Black widow spiders are nocturnal and, thus, are
active at night. They prefer dark corners or crevices. They are said to avoid
human dwellings, but you can find them in such areas as outhouses and garages.
Only the female black widow bites humans, and she bites only when disturbed,
especially while protecting her eggs.
Black widows are notorious spiders identified by the colored,
hourglass-shaped mark on their abdomens. Several
species answer to the name, and they are found in
temperate regions around the world.
This spider's bite is much feared because its
venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a
rattlesnake's. In humans, bites produce muscle
aches, nausea, and a paralysis of the diaphragm
that can make breathing difficult; however,
contrary to popular belief, most people who are
bitten suffer no serious damage—let alone death.
But bites can be fatal—usually to small children,
the elderly, or the infirm. Fortunately,
fatalities are fairly rare; the spiders are nonaggressive and bite only in self-defense, such
as when someone accidentally sits on them.
The animals most at risk from the black widow's
bite are insects—and male black widow spiders.
Females sometimes kill and eat their counterparts
after mating in a macabre behavior that gave the
insect its name. Black widows are solitary
year-round except during this violent mating
These spiders spin large webs in which females
suspend a cocoon with hundreds of eggs.
Spiderlings disperse soon after they leave their
eggs, but the web remains. Black widow spiders
also use their webs to ensnare their prey, which
consists of flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers,
beetles, and caterpillars. Black widows are
comb-footed spiders, which means they have
bristles on their hind legs that they use to cover
their prey with silk once it has been trapped.
To feed, black widows puncture their insect
prey with their fangs and administer digestive
enzymes to the corpses. By using these enzymes,
and their gnashing fangs, the spiders liquefy
their prey's bodies and suck up the resulting