ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Latrodectus, The Black Widow Spider

Updated on August 17, 2018

A female black widow spider

She only requires some respect from you, and you'll be fine. ~pinky swear~
She only requires some respect from you, and you'll be fine. ~pinky swear~ | Source

Spiders are forever maligned by humanity, and none is more maligned than the black widow spiders. Forever the black widows are associated with Halloween, and are readily seen on decorative Halloween displays. They simply evoke fear, and I think this is due to their coloring. No mistake about it, the coloring of the black widow is towards your benefit.

There is usually something to the vernacular names of creatures, and there certainly is with all spiders of the Theridiidae family, the family of widow spiders. They aren't called widows for nothing. Another impression from the name black widow would be that all of them are female, and of course this is impossible. What is significant is the females of the black widows have especially large venom glands, and in fact, only the female black widow spider has a bite dangerous to humans. The black widow's venomous bite is only rarely fatal; properly respect the black widow, and I assure you you'll be fine.

Male and female black widows. She's the large and deadly one, to him, and to you


Sexual dimorphism is a fancy phrase with a simple meaning. All the term describes is the difference in size between males and females of a particular species. With black widow spiders the female is much, much larger than the male, so sexual dimorphism is pronounced in the species. Of course black widow females often kill and eat the males they mate with; but this behavior is hardly unique to black widows. The sexual cannibalism in Latrodectus is something often observed in enclosed environments, environments where the male has no avenue of escape. The behavior may not be so common in the wild, for the obvious reason. That said, the females who do kill and eat the males they mate with tend to have children who are more aggressive, and thus, more effective survivalists. Mom just wants what is best for her children. Some of the offspring typically eat some of the siblings.

There are thirty three species of Latrodectus, or widow spiders in this world, and spread out within in. The hourglass markings on the abdomen are evident in most all of the species. Usually these markings are in some shade of red or another.

Black widow spiders are far more dangerous than brown recluse spiders, and far far more dangerous than wolf spiders. You are also far less likely to ever get bitten by a black widow than you are the wolf or the recluse. Black widows are more reclusive than brown recluses; and truly, you have to know something about their proclivities to ever even find one. Also unlike the wolf and recluse spiders, the black widows are orb spinners, spiders of the web.

Baby black widow spiders - they aren't black yet

Some of these are likely to be eaten by their siblings, isn't that sweet?
Some of these are likely to be eaten by their siblings, isn't that sweet?

The black widow on its web


It is for good reason I have respect, but little fear of black widow spiders, including the sometimes deadly females. Having spent years and years as an hvac service tech guy, I happen to know black widows love to spin their webs inside of air conditioning condensers, the big thing with the fan on top that blows hot air outside your home. Yes, they absolutely love the comfy and secluded confines underneath the condenser fan motor. They spin their webs attached to copper tubing inside the condensers, and many many times I've got to put my precious hands within an inch or so of the spiders themselves. Never once have I been bitten, and in fact, so long as I'm aware of the position of the spider and my hands, I know for sure there is no reason to fear. The spiders simply won't bother you unless you bother them. Another reason black widows find a/c condensers so fine for homes is they nearly always spin their webs and make their homes about one foot from the ground.

While wolf spiders have terrific eyesight, black widows do not. They sense danger in other ways, and when they do they often lower themselves to the ground from their suspended orbs, and flee. Like almost any other spider, black widows have no desire to waste their venom or energy on you.

So far as eating goes, the black widows spin their webs, and simply wait for a dumb insect to get caught in the thing. Following a catch, the usual occurs, the spider injects the trapped insect with venom, which liquefies the insects insides, and the spider wraps the thing up for safekeeping. What else, then, can be said of the black widow's silk? For its thickness, it is as strong as steel. Steel of that same thickness, however, is quite a lot denser, and thus heavier. Pound for pound, the black widow's silk is far stronger than steel, it is also stronger than most any other type of spider's silk.

Black widow spiders are very territorial. It is very unlikely you will ever see a black widow infestation within a home, these spiders do not wish to live inside your home, as there is little for them to find to eat inside a clean house or apartment. If you're home has black widows inside, then the issue is likely the general lack of cleanliness within. As the spiders are territorial, there won't be a group of them congregating, i.e., there won't be a literal infestation.

Steatoda, the false widow spider

Steatoda may be a 'false widow' spider, but this spider is also potentially deadly.
Steatoda may be a 'false widow' spider, but this spider is also potentially deadly. | Source

The black widow spider bite and tissue damage

Black widow spider bites.

Does the false widow spider picture above look fierce and frightening to you? It should, and just as there are many species of Latrodectus, there are many species of Steatoda, all venomous. The Steatoda genus of spiders aren't so harmful to humans; but then some humans react more negatively to any spider bite than will another individual human. In the cases of either of the types of spiders and their venomous bites, usually no medical attention is required. In other cases hospitalization may be required. If you know you've been bitten and you are feeling quite unwell, then you should certainly take yourself to an emergency room.

If you get a black widow spider bite, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • painful bite (but not always)
  • two tiny fang marks, possibly a little red mark, maybe some swelling (but sometimes there’s no evidence of the bite)
  • muscle aches and cramping of the abdomen, back and extremities that can be severe
  • increased sweating or salivation
  • elevated blood pressure
  • rarely, seizures or respiratory difficulties that can result in death, usually in children.
  • symptoms usually peak within about 12 hours but can continue for several days

© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      2 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      That is absolutely one of the scariest parts of the job for me. I'm not tall, and I'm thin. I'm always THE GUY sent into the places where you know the home or business builder spared nary a thought for the young hvac, plumbing, and electrical service folks.

      You know, they call the brown recluse a recluse. So far as I can tell, the black widow is at least as reclusive. It's why they love the inside of a condenser so much.

      It's sure wise to be afraid of angering a black widow, but I'm not even sure how to go about getting a rise out of one. I bet a vegan could piss one off. Vegans can piss any non vegan entity off.

      Heh. You know, I've never known of someone to get bit by a black widow. I do know a Lady who had to have some serious surgery for a brown recluse bite though.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      As an hvac service guy, you'll appreciate how we recently moved into an older home with a crawl space and found a couple of black widows hanging around the vents at the base of the house. Apparently they were living in the crawl space.

      Every time I turned on a water faucet, I looked all around for one in case it was ready to leap on me and give a fatal bite. After a year and a half, I haven't seen any more.

      It gave me some newfound respect for hvac people who have to go into crawl spaces to fix problems. I sure wouldn't do it.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey Chef! You provided me a really good idea on how to improve this article!

      Here is a great image. To me....they look like just about every other spider eggs though.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 

      4 years ago from Citra Florida

      Hey Wesman

      Very useful Hub here. We have a lot of Black Widows in Florida, I just killed one in a can of potting soil that I frequently stick my hands in. All in all, in spite of their deadly reputation I've never been bitten but I've encountered them many many times.

      Are the eggsacs identifiable? I've seen a lot of eggsacs that I thought were black widow eggs but not sure. The eggsacs I thought were B. widows look like small white peas with little spikes?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)