and they will consume their siblings.
The spiderlings will go through several molts and spend the winter immature before maturing fully over the spring. The spiders look like adults except smaller and orange or white in color. Black widow spiders usually survive for up to 1 year, but they can live for up to 3 years.
If you have black widow spiders building nests around your home, contact Pest Defense Solutions today for a custom treatment plan to protect your family.