The dark bodies and red hour glass markings of black widows are well-known. They are common in the southern and western United States, but can be found all over the world in temperate regions.
While they are just as venomous, male black widows are smaller and less recognizable than females.
We’ll also learn more about how black widows hunt and whether or not they consume their mates in this section. After that, we’ll look at how dangerous black widow spider bites are and how to treat them if you get one. Finally, we’ll take a look at what black widows feed their babies.
Black widow spider
The neurotoxic venom of the black widow spider (Latrodectus spp.) is well-known. It’s a globally distributed widow spider that’s mostly associated with metropolitan and agricultural environments.
Although the three North American species that are best known for their dark coloration and red hourglass pattern are referred to as black widows spiders, many additional members of the Latrodectus (widow spider) genus are sometimes referred to as black widows spiders. Widow spiders are also known as button spiders in South Africa.
The southern black widow (L. atropos) is the only species of black widow recognized in North America today. The northern black widow (L. mactans) The western black widow (L. variolus) Asperus (asper) is the Latin word for sphinx.
The southern widow, which may be found (and is indigenous to) from Florida to New York and west to Texas and Oklahoma, is named after the region where it may be found.
California has also yielded specimens. Although its ranges overlap those of L. Family, the northern widow is most commonly seen in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada (only on the Bruce Peninsula). Mactans are an important species.
The western widow can be found from southern Canada to much of Mexico, as well as in the western United States. All three variants were considered a single species, L. conanti, until 1970, when Kaston established the current taxonomic divisions for North American black widows. Mactans is the plural form of the word “mactan.”
As a consequence, there are several instances claiming that “black widow” (without any geographical qualifier) pertains to L. Mactans is the sole species in the group.
Because the three species have a lot in common, this article treats all three black widow species similarly, as is customary usage of the term. (Many laypersons are unaware of the distinctions between them.)
The remainder of the article applies to all three of the species mentioned, with the exception of where noted.
HOW MANY BLACK WIDOW SPECIES ARE THERE?
The Latrodectus genus includes 31 species of widow spiders, five of which are black widows; the St. Louis is one of them. According to Louis Zoo, According to Smithsonian Magazine, the western species, Latrodectus hesperus, the northern species, Latrodectus variolus, and the southern species, Latrodectus mactans are all known as black widows in North America.
Sewlal said that comb-footed spiders get their name because they have a series of stiff, short hairs on the final segment of their fourth pair of legs that resemble the teeth of a comb. Black widow spiders belong to the Theridiidae family, often known as comb-footed spiders. When the spider is wrapping up the silk, this is utilized to drape it over the victim.”
In the Latrodectus genus, there are also red and brown widows.
-Genus: Latrodectus .
The black widow spider is clearly identifiable. They have hourglass-shaped red, red-orange, or yellow marks on their plump, glossy black abdomens. Arrady Widows spin twisted and tangled threads that have no shape or pattern.
They have the strongest silk of practically any other spider. The black widow spider has the following additional characteristics:
-1/2 to 1 1/2 inch long black widow spiders are female. Males have smaller bodies and longer legs than females, and they are roughly half the size.
-The underside of the abdomens of females is normally reddish in color. The females of several species have two crosswise bars on their underbelly and a row of red spots.
-Both sexes of black widows in their juvenile stages have yellow and red bands and spots on their backs, as do male black widows.
-Newly hatched spiders are largely white or yellowish-white in color, with black and red and white juvenile of both sexes resembling the male. They pose little danger to humans.
Are Black Widows Dangerous?
The most venomous spider in North America is the black widow spider. Black widows, on the other hand, are timid and reclusive; they prefer to stay unknown and out of sight. They don’t bite people or pets unless they’re in severe danger.
Moreover, black widows avoid entering indoors and stay (for the most part) out of human sight, making them difficult to detect.
Black widow bites, on the other hand, are not uncommon, particularly when people are outside in the black widow’s natural environment. Wood piles and obscure spaces are particularly attractive to them.
Only young, elderly, or ill people are at risk for black widow bites. You should go to the doctor as soon as possible if you think you’ve been bitten by a black widow.
The little pinprick of a black widow bite is usually the first symptom, and there may be two tiny punctures. Because they bite and release a neurotoxin, black widows’ venom has an impact on nerves. The neurotoxin causes swelling, pain, fever, muscle cramps, and nausea in a majority of people. The majority of side effects last 8-12 hours, although they can last for days.
If bitten by a black widow antivenom, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
What Do Black Widows Eat?
The black widow, like other spiders and insects caught in their webs, eats other spiders and insects.
Females, on the other hand, do not commonly consume their males, according to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture(opens in new tab) in Seattle, Washington.
Ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, cockroaches, and scorpions are among the arthropods that the black widow spider eats.
