Black widows are considered the most venomous spider in North America. In fact, their venom is 15 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake. Black widows can definitely cause some anxiety, but knowledge is power, so learning about them can help you feel more at ease and capable of controlling them around your home. The following are some of the most important things to know about black widows.
Black widows are very famous for the red hourglass shape on the underside of their black, shiny abdomens. You might be surprised to learn that only the females have this distinct marking. Male black widows are generally lighter in color and often have red or pink spots or stripes on their backs. Black widows have 8 legs, 8 eyes, and range in size with females growing up to 1.5 inches long. Males are usually less than half the size of females.
Webs and Diet
A black widow web is often around a foot across and is loosely organized and irregular. Most black widow webs are built close to the ground in dark, sheltered areas. They are used for catching prey. Black widows mostly eat insects and other spiders. Favorite meals include things like flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and more. After they catch their prey, they will wrap it in silk and then inject a digestive enzyme to liquify the corpse so they can suck out the juices.
As mentioned above, black widows like areas that are dry and dark. In the wild they will live in hollow stumps, rodent holes, brush, thick vegetation, and under stones. Black widows also love to inhabit human structures like barns, garages, basements, outhouses, and crawl spaces.
Black Widow Bites
Black widows are not typically aggressive and usually only bite in self defense. Only the female is considered dangerous. Symptoms of a black widow bite might include: pain, intense sweating, nausea, muscle aches, increased blood pressure, and difficulty breathing due to paralysis of the diaphragm. Despite these scary symptoms, black widow bites are rarely serious and are most dangerous to the very young, very old or sick. Deaths from black widows are extremely rare. If you are bitten by a black widow, clean the area with soap and water and then apply a cool compress and elevate the area. It is then best to seek medical attention.
Black Widow Prevention
Preventing black widows around your home and yard can help protect your family and pets. There are a number of things you can do to prevent them.
- Eliminate harborages by reducing clutter and debris and keeping your landscaping trimmed and tidy
- Store firewood at least 20 feet away from your home and on a raised structure
- Wear heavy gloves when moving storage items or firewood
- Keep basements and garages organized and clean
- Shake out shoes that have been stored before putting them on
- Use a home pest control product to create a barrier around the perimeter of your house.
Black widow spiders (latrodectus genus) are found throughout the country and in many places throughout the world. While it is likely impossible to avoid black widows completely, understanding these important facts can help you stay safe and feel confident in being able to control them. Products like Harris Home Pest Control or Harris Spider Killer are excellent options to keep spiders and other pests away from your home. For more information, check out Spiders: The Ultimate Guide.