Why You Shouldn’t Fear the Black Widow Spider

Lactrodectus Mactans

The Fear Of Black Widow Spiders (Arachnophobia)

To begin with, you should know I am a card carrying "Arachnophobia Anonymous" member! I do not like spiders in the yard, the house, or in your yard or your house, or the street, the trees,…well you get the point. Ever since I was bitten by a black widow spider back in the late 1980s, the most frightening of the species for me, is in fact the black-bodied red-clad Black Widow Spider!

Black Widow Spider

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Killing Eight Legged Freaks

Even though my thoughts are dialed in on the demise of all eight legs of these creepy crawlers, I am told spiders do serve a purpose in nature. I have never been fully convinced by any spider that it deserved to live, but I am trying to keep an open mind. (Honestly, I must admit it is difficult to hear their spidery pleas with all the screaming and panicking I do.) Regardless, if you are at all like me—on a seek-and-destroy mission when it comes to black widow spiders—here are a few things you should know about killing this particular eight-legged freak.

Video

AT WHAT POINT SHOULD I SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE?

Dr Dugon has advised victims that if they feel more than just a bit of pain and redness they should contact a doctor immediately.

Experts have also advised to seek medical advice if you have other infection symptoms such as swelling, fever, swollen glands or if you experience any flu-related symptoms.

While emergency hospital treatment is needed if any of the following occurs:

  • Wheezing or difficult breathing
  • Swollen face or mouth
  • Throat nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fast heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty swallowing

These symptoms are all signs of a possible allergic reaction.

Reproduction

Where Does the Black Widow get its Name From?

The Black Widow gets its name from the ritual of sexual cannibalism that is practiced by the species. During late spring, female Black Widows are known to attract males for mating. Following the reproductive process, however, the female suddenly turns on the male, killing and then eating her mate. Although many hypotheses have been put forward regarding this unusual ritual, the most accepted explanation for this behavior (termed “sexual cannibalism”) is that females require additional proteins for the birthing process, as well as the nearly 200 to 900 babies she will give birth to later. Males, therefore, provide a quick and easy form of food for the female.

Do Black Widows Lay Eggs?

Yes. Following mating (and the consumption of her male counterpart), the Black Widow constructs a paper-like sac for her eggs that is designed to protect the babies from outside elements (both predators and environmental conditions, alike). Egg sacs are usually beige-colored and reach approximately 1 to 1.25 centimeters in diameter. Average yield is 220 eggs per sac with each reaching a size of 0.88 millimeters. In rare cases, the number of eggs per sac have reached records of nearly 900.

Life Cycle

After laying the eggs, baby spiders will then hatch approximately 30 days later. Babies (or “spiderlings”) are usually white at birth, and “lack the hour-glass or spot patterns” displayed by adult spiders for several weeks (ufl.edu). Following in their mother’s footsteps, the babies are also known to practice cannibalism in their early stages of development with very few of the original spiders surviving into adulthood (which takes nearly three months to reach after birth). Cannibalism is crucial for the baby spiders, as their small size prevents them from actively hunting insects for several weeks.

During the months following their birth, Black Widow spiderlings will molt on several occasions until they gain their full coloration (and hourglass). Overall development of the baby spiders depends on a number of factors, including diet and overall temperature (ufl.edu). Average maturity rates for males is approximately 26 to 103 days, whereas females reach maturity at approximately 57 to 122 days after birth (ufl.edu).

What is the lifespan of a Black Widow Spider?

The overall lifespan of a Black Widow is based on a variety of conditions, including their natural habitat and gender. In perfect conditions, males are expected to live a maximum of 3 months due to the cannibalistic behaviors of the female and their smaller size. Females, on the other hand, can live upwards of 3 years.

Black Widow Spider Bite Video

The black widow bite, may bring a sudden and very sharp pain. The pain is quick to spread-out from the bite site to your abdominal area, primarily around your stomach and back. Stiffness and cramps are not far behind. Then nausea, increased blood pressure, and difficulty breathing creeps up. Now the vomiting begins, as well as irregular heartbeat, convulsions, and all-over discomfort that can include priapism (unnatural stiffening of the penis…if you're a guy).

The next stage of black widow envenomation results in facial spasms, pale skin, anxiety, and the unnatural and involuntary ability to control your movements. While this is all going on, you will notice that your mucus and spit have increased immensely, and that liquid is now filling your lungs, which will prevent oxygen from traveling to all of your other organs (this is known as non-cardiac pulmonary edema). Which unless you get treatment, the lights to your personal temple are sure to flicker out from hypoxia—reduced oxygen supply to your body's organs.

Spider Bite First Aid

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Works Cited

Articles/Books:

Slawson, Larry. “The Top 10 Deadliest and Most Dangerous Spiders in the World.” Owlcation. 2020.

Soloway, Rose Ann Gould. “Black Widow Spider Bites Can Be Dangerous.” Black Widow Spiders. National Capital Poison Center, July 31, 2019.

"Southern Black Widow Spider." University of Florida. Accessed March 9, 2020.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Larry Slawson

How To Get Rid of Black Widow Spiders Chemically

If homemade black widow killers aren’t doing the job, there are plenty of store-bought options to get rid of these pests.

Insecticides and pesticides

Chemical insecticides to kill black widows come in dusting or liquid options. Dusts are good for places humans won’t disturb, such as basements, crawl spaces, and window sills. Liquids are well suited to other areas, including known webs. Insecticides will kill any present spiders, and prevent new ones.

Oil-based pesticides including pyrethrin are best for targeting egg sacs. When you locate an egg sac, apply the pyrethrin liberally, coating all sides as possible. The pesticide will kill black widows and discourage others from moving into your home, garage or attic.

Insect traps

Since spiders eat other insects, removing flies, moths, grasshoppers, and earwigs will reduce spiders’ food source. Putting out traps for these pests will naturally reduce the likelihood that a black widow will choose to build her web nearby.

Mating Ritual

The animals most at risk from the black widow’s bite are insects—and male black widow spiders. Females sometimes kill and eat their counterparts after mating in a macabre behavior that gave the insect its name. Black widows are solitary year-round except during this violent mating ritual.

How can you spot a false widow spider?

  • The false widow is a medium sized spider with a round, brown body and cream coloured markings
  • Its legs are a reddish-orange colour
  • Females range in size from 9.5 to 14mm while males are 7 to 11mm
  • The spider's body and legs will have a glossy appearance
  • The species closely resembles the black widow spider, aside from its colouring
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Like most spiders, the false widow's bite is venomous, but it almost always only has a mild effect on humansCredit: Alamy

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