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Oh, what a tangled web we weave: Widows

October 26, 2011

Their red hourglass is world-renowned; along with their disturbing mating ritual. Females sometimes kill and eat their counterparts after mating. Beware: these man-eaters are on the prowl and the black widow’s bite is serious. It is reported to be 15 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake.

Widow spiders usually dwell under rocks or in logs and are found in every continent in the world, except Antarctica. They can be found in outdoor buildings like sheds or barns, in water meter holes and under any item or structure, like grills and sand boxes that have been undisturbed for a length of time. There are four species of widow spiders in Florida: the southern black widow, the northern black widow, the red widow and the brown widow. Female widow spiders range from 8-15 mm in body length. Males are much smaller, sometimes just 2 mm. Most have shiny abdomens that are predominantly black with red markings, although some may be pale and/or have lateral stripes. All widows have moderately long, slender legs.

Historically, the majority of bites by black widows occurred in outhouses and the biters were female. However, like the recluse, black widow bites now occur most frequently when the spider is trapped against human skin, either by reaching under objects where the spider is hiding or when putting on clothing, gloves or shoes containing the spider. “Oh here she comes, watch out boys, she’ll chew you up!”  

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