Black widows scare me to death and also fascinate me at the same time. I often have nightmares of a black widow falling in my hair or having hundreds of babies escape from the jars of black widows I keep in my house. Some of my customers have given me the gift of a black widow in a jar (bless their hearts) and I have faithfully hunted grasshoppers so I could watch her feed. I know many of you are questioning my sanity right now and I really don’t blame you but in my defense these spiders are pretty darn fascinating.
The Black widow spider is the most poisonous spider in North America and their venom is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake. (This is why I am scared to death). Female Black widows are two times larger than the males. Females can reach 1.5 inches in length and they have a shiny black body. On her belly she has a red hour-glass shape. Males are lighter in color and have pink or red spots on their backs.
Black widows only bite when they feel threatened. People rarely die after getting bit, but they start sweating, experience nausea, muscle and abdominal pain, hypertension and difficult breathing. These symptoms may last from 8 hours to a few days. Most hospitals have an anti-venom (which prevents all these negative effects)
These spiders are nocturnal and they produce the strongest silk in the world of spiders. Their webs are not beautiful like the ones some spiders make but they are durable. Their webs are designed to catch flies, mosquitoes, grasshopper and other spiders which are their major source of food. What I find the most fascinating about Black widows is how they catch their prey. They patiently wait in an upside down position and once the prey is in the web, they use their comb-like feet to wrap it into the silk. They don’t eat it but inject digestive fluids into their prey and suck the liquefied insides out. Its literally looks like they are sucking the life right out of the other insect.
Black widows are solitary creatures, except during mating season which takes place in the spring. The female often kills and eats her partner after mating. She lays 200-900 eggs in the sac and eggs hatch after 30 days (another reason for my nightmares). Luckily the
hatchlings are cannibalistic and only a few babies survive to the age of 3 months. (Thank goodness)
Black widows can be found in dense vegetation, dark and dry places such as barns, garages, basements and underground tunnels. We have even found them in children’s toys, doorways and under door knobs. They are very abundant in the areas we service.
Back to the spiders in the jars…The nightmares got so bad that my spiders are now in specimen jars!! I have the opportunity to show those specimen jars to hundreds and hundreds of people throughout the year.