Black Widow Spiders

Black Widow Spiders: Facts, Identification & Bite

Black widow spiders come in 5 species and they are mainly found in the northern and southern (in the United States) and they inhabit areas like the grasslands, deserts, and forests.

  • Fun Question: is it true that the female Latrodectus (female black widow spiders) will kill and feed on their mates?

The Latrodectus genus has a number of arachnids. But they are females who have a special and unique body outlook plus they are reported to feed on their mates.

  • Black widow spiders are considered to be beneficial insects because they feed on many insects. 

Related: Spider Bite vs Mosquito Bite?

Details: Black Widow Spiders

But are there bites from black widow spiders dangerous?

In North America, these bites are classified as highly venomous but rarely fatal to people – despite that they may cause uncomfortable and serious symptoms.

  • If you are bitten by the black widow spiders, you may experience symptoms such as skin redness, swelling, burning, or even severe pain.

1. Physical Appearance of the Black Widow Spiders

The female and male black widow spiders, just like with most insects, have different physical appearances and looks.

  • For example, female black spiders have a unique black (and shiny) body.
  • Its rounded abdomen has an hour-glass-shaped (red) marking on its underside.
  • But the hourglass marking on these female black widows may be orange-yellow.

The spider’s hourglass shape has triangles that are red in color.

  • You may find some females that have a single triangle on the hourglass but also its color may be orange or yellow.

Male black spiders measure about 6.5 mm in body length while their female counterparts measure about 13 mm.

When it comes to spider venom the black widow spider is described as highly venomous.

  • In comparison to the venom from rattlesnakes, the black spiders are 13 + times more venomous.

Despite that, the black spiders will only bite humans when irritated or disturbed these insects are very poisonous.

  • The bites and their venom will be very hazardous to the sick, very old, and the very young.

The b from black spiders is painful (to be like a pinprick) and the pain will spread fast to various body parts – lasting 4 between 7 to 11.5 hours.

The symptoms of a black spider bite will include diaphragm paralysis, muscle aches, hypertension, challenges breathing, abdominal pain, back pain, profuse sweating, and nausea.

  • You can minimize the negative health impact and pain caused by black widow spiders by using an anti-venom.

Annually about 2,500 humans report having been bitten by black widows and getting relief from antivenoms.

  • The black widow venom is only recommended for people who are pregnant, those with high blood pressure, or humans with troubled breathing.

The Black widow bites anti-venom first came up in the 1930s and horses are the main animals used in the research. 

2. Where Can You Find The Black Widows?

The black widows or the Latrodectus spiders will occupy temperate areas including those in South America, Africa, Australia, Asia, South Europe, and North America.

  • The Black widows have been mainly occupying the grasslands deserts and forests which are largely in the West and South areas in the United States.

The black widows win spin webs outside of inside buildings, especially in the corners and areas near homes occupied by humans.

  • Black riddles will hide in woodpiles and crevices plus other secluded areas that have darkness.

In the house, these spiders will hide areas such as cluttered places, closets, basements, dark corners, and garages.

3. Items / Foods Eaten By the Black Widows.

Just like with other spiders the Black widows will mainly feed on various arthropods such as scorpions, cockroaches, beetles, grasshoppers, and ants.

  • For example, the Black widow may trap flies using their webs and eat them.

Also, these spiders will feed on various insects and spiders that are trapped in their webs.

Experts note that the rumor about sexual cannibalism is untrue since the females of the black widows don’t eat the mates.

  • The black widow species that will feed on the mates mainly occupies the Southern hemisphere.

But the newborns of the black widows are known to eat their siblings that are freshly hatched.

Besides eating arachnids climbing and flying insects, the spiders will also feed on small vertebrates like lizards and snakes.

After the prey is tangled into the web of the black widows, a spider will inject venom into it and was paralyze the animal.

  • Next, the spider will release its digestive enzymes on the animal’s body before carrying it off for their meal

As noted above, the black widows will release their digestive system externally onto their prey.

The digestion process in the spiders will take place outside their bodies.

  • The digestive enzymes will liquefier and soften the prey’s body before a spider takes it in.

But how long will the Black widows survive with food to take?

  • When the black widow like I just made us will only leave for a few months without taking food.
  • However, some species of the Black widow are documented to live up to a year without food. 

Related: Bug Bomb for Spiders

Species of the Black Widow

The Latrodectus genius (that includes the black widows) has 31 species with the black widows being five species among them.

  • North America is home to three species referred to as the black widows; Latrodectus mactans ( the southern species), Latrodectus variolus (the northern species), and the Latrodectus hesperus (the western species).

Scientific evidence shows that a black widow is classified in the Theridiidae family (the comb-footed spiders).

  • This is because these spiders have some short and stiff hairs and the last parts of their rear legs and these parts look like comb teeth.
  • The spiders use these comb-like hairs for draping silk as the arachnid wraps it.

The Latrodectus genus also has brown widows and red windows.

In all the black widow species just the female ones have dangerous bites. Despite being known as and come arachnids the Latrodectus will defend themselves aggressively but may finally unleash their venomous bites.

  • The 32 species of these arachnids have occupied all the continents worldwide except in Antarctica.

Related: Does Bleach Kill Spiders?

Reproduction in the Black Widows

Except when mating during late spring, the Black widows are largely solitary arachnids – this information comes from the National geographic.

The Black widows have a unique mating process, which was anything as below:

  • The male black widow will spin silk as they prepare for mating.
  • Next, they will soak the silk with their sperms and wrap it around deer park appendages (around their head area)
  • Finally, they will begin searching for a receptive female black widow and then insert their sperm-soaked palps into the female reproductive hole.

A female black spider will make egg sacs (papery ones) and this will have eggs in hundreds, and they will hatch within one month.

The newly hatched spiders will be pale yellow or whitish but will become darker as they molt to the next stage.

The female black spiders will achieve their maturity in about 3 months and we’ll leave for 6 months.

  • On the other hand, the male black windows will mature in 2 and a half months and will leave for about 3.5 months.

But, as reported by Animal Diversity, the Black widows known as the latrodectus mactans can survive for up to 4 years while caged all up to 3 years well in the wild. 

Related: Removing the Brown Recluse Spiders


Bites of the black widows are considered venomous but will really cause death.

  • Only the female black widows are known to contain venom but will only release it when they are cornered and their life is threatened.

The bite of a black widow will feel like a pinprick but its alpha-latrotoxin venom will overwhelm your nerve cells very fast causing intense pain and swelling.

  • The side effects of bites where the black widows will include diaphragm paralysis, back and abdomen pain, excessive sweating, and nausea.

You can use an anti-venom against the black widow bite and this will assist in minimizing the damage caused to your body.