I have a juvenile Southern Black Widow in a jar at my house. She’s very small and has striped legs, a red stripe down the topside of her abdomen and of course, the tell tale hourglass on the underside of her abdomen. I’ve had her now for approximately 3 weeks. I would very much like to keep her but since I have a 10 year old daughter I cannot just let her roam about freely. I don’t want to put her outside because I live in Oklahoma and the temperature is decreasing daily. The jar that I have her in is a gallon glass jar with a metal lid. We’ve poked holes in the lid so she can breathe and put dirt, rocks, leaves and plenty of sticks in the jar. She seems to be content because she has spun a very nice web in there. We’ve fed her a variety of things including flies, little bees and other spiders. She liked all of those just fine but now that the weather is turning much colder it is getting harder to find suitable bugs for her. So, I went to the pet store and bought her some crickets. There is only one problem, the crickets are much bigger than she is and she won’t eat them! Last night she was hanging upside down in her web as she always does and one of the crickets walked right up to her (via a stick) and she retreated. The cricket then stomped all over her web and went back to the bottom of the jar. I have a few questions concerning this amazing spider of mine.
First of all, will she eat the cricket if she’s hungry or is he just too big for her?
Will the cricket eat her?
How often do Black Widows need to eat?
Does she need a fresh supply of water or does she get this from her prey?
If she does need a fresh supply of water, how much?
When will she molt?
When she does, how long afterwards should I wait to feed her again?
I very much adore this spider and want her to live through the winter. Please let me know what I can do to keep this truly wonderful creature alive and well. Thank you!
Misty McClain

Dear Misty,
Thank you for your sensitive letter. I will try to answer all your questions. First, while it is possible for your juvenile spider to feed off of the crickets, the size differential might be a problem. Find out from your pet store what their source of crickets is. You might be able to contact the breeder and get juvenile crickets. Another solution which might be fun for your daughter as well is to raise Drosophila, fruit flies, which can be obtained from a biological supply house for schools, or you can just try to attract the flies to an overripe banana in your kitchen. The fruit flies are very easy to raise as any home maker who has forgotten to remove fruit from the kitchen or fogotten to take the garbage to the compost pile. I always have some fruit flies swarming in my kitchen. Crickets are omniverous, and they might try to eat your spider. Not to be evasive, but your spider will eat when hungry. In the wild, they do not eat daily, but rather when they catch prey. Sometimes this happens several times a day, and at other times it might be weeks between meals. The spiders are resilient. Black Widows are fond of damp dark places but they will not drink water. They get their water from the life giving juices sucked out of their prey. She will molt when she has outgrown her current skin. This happens several times over the course of her life. At her final moult she will achieve the glossy black color that typifies her species. it is also possible that you have a male spider which is colored similarly to the juvenile. I hope this answers your questions, and good luck.

3 Responses to Black Widow

  1. Kimberly says:

    I saw your comment to the black widow question and had to email you. I found this site as I was searching for any other evidence that black widows drink water……………. I have had a full grown black widow for about 3 months now. I keep a shell full of water in the tank for the crickets I put in. I witnessed all the crickets drink from the shell. I had never seen Annabella, the black widow, drink…until today. She has been without food for about 1.5 weeks and I let the water dry up as there were no crickets. Since it was on my mind I decided to put water in the tank as I am picking up some crickets tomorrow. Annabella went straight to the shell and put her face to the water and stayed there for a solid minute. I grabbed my magnifying glass… she was drinking water!!! Her tank will never be without water again. ( just realized the question that I am refering to is 11 years old)

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for sending in your personal observations. We frequently get comments on postings that are many years old.

  2. Johan says:

    Good day,

    My name is Johan. Labuschagne. I am from South Africa . I have got a spider which I believe is a Blacwidow. But I have some doubts. The red marking in its back is not in the form of a hour glass. But it is very prominent and vry red. Also the back side of this specific spider looks very velvety.

    He/ she has the same traits as blackwidow spiders e whole feeling around with its front legs etc.

    It has molted 3-4 times since I’ve had it. Had it for round about 2 months.

    It seems very happy and at home.

    My questions are the following:

    Is it about to die seeing that the back is velvety?

    Is it a male or female? ( it is entirely black besides the red marking and some very very barely noticeable discolouration right behind it’s head)

    Will it die if I let it go since I don’t like wild animals in cages etc?

    Any answers or suggestions will be appreciated and thanks for the chance to ask someone.

    Kind regards

    Johan Labuschagne

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