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Black Widow Spiders

Lactrodectus mactans

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    Learn About Black Widow Spiders

    What are Black Widow Spiders?

    Black widow spiders get their common name from the popular belief that the female eats the male after mating, a phenomenon which rarely happens in nature. These spiders can be found worldwide with five species established in the United States, and are most well-known for the red hourglass shape under their abdomen. Although fatalities are rare, the black widow’s venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s and can cause muscle aches, nausea, and difficulty breathing.


    Pest Stats

    • Color: Black, with characteristic red “hourglass” on underside of abdomen.
    • Legs: 8
    • Shape: Round
    • Size: 1 ½ – 1 3/8 inches long
    • Antennae: No

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    What Do Black Widow Spiders Look Like?

    Black widow spiders are typically black with two reddish triangular markings usually joined to form a reddish hourglass shape on the underside of its abdomen – their most recognized feature. Females are occasionally brownish-black. Most black widow spiders are 3 to 10 mm long, with females being larger than males. Black widow spiders have eight legs and eight simple eyes, including two lateral pairs that almost touch.

    Young black widow spiders are primarily orange and white but acquire more black color as they mature. They have markings that are very similar to male adults – with one or two reddish markings on the bottom of the abdomen.


    Signs of an Infestation

    ​One of the most obvious signs of a spider infestation is the presence of webs in the home or on the property. Black widow spiders usually construct messy and irregular webs located near ground level. Finding a silken sac – which holds eggs – in the doorway is another sign that a spider infestation is underway. If you see any of these signs, professional spider extermination services by PMi may be necessary.

    A Black Widow Spider in its web

    Black Widow Spider Prevention

    How to Get Rid of Black Widow Spiders

    People can minimize the risk of being bitten by these spiders by reducing clutter in basements and garages, which, in turn, eliminates their hiding spots. When spider webs are visible, use caution before putting your hands or feet in that area. You should also wear heavy gloves when moving items that have been stored for a long period of time and shake out shoes before wearing them. Outdoors, store firewood at least 20 feet from the home on a raised structure. If you suspect a spider infestation, contact PMi for immediate assistance from a licensed professional. This is the safest way to get rid of spiders in your home.

    Black Widow Spider Bites

    While male black widow spiders rarely bite, females may bite in defense, especially after laying eggs.

    Symptoms of a black widow spider bite include fever, increased blood pressure, sweating and nausea. Pain is usually almost immediate and reaches its maximum in 1-3 hours. The pain associated with a black widow spider bite may continue for one to three days and then gradually subside. If pain and swelling does not stop during this period seek out a medical professional.


    Black widows favor dry, dark locations to spin their webs. They often seek out warm areas during the winter months. Outdoors, black widow spiders commonly live in protected areas. These include under stones and decks, as well as in firewood piles and hollow tree stumps. The preferred habitats of black widows are dry man-made structures including barns, outhouses, henhouses, sheds, meter boxes, brick veneer, barrels and woodpiles. Indoors, black widow spiders tend to hide in sheltered, dimly lit locations and are often found in garages, basements and in crawl spaces. They prefer cluttered areas that offer more harborage for their prey.



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