Black widow spiders are considered North America's most poisonous spider. You can usually identify a black widow by the red or red-orange hourglass on the abdomen, but immature spiders can have yellow or red-orange spots or stripes instead.
The black widow is named so because the female widow spider will immediately kill the male widow spider after mating. These spiders are black in color, but will become glossy and darker in color as they get older.
Widow spiders love dark and quiet places and low to the ground, such as woodpiles, in holes created by animals, corners of rooms, plants, garages or abandoned buildings. Black widow spiders are not aggressive in nature; they will bite humans only if defending their territory, are physically threatened, or hungry.
A bite from a black widow spider can go unnoticed, but can produce a sharp pin-prick pain from the widow's small fangs. Although the widow's bite is not usually fatal, people at risk for respiratory paralysis leading to death include the very young, the very old, and people with a history of high blood pressure.
There is an antivenom available for people bitten from a black widow spider, but doctors prefer to give Calcium Gluconate, a potent medication used to counteract the spider toxin.
Symptoms of a black widow bite include muscle and chest pain, breathing difficulty, cramping, nausea, anxiety, sweating, restlessness, and difficulty in speech. It is important to keep the patient warm and to avoid sucking out the poison, since the venom rapidly travels throughout the body. The doctor will need to clean the wound with an antiseptic in order to prevent infection.
The black widow has an bizarre looking web, since it's loose and irregular, unlike the spider webs of typical orb weaving spiders. If working outdoors, it is important to wear long sleeved shirts and gloves, because a person may accidently be moving a pile of logs and not see a black widow hiding in the area.
To kill black widows, it's important to wear protective equipment such as gloves and non-exposing clothing. The web and spider can be effectively crushed and pesticides can be applied in the dark where black widows will not be disturbed. It is important to apply pesticide around exterior surfaces and low lying windows before the weather gets cold, since the spiders will seek shelter inside the home during the change in weather.
It is important to advise family members about the location of black widow spiders and about seeking prompt treatment if bitten by them. Keep pets away their hiding places as well.
Up to 200 black widow spiders can hatch from their sac, which are attached to the web of their mother. Proper pesticide control can keep the black widow spiders in check.
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