Interesting Facts about Black Widow Spiders

Posted by Mosquito Squad
Interesting Facts about Black Widow Spiders

June 18, 2024

Throughout the year, black widow spiders can be found lurking around your home and yard. Whether in woodpiles, clusters of dry leaves, or cluttered spaces, black widows like dry, dark places with plenty of areas to hide. The southern and western United States see the most black widows, but these spiders can be found all over North America. Hollywood paints this spider – identified by the red hourglass on their abdomen – as deadly, but is that true? Do black widows kill you?

Here we disprove myths and discuss black widow spider facts that put the record straight …

Black Widow Spider Interesting Facts

Here are some interesting facts about black widows:

Can a Black Widow Spider Kill You?

A small percentage of black widow spider bites can be fatal; however, contrary to common belief, those bitten are very unlikely to die from a black widow bite.

Despite their venom being 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake; the size difference is significant. Black widows prey on smaller insects and arthropods, so the dose from a bite is far less dangerous for humans.

That’s not to say they are entirely harmless.

Studies found that 1.4% of bites are life-threatening. Children and the elderly are most at risk. If you believe you or a loved one has been bitten by a black widow, go to the nearest urgent care facility or emergency room for treatment. A medical professional can then examine your bite and prescribe a treatment plan based on the severity.

How Painful Is a Black Widow Bite?

The pain from a bite will vary based on the size of the bite and the amount of venom released. You will typically feel a prick and some pain right when you are bitten by a black widow. The initial pain of the bite is followed by swelling and redness around the bite. Common symptoms can also include nausea and vomiting. Because black widow venom attacks the central nervous system, affecting muscular and cardiovascular responses, a severe bite can also lead to difficulty breathing and muscle cramps. Black widow venom evolved to allow the spiders to immobilize or kill their prey. While they don’t bite people for this same purpose, they will bite a human in self-defense if they feel threatened.

Since the spider’s prey is usually small – insects or other spiders, the dose of one bite for a human is often easily treated with help from a medical professional.

Are Black Widows Aggressive?

Black widows are sit-and-wait hunters. They wait for prey to become tangled in their web before attacking. Most bites occur when humans stumble into the spider’s web. While they are not aggressive, if you invade their home, they will do what they can to defend it and their eggs.

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Are There Male Black Widows?

The majority of black widows we see are female. That’s because the male of the species is reclusive and often stays hidden. Even if you do see one, it will look much different than the iconic black body with a red hourglass. They’re much smaller and are brown or gray with red pinprick marks on their abdomens. Their legs are also much longer than their bodies. Do male black widows bite? No. Similar to mosquitoes, the infamous black widow bite is solely from females.

Do Female Black Widows Eat the Males?

Yes, female black widow spiders commonly eat males. Females will often eat their mate for additional nutrients for their eggs. Some male spiders will also sacrifice themselves to lengthen their time mating and increase their chance of passing on genes, this is especially common in the Australian redback, a type of black widow. Female black widows have two organs that hold sperm, and male spiders will try to fill both.

However, researchers have found that female spiders won’t always kill and eat their mate. Some species of black widow, such as the western black widow, don’t kill their mate, while others, such as the Australian redback and brown widow, almost always eat their mate.

Do Black Widows Die in Winter?

In cold-winter areas of the US, winter may slow the population, but it doesn’t wipe it out. As the months get colder, black widows find shelter and go dormant in a process called overwintering. When the weather thaws in spring, they reemerge and seek out new mating partners.

What Happens If You Eat a Black Widow?

One spider bite may be a small dose for humans, but what if you accidentally eat a whole spider? Thankfully, black widows’ venom spreads through the bloodstream, not through digestion. In fact, as long as you manage to avoid a bite as the spider passes to your stomach, the hydrochloric acid in your system will neutralize the toxin.

How Often Do Black Widows Eat?

Because they have to wait for food to come to them, black widows can go long stints without food. Depending on the size of their last meal, they can eat every couple of weeks to once a month without issue.

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If I Find a Black Widow, Are There More?

Unfortunately, yes. If you spot a black widow spider on your property, there are likely more hiding in the nearby leaves or brush, or potentially already inside your home. They love dark, cluttered areas with plenty of places to hide. Woodpiles, cluttered spaces, and piles of leaves are all ideal habitats.

If black widows find a way into your home, they’ll typically set up in dark corners of the garage, basement, and closets.

How to Keep Your Property Clear of Spiders

Black widows may not be as deadly as movies indicate, but their bites are still painful and can affect your nervous system. They are particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

If you see any black widows, or you have ideal places for them to hide, have your property professionally treated. A treatment will kill spiders on contact and deter them from returning for up to 21 days.

 Contact the Squad today at 877-332-2239 or request a free quote online for spider-control services.