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Black Widow Spiders

Active Seasons

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Appearance and Size Facts

  • The southern Black Widow spider is shiny black
  • Females usually have a red spot or hourglass-shaped mark on the underside of the abdomen
  • It is one of a only a few spiders in North America considered to be medically significant
  • Size: The body is about 3/4 inch long and the abdomen is about 3/8 inch in diameter
  • Often feared because of their painful bite

Behavior and Habitat of Black Widow Spiders

Black Widow spiders are often feared because of their painful bite. Children and the elderly are most as risk from complications due to a bite. However, such bites are rarely fatal. Black Widows are actually timid and solitary. However, when disturbed, Black Widow spiders may sometimes try to attack as a last resort. The only social life they exhibit is when they mate. They are cannibalistic and nocturnal. During the daylight hours, this spider spends its time in the silken tunnel of its web. The female will hang upside down displaying the red hourglass as a visible warning signal. They feed on insects and arthropods, and have an average lifespan of one year. Black Widow spiders are common around wood piles, and are frequently encountered when homeowners carry firewood into the home. They can also be found under eaves, in boxes, outdoor toilets, meter boxes, and other secluded areas. This widow spider is essentially a southern species, but ranges as for north as Massachusetts. It prefers dark sheltered spots close to the ground, but will spread web snares over plants.

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Signs of Infestation of Black Widow Spiders

Black Widows produce messy, irregular webs near ground level and under a protected ledge such as under lawn furniture or wood piles.

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Tips for Prevention of Black Widow Spiders

Reduce clutter in garages to eliminate hiding spots. You should wear heavy gloves when moving items that have been stored for a long period of time and shake out shoes before wearing them. Outdoors, store firewood at least twenty feet from the home and five inches off the ground.

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Black Widow Spider Gallery

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Photograph of black widow spider number 2
Photograph of black widow spider number 3

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