Poisonous Bugs in Your Backyard

Feature: The Black Widow

Bill Broadbent

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Black Widow Spiders

All spiders are scary looking, but the Black Widow is one of the most terrifying. One look and you know to leave it alone. It looks like it can hurt you!

And it certainly can; a Black Widow bite attacks your nervous system, and it affects people in different ways. For some, it may be mild, while others will need medical attention and should immediately go to the emergency room. This is especially true with young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems. Better safe than sorry.

Photo: © Ondreicka / Adobe Stock

Black Widows are a prolific bug, and in many areas of the country, they are plentiful. You’ll not only find them in your back yard, but you’ll also find them in your house. Wood piles are a common place for people to get bit.

Black Widows are nocturnal and hide in dark areas during the day. They can be found under boards, logs, etc. in and around your house.

Identification and Markings

About the hourglass, not all Black Widows have the famed red hourglass on the bottom of their abdomen. Some have no markings, and some have markings on the side or top of the abdomen.

Male black widows are about half the size of females and usually do not have the hourglass or other markings, although this is not always the case.

Black Widow markings vary widely
Photo: © Marshal Hedin — Northern Black Widow

Some Black Widows are not black. Widow Spiders are found in brown and tan versions. Plus, the babies can be red, yellow, or white! The most common widow spiders in the U.S. are the Northern Black Widow, Western Black Widow, and the Southern Black Widow. The Western and Southern Black Widows are the ones with the hourglass, while the Northern Black widow commonly has red spots on the top of the abdomen and bar shapes on the bottom. The color can vary from red, yellow, to white. The best way to stay safe is to avoid any spider with a big black abdomen.

How Did the Black Widow Get Her Name?

Black Widow spiders practice sexual cannibalism.

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Bill Broadbent

Bill is President of Entosense and has been actively involved in the emerging edible insect industry since 2014. Visit: Entosense.com & EdibleInsects.com