The symbol of a black spider with a red hourglass mark has become synonymous with death. Most people see black widow spiders and assume they are aggressive, highly venomous creatures bent on human destruction. It doesn't help that nearly a third of the American population has a crippling fear of spiders. It can be said that these creatures are vastly misunderstood, though, and below you'll learn three facts about black widows that may ease your concerns, plus how to control their populations and reduce risks.
1. Black Widows are Shy
Widow spiders come in several varieties. There are about 31 species of widow spiders in the world, and 5 of those live in North America. The most venomous is the southern black widow, which is also one of the most recognizable species, with a large black abdomen and a red hourglass marking. Of all the widow spider varieties in the US none are considered aggressive. These spiders will usually run from human contact and will not seek a fight. Most bites are reported when the spider is trapped against a person's skin because they put on an item of clothing that had the spider in it.
2. Black Widows Prefer Not to Envenomate Humans
Venom costs a spider a lot in terms of energy and time. It's expensive for the spider, and because you are far too large for a widow spider to consume, it is in the spider's best interest to conserve their venom for their prey. Black widows can choose whether to use their venom when they bite and how much to use. So even when bites do occur, some result in no more than an uncomfortable pinprick sensation followed by unnecessary panic. When widows do inject venom, they tend to use very little of the venom they have stored so as to conserve it for their next meal.
3. A Black Widow Bite is Rarely Fatal
In the rare instances that a widow spider is trapped against human skin and chooses to bite, and chooses to envenomate, and uses enough venom to cause illness, the bites are almost never fatal. Symptoms vary based on the age, size, and health of the individual bitten, but in general there is some discomfort and swelling at the bite site, followed by cramping in the back and abdomen, which can be quite painful. These spiders use neurotoxins that disrupt nerve signals, causing spasms that can feel like appendicitis. While it can be extremely uncomfortable, no one has perished of black widow bites in more than a decade.
How to Control Black Widows
If all of the above facts (understandably) still don't make you want to be best friends with black widows, you're probably wondering what you can do to reduce their numbers around your home. It's simple: reduce their habitat and preferred food sources. Black widows are reclusive spiders and prefer to live in undisturbed places like wood piles, undisturbed bushes, and in corners near the ground where humans rarely go. Removing their nesting sites encourages them to seek shelter elsewhere, so cover wood piles, keep debris from piling up in your hedges, and sweep out the corners around your house often.
Widow spiders prey primarily on small insects like mosquitoes (yay!) beetles and other spiders. Keeping your home free of other insects will also help deter black widows from making your casa their casa.
Finally, if you find widow spiders in large numbers in your home, it might be best to call in an expert. While infestations of widow spiders are incredibly rare, their venom does make a gathering of them dangerous for untrained humans to handle.
While your fear of spiders, and black widows in particular may persist, hopefully you feel a little bit better about sharing the world with these creatures. For more information or advice, contact a business such as Eagle Pest Eliminators.