5 Black Widow Facts You Need to Know

Black Widow Spider

Note the Black Widow’s telltale red markings

1. Why do they call it the Black Widow?
The term widow was bestowed upon this type of spider because the females tend to eat their mates after mating, a practice known as sexual cannibalism. Not surprisingly, male black widow spiders tend to select their mates by determining if the female has eaten already in order to avoid being her next meal! They can tell by sensing chemicals in the female’s web.

2. Are Black Widow bites fatal?
The venom of the black widow is particularly harmful because of its neurotoxin latrotoxin. Black widow bites may be quite painful for a few days, but they are rarely fatal. Interestingly, only the female bites are dangerous to humans since the male’s venom is much less potent.

3. How do I know its a Black Widow?
Female black widows typically have a red hourglass pattern on the underside of their abdomen. While the males also exhibit similar red markings, they are typically displayed on the top of the abdomen.

4. What are the symptoms of a Black Widow bite and what do I do if bitten?
Symptoms including severe muscle pain, abdominal cramps, and muscle spasms and typically last 3-7 days or in some cases weeks. Often times the venom will produce a black mark or streak on the skin, which is the venom. While black widow bites are rarely fatal, the recommended treatment is to obtain an anti-venom treatment from your doctor as soon as possible, which can also serve to relieve pain.

5. Where are Black Widows typically found?
Black widows like to reside in dark areas close to the ground, such as under desks and furniture, in wood piles, and in basements. They are not considered aggressive insects and will only bite if pinched, squeezed, or otherwise bothered. They often hang upside down near the center of their webs and then pounce upon their stuck visitors, spinning them in silk for later feeding.

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