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How to Identify a Black Widow Spider

Updated on July 31, 2012
Notice the Hourglass Marking
Notice the Hourglass Marking
Just 6 Legs
Just 6 Legs
Small Size
Small Size
Messy web
Messy web

The Black Widow Spider

There are only a handful of dangerous spiders in the US. The black widow spider is one of the top 3 most dangerous spiders naturally found in the US. While a black widow bite is only fatal in about 5% of cases, it can still be a long and painful experience to be bitten. Here are some tips that will help you identify the black widow spider, and some ways you can get rid of black widow spiders around your home.

A Few tips to Identify the Black Widow Spider

Look for the Hourglass-- The black widow spider is famous for having two dinstinctive characteristics. The first is the Hourglass marking found on the back of the female black widow spider. Female black widow spiders have an hourglass marking once they reach maturity which is very noticeable. The little red hourglass mark is located on the underside of the abdomen, so it may be a little hard to see at first.

Only 6 legs?-- As you may already know, most spiders have eight legs. You not know that the black widow spider has legs that are unlike many other spiders. For starters, the black widow spider only has 6 legs. The front pair and the back pair of legs are long and skinny and point up and down. The middle set of legs is much smaller and point outwards from the body. To get a better look at what I'm talking about, check out the picture. If you see a spider crawling around with only 6 legs, be cautious, it may be a black widow spider.

Tiny Little Spider-- We've all seen a big hairy spider crawling around.  Some people like to show off these big spiders, and they probably have a few in the zoo.  A black widow spider won't be one of those big spiders.  Black widow spiders usually don't reach much larger than about 1/3 of an inch--which if you're wondering is really small!  These small little spiders are sometimes hard to spot, so keep an eye out when you go hiking or to work in the garage. 

A Messy Web is Home-- Black widow spiders are known for their messy web.  If you don't want to get too close to identify a black widow spider, just look at it's web.  The web isn't like some of the pretty ones you see in pictures--the ones that just catch a hint of sunlight through the glossy little dew drops.  The black widow spider web looks like a mess of webbing. 

Geography doesn't stop this spider-- A great way to identify most spiders is by their geography. Unfortunately, the Black Widow Spider is found in almost every region across the US. You might be less likely to find them in parts of Alaska, but other than that, black widows probably live close to where you do.

Ok, You Know What it Looks Like, Now what?

If you get Bitten-- If you get bitten by a black widow sipder it's important to catch it. It's important to seek medical help in a timely manner, but you can save medical professionals a lot of time by catching the spider that bit you. When you go to the doctor's they may spend minutes to days in trying to identify what bit you.

How to Catch the Spider-- Watch the spider and call for someone else to grab a cup or a bag to capture the spider in. Coax the spider into the bag or cup, and seal it well. If you catch the spider in a cup put some tape to cover up the lide of the cup.

Casual Spider Watching-- If you're one of those people that just likes to identify spiders for fun, you can identify the black widow spider from a safe distance. Use your camera phone, or a real camera to zoom in a bit on the spider. Keep a safe distance between you and the spider so you don't get bitten.

Note: Don't try to catch a spider for fun. If you get bitten it's a good idea to catch the spider, otherwise try to keep your distance and kill the spider with a broom or other object.


A Funny Video About Catching Spiders, but Don't Ever Attempt in Your Home

Spiders Around the Home

How to Get Rid of Black Widow Spiders-- Don't play catch and release with black widow spiders.  Apart from being dangerous, it's not an effective method to get rid of spiders.  Killing the occasional spider is ok, but if you end up killing spiders more than you're comfortable doing it, it's time to take action.  The best solution to get rid of the black widow is to use spider traps.  They're cheap and work while you're asleep or awake.  Pick some up online or at your local hardware store.  Don't call a pest control to spray for black widow spiders.  This will not only kill black widows but other spiders as well that keep flies and other bugs under control.

Day to Day Protection-- It's not too difficult to keep yourself safe from the black widow spider if you're careful.   Wear gloves when working in the garage or the attic. If you plan to be outdoors where long pants and stay out of the brush areas.  Black widows like to hide under logs and in dark quiet places.  Don't disturb places where spiders are likely to be found.


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    • profile image

      Cloe Redding 

      5 years ago

      i get scared now in case theres one creeping up on me this was helpful but you spelt a few words wrong lol

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hey dumbass theres 8 legs on every picture you posted.

    • profile image

      gulam yaseen45 

      9 years ago

      The love life of an international superspy can be passionate yet tulmultious. The Black Widow Natalia Romanova has broken many hearts but had hers broken a few times in return.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      hahaha that last one was pretty funny, but umm thnx for the tips i live in canada but thnx


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