Black Widow Spider

Family Name

Latrodectus mactans

Characteristics

Type:

Crawling – Biting – Ballooning

Size:

The body may be up to 0.75 inch in length with the abdomen reaching 0.375 inch in diameter.

Colour:

Typically, glossy black, but may also be dark brown to light brown. Related widow spiders may be brown.

Behaviour:

The black widow spider is widely feared, because its bite results in severe pain that may take several days to subside. Such bites are rarely fatal, but very young children, the elderly and very ill persons are most at risk for severe reactions to the bite of this spider. Black widow spiders construct irregular, scaffold-type webs usually near the ground level. These webs are almost always constructed in a protected site such as among items piled together, beneath boards, in firewood and between boxes. Newly hatched spider-lings climb to high points, release a strand of webbing and are propelled by “ballooning” to new locations. For this reason, buildings may have new spider-lings float to it on a regular basis. Most of these do not survive. Black widows eat any insect they can capture. It is not true that the female always consumes her mate after mating, but it does frequently occur. Black widows are classified as dangerous spiders, because their bite can cause severe cramping and pain throughout the body.

Habitats

Bites most frequently occur when people are picking up an item under which the spider is hiding or putting on a shoe the spider has crawled into. Many bites are reported in outhouses where the black widow likes to spin her web below the toilet seat. (Be sure to check carefully before sitting down!) Black widows prefer to construct their webs in secluded, protected sites where insects are more likely to show up. Such sites are common in items stored chaotically in garages or outside. Such clutter creates innumerable spaces suitable for spider harbourage. Keeping boxes and objects stored neatly and away from walls is one step to minimize these spiders in or around a home.

Tips for Control

Taking the following steps can minimize any potential risk:

 Bites can be avoided by wearing heavy gloves when moving items stored for long periods outside, in garages, in basements or in warehouses.
 Shoes should be stored inside shoeboxes or shaken vigorously prior to wearing.
 When webs are visible, inspect carefully before putting your hand down under an object.
 Control is best left to a professional pest control company. If numerous spiders are encountered, they can be removed using a shop vacuum, but care must be taken when opening the vacuum to kill the spiders.