What Kind of Habitat Does the Black Widow Spider Live In?

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The black widow spider, or Latrodectus Hesperus, is the most venomous spider in North America. The females, which are black and shiny with the telltale red hourglass on their bellies, are the most notorious. The spiders earned their name from the females' habit of killing their much smaller male partners after mating. The black widow's reputation as a danger to humans is a bit overblown. Their bites are rarely deadly, and the spiders are quite shy and are more afraid of us than we are of them.

Characteristics

  • Black widows are carnivores, meaning they eat insects and other spiders. They have an average life span of one to three years and, except for the mating ritual, they are loners. Black widow venom is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake's, but less than 1 percent of people bitten each year by a black widow die as a result. Mostly the bite causes muscle aches, nausea and difficulty breathing. Bites are more likely to take the lives of those who are already ill and young children — as well as small animals. Mud dauber wasps eat black widows, but a bird that eats one will die from poisoning. Black widows create strong webs that are hard to break. It is in these webs that they catch their prey, just like any other spider.

Geographic Range

  • Black widows are native to North America but are also found in South America, Africa, parts of Asia and Australia. They tend to live in temperate regions. Three types live in North America, and all are largely similar. The southern black widow is found in the southeastern United States, along the Eastern Seaboard from New York down to Florida, as well as in Oklahoma and Texas. The northern black widow lives in the northeast portion of the country and some areas of Canada. The western black widow is found in western regions and the majority of Mexico. It is common for all three species to overlap each other’s territories.

Favorite Digs

  • Black widows tend to hang out in cool, dark places. Favorite haunts are under houses, under cabinets, under potted plants, behind rocks and any other place that is hidden, cool and shady. Often, people find out that they have a widow under the bottom of a cabinet because they will find remnants of bugs the widow has eaten and discarded on the floor. They can also tell by the thick web that is usually under the cabinet. Black widows are typically not found indoors, except for dark sheds or unused closets. They can also be found under unused patio furniture and under and around pool or patio decking.

Precautions

  • Approach black widows with caution. If moving yard furniture or cleaning a shed, keep a lookout for the telltale web. Shake out shoes left outside before sliding feet into them. The widow is extremely shy and will make every effort to avoid you. It is only when cornered that the spider bites. Never try to pick one up by hand, Use an item with a long handle or a stick to try to relocate the spider if you do not want to hurt it. If you have an infestation of many black widows, it's best to call a professional exterminator.

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