While spiders aren’t recognized as members of the insect family, they do belong to the bug species. Spiders differ in size, specie, breed and color. Most spiders are web-spinners that feast on smaller insects and other bugs. Some produce poisonous venom. When bitten by a venomous spider, this can affect one’s health or even prove to be lethal. One of these poisonous spiders, whose bite releases a very small amount of potentially dangerous venom, is the black widow spider.
The Female and Male Black Widow Spiders
The female Lactrodectus (the Black Widow Spider) is the most poisonous spider in the North American region. There are numerous species of the black widow spider. The Black Widow’s venom is at least 15 times noxious than a prairie rattlesnake’s. Black Widow spiders are mostly found outside in dark, damp areas; however, cold weather and droughts can drive them indoors.
Male black widows and those that aren’t fully grown are not as harmful as a black widow spider. The female black widow is poisonous and has a bite that can be dangerous to humans and other insects.
On occasion, a female black widow will engage in sexual cannibalism, which is one of the reasons why the Lactrodectus earned its “widow” nickname. After mating with a male black widow, the female will literally kill and eat him, if he sticks around long enough. A female black widow can carry about 250 to 700 eggs in a single sac. She’s capable of producing 4 to 9 egg sacs in one summer. Black widow spiders have an average life span of up to 3 years, and are generally known to reach maturity within about 70 to 90 days.
What Does a Black Widow Spider Looks Like?
The black widow spider is not a very big spider. When her legs are completely spread out, the female black widow spider is around 1.5 inches long. They usually weigh less than a gram. Male black widows are smaller and are usually about half the size of the female black widow spider. They have smaller bodies, but their legs are actually longer than the female’s. The abdomens of both male and female black widows are shiny and globular in appearance and are often black and sometimes brown in color.
The female black widow usually features a reddish hourglass shape that appears on the underside of her abdomen. In some species, the female will feature a group of red spots and two crosswise bars instead. The male and all juvenile black widow spiders usually feature yellow and red spots and bands all across their backs. Spiderlings that are newly hatched are mainly either white or yellowish-white. As they grow, they eventually acquire a more black color and various amounts of red. All juvenile black widow spiders look similar to the males and are virtually harmless to human beings.
What are the Symptoms of a Black Widow Spider Bite?
The bite of a black widow spider, although poisonous, very seldom causes death in human beings. It injects a tiny amount of venom into your bloodstream when it bites you. The mortality rate of a black widow spider bite is less than 1%, with deaths occurring most often in the elderly or very young.
To many people, the bite of a black widow spider feels like a pinprick. Within 15 minutes or so, pain begins to spread quickly throughout the body. Some of the symptoms of a black widow spider bite include:
- Severe pain in the abdomen or chest (depending on location of bite)
- Profuse sweating
- Muscle aches
- Hypertension (increase in blood pressure)
- Paralysis of the diaphragm
- Difficulty breathing
The pain from a black widow spider bite can last for up to eight to ten hours. Other symptoms can persist for several days. At times, an antivenin may be given to a patient suffering from the symptoms of a black widow spider bite in order to reduce the effects from the venom.