Black widow spiders and Halloween blooms

Thanks to all who voted for the Arc in our attempt to win funds to help finish our greenhouse.  The winner should be revealed shortly.

I was working in my flower beds close to the mailbox Saturday when the mail ran. We were discussing the weather, and I wondered if we were heading for a harsh winter this year as I was finding a lot of wasp nests close to the ground.  She told me that she had been finding more Black widow spiders in mailboxes than usual.  I told her I hadn’t seen any this year.  That was yesterday; today I planted a new variety of designer pansy called ‘Midnight Sun’ and picked up a stack of small pots just outside of the garage to add the new ones too and behold there was a female Black widow with two egg sacks.  I played with her a while trying to get some good pictures of her, especially the hour glass on her belly.  So you won’t be totally grossed out, I included some weekend blooms that I found this weekend plus tonight’s sunset. 

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Black widow spiders generally live in trash, closets, attics, woodpiles, garages and other dark places and make a build non-symmetrical, irregular mesh webs. Five species are found throughout the USA.  Only the female spider is dangerous to humans.  The name Black widow comes from the mistaken belief that the female kills and eats the male after mating. Rarely is the male killed. 

The northern black widows’ range extends from eastern Texas to Florida, north through New England and southeast Canada. The southern black widow occurs from eastern Texas through Kansas, north through southern New England to Florida and the entire southeastern states. The western black widow extends from western sections of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, north to the western Canadian provinces, throughout the western states to the Pacific coast.

What does a black widow spider look like?
The black widow spider is a beautiful shiny, inky black spider with a large round tail segment (abdomen). Including its legs, the black widow generally measures from one-half inch to one inch in length. Red to orange-colored markings, usually in the shape of an hourglass, are found on the underside of the belly.  Males are generally about half the size of females with yellow or red spots or bands on the back or sides.

What are the symptoms of a bite?

No pain is associated with the bite. A black widow spider bite gives the appearance of a target, with a pale area surrounded by a red ring. Severe muscle pain and cramps may develop in the first two hours. Severe cramps are usually first felt in the back, shoulders, abdomen and thighs. Other symptoms include weakness, sweating, headache, anxiety, itching, nausea, vomiting, difficult breathing and increased blood pressure. Young children, the elderly and those with high blood pressure are at highest risk of developing symptoms from a black widow spider bite. In pets, there may be a blanched region surrounded by a red zone.

How dangerous are black widow spider bites?

Only four human deaths were officially attributed to black widow spider bites in the United States from 1960-1969. No one in the United States has died from a black widow spider bite in over 10 years.  However, cats are exceptionally sensitive, with fatality rates estimated as high as 90 percent. If a black widow spider bites a person, do not panic!. Very often the black widow will not inject any venom into the bite and no serious symptoms develop. Wash the wound well with soap and water to help prevent infection.

If muscle cramps develop, take the patient to the nearest hospital. Some victims, especially young children, may be admitted overnight for observation and treatment. There is treatment for a black widow spider bite that can take care of the symptoms. Various medications are used to treat the muscle cramps, spasms and pain of a bite. Black widow spider antivenin is seldom necessary.


A female will produce about five to 10 egg sacs, each usually having between 150 and 250 eggs. After hatching the babies can easily come through a window screen or enter the house through an open door or hitch a ride in on a package.   The best control is to make the area less attractive to the spiders.  Clean up the clutter.  Store firewood away from exterior doors and inspect wood before bringing into the house for hitch hikers.

For more information on Black widows, here is a link to a U of Tennessee pamphlet:

Blackie continues to amaze both my Vet and myself with her recovery after surgery to remove several large bladder stones. Surgery was on a Wednesday and Saturday Levi was running for dear life with Blackie in hot pursuit.

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2 Responses to Black widow spiders and Halloween blooms

  1. Jean says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I will try to make that Pow Wow next year.

    I enjoyed reading your blog and hope your win the contest!

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