According to the museum, “Mate cannibalism in nature is the rule rather than the exception” in only one known Latrodectus species: black widows.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada(opens in new tab) (NCC) claims, however, that black widow newborns frequently eat their freshly hatched siblings as they emerge from their eggs.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, widows prefer flying and climbing insects and arachnids, but have been known to trap and devour little animals like snakes and lizards.
The spider paralyzes its meal with a venomous bite once the prey becomes entangled up in the black widow’s web.
According to the Department of Entomology at Iowa State University(opens in new tab), when the prey stops moving, the spider releases digestive enzymes into it, then transports its meal elsewhere to be consumed.
Components and effects
These spiders are not particularly big, despite their exceptionally poisonous venom. Their chelicerae are not particularly huge or strong when compared to many other spider species.
The hollow, needle-shaped portion of each chelicera, which penetrates the skin and delivers venom to a hazardous depth, is roughly 1.0 mm (approximately .04 inch) long in the case of a mature female.
Males have a lower capacity to inject venom due to their smaller size. Even a mature female’s actual dosage is quite tiny in physical bulk.
While it may induce the extremely unpleasant symptoms of Latrodectism, when a little quantity of venom is spread throughout the body of a healthy, mature human, it rarely amounts to a fatal dosage.
In terms of the number of bites per thousand persons, deaths from Latrodectus bites in healthy adults are uncommon.
Between 1950 and 1989, only 63 people died in the United States (Miller, 1992). The widow spiders, on the other hand, have a extremely broad geographical range.
As a consequence, members of their genus cause the majority of fatalities throughout the world due to the greater number of people exposed to widow bites.
Prior to the invention of antivenom, 5% of known bites resulted in fatalities, and widow spiders produce more powerful venom than most spiders.
In regions where outdoor privies have been substituted with flush toilets, plumbing improvements have drastically decreased the incidence of bites and deaths.
In the first four decades of the twentieth century, spiders lurking beneath the seats of public toilets afflicted roughly ninety percent of black widow bites documented in medical literature on men.
Black widow spiders have been discovered in automobiles imported from the southern United States in Sweden. The spider finds old automobiles inoperating to be a suitable habitat.
See Venomous spiders for more information on toxicity, etc.
The venom contains a variety of active ingredients:
-Toxins interacting with cation channels are a group of smaller polypeptides.
-Miami structure homology, which may influence calcium, sodium, or potassium channel functionality.
Webs and Feeding
Females suspend a cocoon with hundreds of eggs in large webs spun by these spiders. Webbing is left behind when spiderlings leave their eggs.
Flys, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars are also captured in black widow spider webs.
Once their prey is trapped, black widows use their hind legs’ bristles to cover it with silk. They are comb-footed spiders with bristles on their hind legs.
Black widows bite their insect meal and pass through the corpses, allowing them to absorb digestive enzymes. The spiders liquefy their prey’s bodies and suck up the resulting fluid by using these enzymes and their gnashing fangs.
The black widow spider is not a major threat to humans who stay out of her way, despite her notorious reputation for being a killer. Most black widow spiders bite only if they feel threatened or trapped, and they avoid humans.
While the black widow spider will usually flee from her web if she feels a disturbance is caused by something as big as a bird or human finger, she will normally run toward it.
The venom of a female black widow spider is 15 times as poisonous as the venom of a rattlesnake, making it the most poisonous spider in the United States.
Black widows only bite when they are disturbed, and the majority of victims do not suffer severe harm, contrary to popular belief.
Young children, the elderly, and the sick are at greatest danger from their bites, which are uncommon. Get medical care as soon as you suspect a black widow Bite.
The venom of the black widow is neurotoxic, which means it has an immediate impact on the nervous system. A black widow bite may leave telltale signs, such as:
-One or two bite wounds on the skin, accompanied by local inflammation.
-From the bite site to the belly and back, severe pain moves.
-Cramps, muscle pains, stiffness, profuse sweating, stomach upset, fever, and a diaphragm paralysis that makes breathing uncomfortable are all symptoms.
The first 8-12 hours after a black widow spider bite, the pain will stay, though others may last for many days.
Does The female always kills and eats the male?
You must first comprehend that the black widow group (the genus Latrodectus) contains numerous diverse species all around the world, and that there are three distinct black widow species in the United States alone: two in the east and one in the west (not counting brown and red widows).
There is no such thing as a typical behavior in these species. Moreover, most mating observations have traditionally taken place in laboratory cages where males were unable to flee.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the only known Latrodectus species is one in which mate cannibalism is a common occurrence, not an exception. We do not sell U.S. products. In Latrodectus mactans, the eastern (southern) black widow, mate cannibalism occurs on occasion, but most males survive to mate another day.
The western black widow L. is the only other black species in existence. Mate cannibalism has never been documented in the wild! (Just one species west of Kansas)