The young spiders, which are orange and white, emerge in 14 to 30 days. Black widows thrive in temperate climates like the American South. Fatal bites were reported in the early 20th century mostly with Latrodectus tredecimguttatus, the Mediterranean black widow. In California, for example, the black widow is being displaced by its relative, the brown widow (Latrodectus geometricus). She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. Though there are five species of black widow, the southern and northern (distinguished by a row of red spots instead of an hourglass) species are the most common. This spider's bite is much feared because its venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake's. Black widow, (genus Latrodectus), any of several species of black spiders distinguished by an hourglass-shaped marking on the abdomen. The black widow spider delivers the most toxic spider bite in the United States. In humans, the symptoms of a bite are collectively termed latrodectism. To prevent a black widow infestation, keep your yard in top shape by cutting tall grasses and removing piles or firewood and debris, which are ideal habitats for web building and food gathering. The easiest way to tell if a spider is a black widow is to look for the shiny black coloring and distinctive crimson markings on the abdomen of the females. All rights reserved. 10 Fascinating Facts About Black Widow Spiders, Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Aurantia Argiope. Prior to 1970, when the current taxonomic divisions for North American black widows were set forth by Kaston,[4] all three varieties were classified as a single species, L. mactans. Like most spiders, the black widow preys on insects. L. hasselti lives in Australia, where it is called the redback. © Arrow Exterminators 2020. Black widows were given their sinister name after females were observed devouring males after mating. 10 of the World's Scariest-Looking Animals, Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College. Black widow spiders reproduce sexually when the male inserts his palpal bulbs into the female's spermathecal openings. Science News", "Predicting the distribution of poorly-documented species, Northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus) and Black purse-web spider (Sphodros niger), using museum specimens and citizen science data", "Aracnoidismo en la Republica Dominicana", Import Health Standard Commodity Sub-class: Fresh Fruit/Vegetables Table grapes, (, "Widow Spider Parasitoids Philolema latrodecti", http://www.entsoc.org/press-releases/are-brown-widow-spiders-displacing-black-widows, "The prevalence of brown widow and black widow spiders (Araneae: Theridiidae) in urban southern California", University of Washington Burke Museum spider myths, Black Widow Spider Venom and Bites Intoxication Treatment, Information on black widow spider bite in eMedicineHealth, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Latrodectus_mactans&oldid=980958664, Fauna of the California chaparral and woodlands, Articles with unsourced statements from April 2017, Articles with unsourced statements from January 2016, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 29 September 2020, at 13:32. Juvenile females are rounder than males, but display similar coloration and markings. Black Widow Spider Facts (Latrodectus mactans). [10]) In the Dominican Republic L. mactans is found throughout the whole country. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Common usage of the term "black widow" makes no distinction between the three species. If venom is injected, symptoms include muscle pain, sweating, increased heart rate, abdominal cramps, and muscle spasms. The spiders are solitary except for the mating ritual. [8], The prevalence of sexual cannibalism, a behaviour in which the female eats the male after mating, has inspired the common name "widow spiders". Latrodectus mactans, known as southern black widowor simply black widow, and the shoe-button spider,[citation needed]is a venomous species of spider in the genus Latrodectus. 1995. [5] Females are shiny and black in color, with a red marking in the shape of an hourglass on the ventral (under) side of her very rounded abdomen. Black widows prefer insects, such as flies and mosquitoes, but will eat other small arthropods and sometimes other spiders. To prevent bites, always wear gloves when moving items out of basements, garages or storage areas. They use their neurotoxic venom as a defense — delivering the most toxic spider bite in the U.S. [18] When the prey is entangled by the web, Latrodectus mactans quickly comes out of its retreat, wraps the prey securely in its strong web, then bites and envenoms its prey. The animals most at risk from the black widow's bite are insects—and male black widow spiders. Only the bites of the females are dangerous to humans. The venom injected by the female black widow is known as alpha-latrotoxin which binds to receptors at the neuromuscular motor end plate of both sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, resulting in increased synaptic concentration of catecholamines. It is white or tan in colour and has a papery texture, and it measures up to 12 mm (0.5 inch) in diameter. [1][3] It was transferred to the genus Latrodectus in 1837 by Charles Walckenaer and is currently placed in the family Theridiidae of the order Araneae. The females are well known for their distinctive black and red coloring and for the fact that they will occasionally eat their mate after reproduction. [17] The female may eat the male after mating. [citation needed] Other species including Mantis or Centipede also will occasionally and opportunistically take widows as prey, but the preceding all exhibit some significant specific preference for Latrodectus. She can produce from four to nine egg sacs per summer, each filled with 100 to 400 eggs. Updates? The severity of symptoms varies based on where the bite occurs, the amount of venom ingested and how sensitive the host is to being bitten. The spider tends to hang from a corner of its web, coming out to quickly wrap its prey in silk before biting and envenomating it. Black widows compete for territory with other spiders. The female spins a globular silk container for the eggs and guards them until they hatch. If a bite is not properly cleaned, a secondary infection could develop. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Spiders of the genus Steatoda (also of the Theridiidae) are often mistaken for widow spiders, and are known as "false widow spiders"; while their bite can be painful, they are significantly less harmful to humans. [15] If the spider perceives a threat, it quickly lets itself down to the ground on a safety line of silk. Fun Facts: Only mature black widow females can bite. Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. The bite itself is very small and may or may not present redness and swelling. [13] The spider frequently hangs upside down near the centre of its web and waits for insects to blunder in and get stuck. Many can have red, white or brown markings on the upper-side (dorsal) of the abdomen. [26] In 1933, Allan Blair famously allowed himself to be bitten by the spider in order to investigate the toxicity of its venom in humans and as a means of convincing skeptics at the time who thought that the spider's venom might not be dangerous to humans.

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