Black Widow Facts
- Perhaps most notably for most individuals, the amazing Black Widow represents a very dangerous variety of spider. Placed in the Latrodectus genus, many of these reclusive arachnids are also known to some people simply as widow spiders.
- Experts also currently list 32 known species in this genus, spread throughout much of the world. The three species endemic to North America remain the most commonly known, though. Each of these arachnids shares many physical traits.
- The common name for these dangerous invertebrates derives from the high prevalence of sexual cannibalism in the Black Widow. After mating the larger female commonly, though not always, kills and then feeds on the smaller male.
- The toxin of its bite additionally remains considered by most experts to be especially dangerous. The invertebrate earns this distinction due to the presence of the neurotoxin latrotoxin. This represents an especially dangerous type of venom.
- Only the bite of the female typically presents any danger to humans, however. That’s because she generally has far larger venom glands than her much smaller male counterpart. Despite its reputation, though, few bites actually result in fatalities.
- Presently, the majority of species grouped under this common name continue to have stable populations. The IUCN, therefore, does not list them on its Red List. These amazing spiders nevertheless face the same threat from climate change as we all do.
Black Widow Physical Description
Not surprisingly, the various species of Black Widow attain similar physical sizes. However, this remarkable arachnid typically displays a significant amount of sexual dimorphism. This physiological characteristic manifests itself in terms of 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). The males also do not display the characteristic red hourglass.
Color patterns also vary relatively significantly between the various forms. All members of this genus, however, appear predominantly black in color. The females of each species, though, all display a very 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
The three species of Black Widow that evolved as native to North America remain the best known of the varieties. The incredible genus also thrives in many other areas of the world, though. In fact, the various species inhabit every continent of the world, except Antarctica.
Quite understandably, given its nearly global distribution, habitat types vary widely. Nevertheless, members of the genus most commonly live in temperate and tropical climates. A few of them, though, even live in extremely arid regions of the world.
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. This fortunately makes encounters rare.
When a human gets bitten, 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.
All currently 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. Its diet, however, typically consists of mosquitoes, grasshoppers, beetles, and such.