Black Widow Facts
- Most notably, the amazing Black Widow represents a very dangerous variety of spider. Found in the Latrodectus genus, many of these reclusive arachnids are also known to some as widow spiders.
- Further, experts currently list 32 known species in this genus, spread throughout much of the world. However, the three species endemic to North America remain the most commonly known.
- The common name derives from the high prevalence of sexual cannibalism in the Black Widow. After mating the female commonly, though not always, kills and then feeds on the male.
- In addition, the toxin of its bite remains considered by most experts to be especially dangerous. The invertebrate earns this distinction due to the presence of the neurotoxin latrotoxin.
- Finally, only the bite of the female typically presents any danger to humans. That’s because she generally has far larger venom glands than her much smaller male counterpart.
Black Widow Physical Description
Firstly, the various species of Black Widow attain similar physical size. However, this arachnid typically displays a significant amount of sexual dimorphism. This occurs in both color patterns and size.
That’s partly because the female attains an average length of about 1.4 in (3.5 cm), whereas the male stays much smaller. He most commonly only reaches an average length of roughly 0.7 in (1.75 cm). In addition, the males also do not display the characteristic red hourglass.
Color patterns also vary, but all species of this genus stay predominantly black in color. Yet the females of each species all display a prominent red hourglass shape on their abdomens.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Arachnida
- Order: Araneae
- Family: Theridiidae
- Genus: Latrodectus
Black Widow Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
First of all, while the three species of Black Widow native to North America remains the best known, the genus thrives in many other areas. In fact, the various species inhabit every continent of the world, except Antarctica.
Quite understandably, given its nearly global distribution, habitat types vary. However, the genus most commonly lives in temperate and tropical climates. Yet, a few even live in extremely arid regions of the world.
Further, individuals usually build their webs in locations such as around rubble, small trees and bushes, in the wild. But, when found inside of human habitations, webs usually appear in isolated areas, such as attics and garages.
Also, the venom of a Black Widow commonly causes a condition known as latrodectism. Experiences include profuse sweating, vomiting, muscle rigidity, and extreme pain. These symptoms typically persist for 3-6 days but can last longer.
Finally, all known members of this genus hunt as ambush predators, laying in wait in the web. It feeds opportunistically, making a meal of any small creature caught in its web. However, this typically consists of mosquitoes, grasshoppers, beetles, and such.