The Black Widow Spider is one of the most feared in
North America because its venom is powerful enough to
make humans very ill. This spider has been given its
name because of the misconception that the female always
eats the male after mating. Sometimes the male escapes
The Black Widow is a member of the cobweb weaver family.
The female Black Widow is 3/8 inch long and has legs
and cephalothorax that are black. Its teardrop shaped
abdomen is shiny black with a red "hourglass" mark on
the underneath side.
The hourglass is easy to see because the spider hangs
upside down in the tangled, but strong web. Sometimes
there is a red spot near the spinnerets and even small
red streaks or spots on the back of the abdomen.
The harmless male of the species is 1/8 inch long,
with red and white markings on the abdomen.
Black Widows are found in many areas of the United
States, but they are most common in the South. This
spider prefers a dark, damp habitat. It is most often
found outside, but can be found inside in dark places
inside dwellings such as sheds, garages, and closets.
The female rarely leaves the web and will bite only
when she is bothered. The small, oval egg cases are
tan in color, papery in texture and are found hanging
in the web. The female will aggressively guard her egg
The strong silk of the Black Widow's web is perfect
for catching crawling and hopping insects such as crickets,
grasshoppers, and flies.
It spins its strong, tangled web close to the ground
in crevices such as between rocks in rock piles, in
holes of stacked bricks, between logs in woodpiles,
in tree stumps, trash piles, and other similar places.
While the core of the web may be small, there are snare
lines that project from it that can be a few inches
to a few feet long.
Although the Black Widow is a shy, nocturnal spider
(that likes to hunt for prey at night), it will bite
in self-defense or if pressed against a person's body.
When the threads of the web are disturbed and the spider
thinks that it has caught prey, it will rush out and
The venom of the Black Widow is a neurotoxin, which
is a "nerve poison" to its prey. Sometimes if it is
threatened, the spider may run to one side of the web
or stay perfectly still. The black color of the spider
helps it blend in with the darkened environment where