The black widow spider is not a single species but consists of more than 30 species within the genus Latrodectus. The southern black widow or Latrodectus mactans is the most widely known. Black widow spiders are nocturnal and shy. They avoid contact with humans and other animals and socialize only with other black widow spiders during copulation. While black widow spiders are carnivorous and feed off of insects, they rarely eat their males, usually doing so only when near starvation or in captivity.
Black widow spiders generally grow up to one-half inch in length, not including their legs. They are distinguished by a bright red marking on their abdomens that has the appearance of an hour glass. This marking is situated against the background of a jet black body. The black widow spider is considered the most venomous spider in North America. While both males and females are venomous, the female is considered highly dangerous. A female black widow spider's venom is reportedly 15 times stronger than rattlesnake venom.