Black Widow spider
Latrodectus species

Description: Widow spiderBlack Widow Spiders are dark, usually black, medium sized spiders with light red or orange markings (typically in the shape of an hourglass) on female’s abdomen (underneath the spider’s body).  Black Widow Spiders (or Widow Spiders) have dark, glossy, globular bodies about 1/2 inch long.  Not all Widow Spiders have the characteristic red hourglass on their stomachs.  Some have two red dots, some have red stripes or dashes, and some have no colored markings at all.

Widow spiders construct webs of irregular, tangled silken fibers.  Widows often hang upside down in their webs waiting for prey.  They have poor eyesight and rely on vibrations for detecting prey.

Symptoms: Black Widow spiders have particularly large venom glands making Black Widow Spider bite very dangerous to humans.  Black Widow spider spinning its webWidow spiders produce a protein venom that affects the victim’s nervous system.  The first symptom, which typically occurs 20 minutes to one hour after the bite, is acute pain at the site of the bite.  Next, the victim may experience muscle cramps, pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, feinting, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.  In some instances the victim may experience abdominal pain similar to that of a gallbladder attack.

Treatment: An antivenin is available for Black Widow Spider bites.  If the victim experiences whole body symptoms then seek emergency medical treatment.  Otherwise, apply cold and hot compresses to the bite area or have victim take a hot bath.  Over the counter pain medicine may be used to alleviate the pain.

Habitat: Black Widow Spiders can be found under logs, rocks, dark corners or crevices, and debris.  They often prefer shaded places.  Black Widow spiders are nocturnal and hunt at night.

Distribution: Varied species worldwide. Black widow in United States, red widow in Middle East, and brown widow in Australia.

NOTE: Female Black Widow Spiders are the poisonous gender. Male Black Widows can bite too but their bite is not considered dangerous.  Red widow in the Middle East is the only spider known to be deadly to man.


Note that Black Widow Spiders can vary in appearance.


Close-up of familiar Black Widow spider's red hourglass marking on stomach

Black Widow spider

Male Black Widow spiders are not considered dangerous

Not all Widow spiders have hourglass markings on their abdomin

Some Widow spiders have red striped markings