Want to know how the black widow spider got its name and why people think they are so scary? The black widow is one of the most venomous spiders in the world.black widow spider

But its name comes not so much from the spider’s ability to kill humans, but from the cannibalistic behavior seen in this species during copulation. One day, an entomologist collected samples of male and female black widows and placed them in the same container. When he returned half an hour later to check on the spiders, he found that the female widows had eaten the males.

poisonous spider

This so-called web cannibalism is not all that rare in the spider world in general. Usually, the female eats the male before, during, or after copulation. But it is rare in black widows found in North America. Male black widows are naturally prone to a quick escape after copulation, a luxury they weren’t allowed in the lab. In addition, studies show that male black widows can sense chemicals in a woman’s network that indicate if she has eaten recently. They know that hungry females should be avoided just in case.

Black Widow Spider Facts

Black widows build their tangled webs in dark and dry places—wood piles, sheds, greenhouses, basements, outbuildings and outhouses, hollow tree stumps, under garden furniture and play equipment, and in dense vegetation. During the day they hide in tiny cracks or rodent burrows, and at night they crawl out on their nets. When they do, they usually hang upside down, waiting for a fly or grasshopper to get stuck in the sticky strands of their web.

widow's web

When an insect hits, the widow quickly runs up and wraps it in silk. While eating, the spider bites its fangs into the prey, injecting the insect with digestive juice until it becomes liquid, and then sucks the resulting insect juice. You can also read about other most poisonous spiders in a separate article.

So how do you know if you’re face to face with a black widow spider? Here are the distinguishing features:

  • Female black widow spiders are about 3.8 cm long and have long legs.
  • Males are about half the size.
  • Female black widow spiders have a shiny black body with a well-known hourglass shape on the abdomen that is red, red-orange, or yellow.
  • Males are lighter with red or pink spots. But color variations and markings vary by species.
  • Black widow spiders are not usually aggressive. In fact, they will only bite a person if they are touched, caught, or perched.

There are 32 species of spiders in the genus Latrodectus, many of which are considered true widows. You can find black widows on all continents of the world except Antarctica. Western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus), southern black widow (Latrodectus mactans), and northern black widow (Latrodectus varolus) are found primarily in the southern and western regions of the United States.

Black widow spider bites

Black widows are not aggressive, they are even shy. If you find a spider, there’s no point in grabbing bug spray or smacking it to death. They won’t attack. In fact, they don’t want to be around you, and neither do you. Leave them alone. Black widows play an important role in our ecosystem by feeding on many types of insects, especially small, pesky insects such as mosquitoes and flies.

See also: Why do spiders weave webs?

spider widow

Bites usually happen by accident, such as when you stick your hand into a gardening glove and startle a widow hiding there. Females are much more likely than males to poison a person (inject poison). According to National Geographic, the venom is quite strong – up to 15 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake. You can actually die from a black widow bite, but that’s unlikely. One study of 23,409 cases of exposure to black widow venom found that only 1.4 percent of patients had life-threatening symptoms, while 65 percent had minor symptoms. Young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised people are at greater risk of serious complications.

Black widow venom contains neurotoxins (toxins that act on the nervous system) called latrotoxins. If their tiny fangs actually pierce your skin (it’s like a pin prick) and the venom gets into your bloodstream, you’ll know it quickly. After a few seconds, you will feel pain and throbbing at the site of the bite. The area around the wound will begin to swell. As the poison travels through your bloodstream, pain, swelling, and muscle contractions also spread. If your diaphragm is affected, breathing becomes difficult. Your heart may beat faster. You may feel nauseous, sweat, or feel chills.

black Widow

For minor bites, all you need to do is wash the affected area with soap and water and take an over-the-counter pain reliever. But if you have severe symptoms like those described above, seek medical attention. If there is an antidote for black widow in the hospital (limited availability), you will feel better within a few hours. But you may not be given it due to reports of serious allergic reactions and other side effects. It is unlikely that you will end up in the hospital, much less die.


Researchers have found that if you crack open the webs of black widow spiders, they rush for cover. If they can’t hide, they will pretend to be dead. If you touch them and they can’t run away, they will let their fangs into you. But if you gently tug on one of their paws with a pair of lightly feathered tweezers, they will return to their spinneret and throw a sticky thread of silk at you. This protective silk, which looks “like a pearl necklace”, sticks to predators, dries quickly and gives the widow extra time to escape. There are no other spiders known to science in the world that are actively protected by silk. Many have noticed this black widow behavior, but no one has ever formally studied it.