The famous black widow spider is bad news for homeowners — but do you know how to spot one? Do you know if black widow spiders live in your area, and in what parts of your home they are likely to be found? If you have a pest problem that can pose health issues, it's important you know how to identify it and what to do next. So let's examine the infamous black widow and what you should know about this spider.
Out of all the dangerous spiders, black widows are one of the easiest to identify thanks to that famous reddish-orange hourglass on their abdomen (females only). However, the hourglass is on the front of their body, so if you are looking at the back of the spider, all you'll see is a small black spider around 1 and ½ inches long. Additionally, the hourglass mark only shows up on mature spiders, so young black widows will just look black.
Black widows are big fans of warm weather. When the temperature hits 10 degrees Fahrenheit or higher they will often be active, spinning their webs: These webs are typically described as "irregular" without any set shape, which allows the widow to build webs in many different places. However, they typically prefer webs at ground level, where they often spin in bushes and corners.
Interestingly, the black widow does not actually kill and eat their mate – at least, not often enough to win a name for it. Many spiders occasionally devour their mates, and black widows are no exception. However, the female of the species does tend to be more aggressive, while the male rarely bites anyone.
The black widow is a hardy species, and can be found in every state except Alaska, which is too cold for the spider. In other colder climates, the black widow will try to venture inside to find warmer areas during the winter. This means that cold months can be an especially dangerous time to encounter black widows seeking refuge – and ready to defend their territory.
Danger and Prevention
Black widow females can be aggressive when spinning their webs or laying eggs and guarding their egg sac, which can lead to bites when disturbed. Fortunately, black widow bites very rarely kill anyone except the very sick or very sensitive. However, the bite can cause fever, increased blood pressure, and nausea: It's important to treat these symptoms quickly to avoid any danger.
Prevention focuses on being tidy and careful. Keep wood piles and other debris away from the house, and elevated if you can – black widows rarely venture far away from the ground. If you spot webs in your storage areas or closets, examine them for black widows before you start moving them. If you seem to have a serious infestation, contact a professional and ask them about the next steps you should take.
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