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Black Widows: Myths and Facts

Spider season is upon us with the start of the fall as most spiders head out in search of a mate. With an average lifespan of about one year, many spiders must mate and lay their eggs before they pass away and the prime mating season is fall. One spider to be on the lookout for is the infamous black widow as they can la. There are many misconceptions mixed in with the truths we are told about these arachnids, so here is a guide to discerning what is fact and what is fiction.

Myth or Fact? Every female black widow will eat the male after mating.

This is a myth! The namesake of this particular arachnid comes from female black widows in captivity eating their male counterparts. However, this is an over generalization. There are three species of North American black widows, and they are rarely observed eating the male in the wild. Even the other 28 species of black widows located in other continents are not consuming males at each mating. Some males will sacrifice themselves as a meal for the female, but this is slowly becoming known as the exception as opposed to the rule.

Myth or Fact? Black widow bites will always kill you.

This is a myth! While their bites are venomous, that venom is typically used against their preferred prey of insects and therefore rarely deadly towards humans. Typical bites can cause nausea, paralysis of the diaphragm that causes labored breathing, and muscle aches. Death is hardly the average outcome of a black widow bite and those most at risk of death from a bite are children, the elderly, and the ill. Blackwidows strike and bite humans only out of fear and self-defense, so do not fear that they are purposefully trying to kill you.

Myth or Fact? All black widows are black.

This is a myth! With 31 species of spiders all falling under the group ‘True Widows’, it is not true that all 31 are, in fact, black. Latrodectus mactans are the species most refer to when describing a black widow. These black spiders are known as southern black widows, black widows, and shoe-button spiders. The female Latrodectus mactans are shiny and black with a red hourglass shape on the back of their abdomen. Males are often a dark purple or grayish in color and their body size is much smaller than the female’s. Other species of widows can be brown or red in color.

Myth or Fact? You can prevent black widows from entering your home.

This is a fact! Black widows like to hide in small spaces and your home may seem like the perfect place to lay their eggs this fall. However, there are preventative measures you can take to ensure that no black widows make their way into your home this year. Start by ensuring that all screens, door sweeps, windows, and other openings are sealed so that black widows and other pests cannot get in. Next, clean out spaces such as your attic, basement, or garage where any spiders may be hiding in small corners and inside of any storage items. Then, trim any foliage near the entrances and windows of your home to cut access points off from these spiders. Finally, inspect all firewood or other plant life before bringing it into your home as it may harbor a few unwanted guests.

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