From the monthly archives: "July 2002"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination


Dear Daniel,
I’m sorry to report that my captive black widow has apparently expired, without warning, and before her time (I think), and I’m hoping that you might be able to offer some possible causes of death.
I found this brave arachnid in my house, right next to the front door, where she had constructed a nice web in the corner. This was surprising, because these spiders are typically shy-er and aviod the insides of our home, keeping to the piles of garbage and debris that surround it. I dusted off my spider cage and tossed her in with some sticks, and she set up shop immediately, dispatching every bug I could capture and introduce into her one-spider ecosystem. She ate four flies in about three weeks, and then, last night I caught three June beetles almost at once and decied to toss them all in and see how she’d handle an overabundance of supplies. She caught and wrapped all three in quick succession, then set to work on one, and I went to bed. This morning she was curled up in a ball on the bottom of the cage (see photo). Now there’s a giant bead of clear fluid emerging from her mouth-parts-area, and her legs are sort of clenching up and slowly releasing, over and over.
Could all this be the result of a tainted june beetle? Is she going to suddenly pop out of her old exoskeleton and finish off the three meals left un-eaten in her web? Please advise.
Yours,
Sean Dungan

Dear Sean,
I have never heard of a spider stuffing herself to death, but I guess that is always a possibility. I guess you should just wait and see what happens. Her typical lifespan would be three years, and it is entirely possible that you had a senior citizen move in with you.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Friends;
It’s summertime in the Canyon, so that means it’s bugtime. I killed a number of these over the holiday weekend, but thought I’d take a picture of this lady before I smushed her with a broom.

I would’ve tried to get in closer, but admittedly, I was a little scared.
Chris

Hi Chris,
Thanks for the update on the buggy canyon. Just two days ago I overturned an old piece of wood while planting an oak seedling, and lo and behold, there was a big fat black widow snuggled in a crack on the underside. I gingerly replaced the wood. I have heard it said that there isn’t a house in southern California that isn’t home to at least 15 black widows, despite the actions of paranoid home owners and the attempts of exterminators to eradicate the species from the planet. Though she is a desert creature, the Western Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus hesperus, seeks out dark, cool, and usually damp locations to spin her indefinite web. Look for her in wood piles, hollow stumps, crawlspaces and among refuse stored in garages and attics. The water heater area is often a favorite site. The sexes exhibit pronounced dimorphism, looking like two entirely different species. The male is small and greyish while the much larger female is usually a glossy black, with a red (though sometimes orange or even yellow) hourglass marking beneath her bulbous shiny abdomen. The size difference contributes to her reputation as a man eater. The bite of both sexes is poisonous, and the venom is reported to be 15 times as strong as that of a rattle snake. Though they are not aggressive, preferring to hide in the dark, they occasionally bite people. Avoid contact with the spider and immediately call a physician if a bite occurs. An ice bag should be placed on the wound and the victim should be kept calm.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination