Scary Spiders: Black Widows

She is known for killing her mate…  She has fangs designed to puncture her prey and liquefy their innards…  Her venom can be fatal…

Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider

But is the female black widow spider really the monster everyone makes her out to be?

While it’s true she may eat her mate after breeding, the black widow spider doesn’t lust for human life. In fact, these spiders aren’t very aggressive at all and tend to bite humans only in self-defense. While their venom is quite strong, the good news is that fatalities from black widow bites are relatively rare. The bite site can become swollen and painful, often followed by muscle cramps, nausea and achiness, but most people who have been bitten don’t suffer serious injury.

The same can’t be said for the black widow’s food, though…

Black widows are carnivores, feeding on other insects such as mosquitoes, beetles and moths. Once a black widow’s victim gets trapped in her web, she wraps it in silk. When at last she’s ready to eat, she uses her fangs to puncture the victim’s body, injecting it with digestive enzymes designed to liquefy its insides. Then, she uses her fangs like a straw to slurp up the fluid.

FUN FACT: Male black widow spiders are harmless to humans.

So, how can you avoid the black widow’s bite? The best way is simply to avoid the dark, quiet places such as wood piles, rock crevasses, plants and debris where black widows tend to build their webs. Females can be identified by the famed red hourglass shape under the abdomen. If you think you’ve identified a female black widow, leave her alone. By making sure you aren’t perceived as a threat, you will likely avoid a very nasty bite!

Learn more about these spiders by visiting the Greensboro Science Center’s resident black widow in the Discovery House daily from 10am – 4pm!

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