Currently viewing the category: "Black Widow"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

what is it
Photographed this spider in the rose garden.. Unable to identify.. Hope you can help..
Thank you very much.
Jay Lowrey

Hi Jay,
Beautiful photograph of an Immature Black Widow Spider. She may not be mature, but she can still bite. Be careful.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

beautiful tennessee spider
This is actually a re-posting* so I can provide more information in hopes that you’ll be able to identify this beauty. Picture was taken June 11, 2005, in Crossville, TN (Cumberland Plateau area) in a wooded area. The spider’s body is very shiny black, hairless and a little smaller than dime. I’ve looked everywhere on the web and can’t seem to find it. The Australian Red-back comes close, but what would that be doing in Tennessee?? Hopefully, you can solve this mystery.
Melinda Z
*I showed the picture at a friendly gathering last night and in the heat of the moment, my friend sent you the picture without much info. We all really want to know what kind of spider this is!

Hi Melinda,
Over the years we have gotten letter describing a spider that looked like a Black Widow but with hearts on its back. Yours is the first photo we have received substantiating this. Of course, it does look exactly like a Black Widow, but we could find no information on the Heart shaped markings. So, when in doubt, we wrote to Eric Eaton. Here is his response: “This is indeed a black widow, the Southern Black Widow, Latrodectus mactans. Many females have red markings on the top of the abdomen like this. The hourglass mark is on the UNDERSIDE, so apparently the folks who say there is no hourglass hadn’t looked at the belly of the beast:-) Additionally, Northern Black Widows, L. variolus, have a broken hourglass on the belly, and often red stripes and spots on the back. They are generally smaller than other widow species. Lastly, widows begin as WHITE spiderlings with various darker markings. As they age they darken, but may retain several red markings. Older individuals may have few if any markings other than the hourglass. Female widows may easily live two or more years in the wild. Hope this clarifies. Eric”

Thanks for the quick response. It’s a black widow after all: southern bell!!

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

American Homebody, our mother site, just sent in this photo of a female Black Widow spider spotted in their Jefferson Park offices.

(01/31/2004) Not True but False Widow

Great site!
Have a question about black widows. When we lived in the New Orleans area, we saw several spiders that were black and shaped just like a black widow, but had red markings on the top side of the abdomen.
I have not been able to find anything online that resembles them , and thought you might be able to help.
Mary P

Hi Mary,
First, the red hourglass is on the under side of the abdomen. There is a spider known as the False Widow, Steatoda grossa. Both the true and false widows belong to the Comb Footed Spider Family Theridiidae. The False Widow is a beneficial spider, reported to prey on its more poisonous relative. It also eats Sow Bugs. It is a hardier spider than the true Black Widow. We find them in our yard all the time, and will take a photo the next time.

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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.

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.
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