The black widow is a spider common in temperate regions of the world. The term black widow covers several species including the red widow (Latrodectus bishop) found in Florida and southern black widow (Latrodectus mactans) found in warmer regions of the US. The spider is about a half inch long, black, and is most easily identified by the red hourglass shaped mark on the underside of its abdomen.
The name “black widow” comes from a behavior of some species in which the female eats the male after mating. Contrary to popular believe, the female black widow rarely eats the male after mating, although it is true that the female’s bite is three times are more venomous than the male’s bite.
The female black widow is black with an hourglass mark on its abdomen. This mark can range in color from a deep red to yellow. Although the female is about half inch long, the male is only about half the size of its female counterpart. The males are usually brown or gray and sometimes do not have the red colored mark on the abdomen.
Black Widow Spiders are solitary creatures with the exception of mating, which lessens the likeliness of a large scale infestation. Because black widows prefer to live outdoors in undisturbed areas, they can often be found in woodpiles, lumber, tree stumps, sheds and garages. In order to avoid an infestation, it is best to maintain and limited the number of these types of areas. Although black widows prefer outdoor habitats, they can enter homes through small holes in doors and windows and live in undisturbed places such as basements and crawl spaces.
The best way to get rid of black widow spiders is to eliminate their possible habitats. Remove woodpiles and lumber piles or at least keep them away from children and pets. Clean and vacuum houses, garages and sheds regularly to clear out webs, eggs and spiders. If you come across an individual black widow, you can carefully spray it with aerosol pesticide. Be careful not to attempt to kill it by simply hitting it because they can because aggressive if threatened. If at any time you feel that the problem is becoming a larger issue, contact a local exterminator to take care of the infestation.
Although most black widow bites do not cause serious damage, their venom can cause symptoms such as nausea and muscle cramps. Bites are more dangerous for small children and elderly. The spiders are generally nonaggressive and only bite when they feel threatened. The best way to avoid a black widow bite is to keep skin covered when working outdoors especially with firewood and lumber, and use a pest repellant on clothing. Additionally, shake out clothing and shoes that are not often worn before getting dressed. If a bite does occur, clean the area with soap and water and seek medical help as soon as possible.