Most people have an aversion to spiders that can amount to paranoia (think Woody Allen being called in to handle a spider in “Annie Hall”)! It’s unfortunate, as 98% of all spiders are perfectly harmless, and many are actually advantageous. The black widow is the exception, however, and has earned her bad reputation, but in the process all other spiders have suffered because of it.
Black widows have inspired B horror movies for years because of their dangerous bite and nasty habit of eating their mates. They’re also found in virtually every part of the world except Antarctica, and they live for what is an exceptionally long time in the insect world – up to three years. The black widow can grow as large as 1 ½ inches long, and is identified by her shiny black globular body, which always has a red hourglass marking. By comparison, the male black widow is actually tiny and a nondescript brown; the female outweighs him 30 times over! (in human terms – the male black widow weighs 200 pounds, the female black widow weighs 6000 pounds; not a contest). Black widows are generally attracted to places that are dry, quiet, and undisturbed – such as closets, garages, and basements, as well as outdoors in woodpiles and sheds. The problem is their bite; a black widow bite injects a neurotoxic venom that is about 15 times more toxic than a rattlesnake’s venom, and this can be dangerous to some people. The bite causes pain, nausea, severe abdominal cramps, sweating, and trembling, and the symptoms may last for several days. The black widow is non-aggressive, however, and generally only bites if it becomes trapped against the skin, but if you suspect a bite it would be a good idea to head for an emergency room, nevertheless, especially if it’s a child or an elderly person.