black widow?
Hello, we live in Kentucky and found these in our trash bin outside, we assumed the large one was a black widow, but there is a very small one with it on the side, is that a male or another female?Thanks.

Hi Kerry,
Though your photo doesn’t actually show mating activity, we still felt it appropriate for our Love Among the Bugs page. The Black Widow has earned her name because of her reputation for devouring her mate. The tiny male in the upper corner of your photo is biding his time, living in close proximity and waiting to make his move. The male is a much smaller spider. When the time is right, he will move in and if the fates allow, consumate the pairing. Once years ago, I watched a male widow snare his mate by spinning a web around her. This probably kept her still while he did the deed, hopefully allowing him to skulk off into the night afterwards.

Update: (08/31/2008)
Bug Love and the Black Widow.
I just had speak up after seeing this section in bug love.. the problem is MALE black widow’s arnt Black and they have no hourglass shape mark on the abdomin. The are actuly almost translusent. Very small in comparison the the female they are an beige almost. kinda clear looking. Just thought id mention it considering you refer to the other black spider in the picture as a Male… Great site and keep up the good work.

Hi Steve,
WHile what you say is often true, one has only to glance at page after page of Widow photos on BugGuide to see there are several species and much variability within the species, and much confusion on how to accurately distinguish the various species. We searched until we found some support that male Widow Spiders can have an hourglass. There is a series of three images of a very black male spider with red marking on the upper surface as well as a distinct hourglass underneath that are posted to BugGuide. Lee from Cass County, Texas, questioned the hourglass specifically. The identification on that spider is the Southern Black Widow, Latrodectus mactans. BugGuide has not received any submissions of the Southern Widow from Kentucky, where the photo in question was taken, but submissions from Ohio and Illinois would indicate that the Southern Widow ranges far enough north to include Kentucky. Our conclusion that the spider in the photo submitted to our site was a male was based on behavior, that the diminutive male Widow Spider will take up position at the perifery of the larger female’s web until he can attempt mating.

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