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Black Widows in Spring

Updated on January 20, 2020

How to identify a Black Widow Spider

Only the female Black Widow spider is easily identifiable. The male is smaller and a brown color and will resemble many other species of spiders. Fortunately the male Black Widow spider is far less venomous and rarely bites anyone.

The female Black Widow is one of the most famous spiders and is one of the easiest to identify. Female Black Widows have a body that is about the size of a dime. They are generally jet black in color but can be brown. Sometimes they can have red marking on there back. The one mark that all female Black Widows have is the famous red hourglass. The red hour glass is in the belly of the spider.

Black Widow egg sack.

Black widows have a somewhat recognizable egg sac. While other spiders have a soft cotton like egg sack, the Black Widow's egg sac is a little tougher and has the feel and look of paper. Generally a single female will have 1 to 3 egg sacs which she will guard for around 2-3 weeks until they hatch. Hundreds of baby spider hatch from each egg. The baby spiders are brown in color and can not be identified from looks. The mother does not care for the young in any way. She will not allow the babies to climb on her back as some spider such as Wolf Spiders do.

Black Widow with stripes on back.

The photograph below shows a Black Widow with red stripes on her back. This is one of the coolest patterns I have found on a Black Widow. Most of the time they are solid black and occassionally they will have a red spot, but this is the only one I have found that had stripes.

Where do Black Widows live?

Black Widows are a reclusive spider. They do not like to be in the open. You will most likely come across a Black Widow while moving stuff in a garage or will moving debris such as logs around the house. Black Widows will live in any dark secluded area they can find. Areas that are not disturbed are more likely to hold a Black Widow. I personally find them most often in two places at my house. Around the pool, in the skimmers and under the stone ledge around the pool, and also in our grill. We have found a couple dozen in about 2 years in both these areas. We also found one in my son's swing set.

Black Widow bites

Black Widows tend to avoid humans but they will bite when threatened. Most bites occur when someone sticks their hand where they can not see and a Black Widow is hiding in that area. People working in the garden turn over pots of soil where a spider may have taken up residence. The spider bites them when it feels like it is being threatened.

The good news is most Black Widow spider bites are not fatal. Children and elderly or sick people may die but it is somewhat rare and very rare for someone healthy to die.

A bite from a Black Widow will feel like a pin prick at first. Within an hour a red target like spot will develop. Soon afterwards the victim may start to feel the effects of the venom. Nausea, muscle cramps, trouble breathing head ache, and either chest or abdominal pain. You should seek a doctor as soon as possible to reduce the problems associated with a bite. You will likely be given fluids to reduce the effects of the venom. After a day or two the most severe symptoms will go away. It may take a few weeks for some of the minor symptoms to fully go away.


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