Currently viewing the category: "Black Widow"

gold black widow???
Location: fontana, CA(50 miles from the coast, east of Los Ageles)
November 28, 2011 8:04 pm
Hello bugman,
I found this spider in my property it is the second one I’ve found. I did some research and it apears it might be an African species, it was hidding in a funnel like web, its cream color, and the hour glass underneath appears to be orange in color. Can you correct me in my identification? or did I got it rigth?
Signature: bajaboy28

Brown Widow

Dear bajaboy28,
You are correct.  This is a Brown Widow,
Latrodectus geometricus, a species native to Africa that has become naturalized in much of the southern portion of the United States.  According to BugGuide:  “Found around buildings in tropical climates.(1) However, it is an introduced species and is the most human-adapted of the species occurring in the South Eastern US. Its webs may occur anywhere there is sufficient space to make one. It may be extremely abundant on houses and other man-made structures (e.g., barns, fences, guard rails, bridges). It reproduces frequently and disperses rapidly, making it nearly impossible to control.”  BugGuide indicates this about the bite:  “It is recognized that this particular species of widow is most likely not medically significant (not an immediate medical concern to those who are bitten). (Net Ref (4)) The brown widow produces clinical effects similar to that of the black widow but the typical symptoms and signs being milder and tending to be restricted to the bite site and surrounding tissues.”

I’m freaked out. There were two of them.
Location: Souther California
October 27, 2011 9:41 pm
I just moved to L.A. I didn’t have much furniture so I ran to the Goodwill and grabbed a rolling cabinet for the kitchen. That was last week. And today I was greeted by two of these terrifying creatures. I’ve been searching and searching online and am beginning to get suspicious. Some places say it’s harmless, some say it’s an immature female black widow. What is it?? Can it hurt my cat?
A picture of its top and its bottom.
Signature: Freaking Out

Immature Black Widow

Dear Freaking Out,
This is an immature Black Widow, most likely the Western Black Widow.  They are quite common in Southern California.  They are not aggressive.  They rarely leave their webs.

Immature Black Widow


How big can black widows get?
Location: Sanford, NC
August 26, 2011 10:52 am
My husband was moving the basketball hoop in our yard (getting ready for the huricane), when we spotted this huge spider with an even bigger egg sack. she was the size of a dime and her sack more like a nickel. The biggest spider and sack we had ever seen. Under the hoop was also 3 other large sacks and 2 smaller black widows. We did exterminate them, as our 4 children & small dog play in that area with no shoes on. My question is: how big can black widows get? I did not know that they got this large! Thank you
Signature: Keriann

Northern Black Widow

Hi Keriann,
The red spotting on the back of this mature Widow identifies her as a Northern Black Widow based on the information contained on BugGuide.  We have seen adult female Western Black Widows with abdomens nearly as large as a marble or a small grape.  These are mature females that are most likely filling with eggs.  While we feel badly that you have exterminated several Black Widows from your basketball court, we fully understand your concern for your children and pets.  Black Widows are not an aggressive species, and they are rarely found far from their web, unless they have been disturbed.  We once allowed a Western Black Widow to keep her web by our porch light.  We knew she was there and we were not concerned about getting attacked.  You would be much safer to fully educate the children regarding the dangers of being bitten by a Black Widow and ensuring that they learn to recognize them.  If you killed three individuals in your yard, there are most likely more to be found in hidden locations and you will probably not be able to eliminate them all.  We hope Hurricane Irene steered clear of your area.

The Big 5 are five potentially dangerous bugs.  Though we do not by any means endorse any wholesale extermination of the creatures on this list, we would caution all of our readers to treat these guys, though more are actually gals, with the utmost respect.  They will all bite and or sting, and they are all venomous.  There are no doubt deaths that can be associated with most if not all of them, though we would also add that the death to survival rate is very low.  We would now like to introduce you to The Big 5, though we expect that there will eventually be more than five creatures so tagged.

#1:  Tarantula Hawk
It’s really big, it flies, it announces itself with a buzz that sounds like a small airplane, and it advertises with aposematic coloration (orange and black), an it has a really big stinger, at least the female does.  There are not many creatures that can take on a Tarantula and win, but the Tarantula Hawk seems to have no problems perpetuating the species by feeding upon the meat of a tarantula during its formative period.

Tarantula Hawk

Update:  August 9, 2011
We just received this comment on a Tarantula Hawk Posting:
“Went back to the location where I took the Tarantula Hawk Pic hoping to see a bit more. Saw one dragging a male tarantula along and got to close. You are correct they have a very painful sting, got me on the hand twice. I dropped the camera went back to get it and got zapped again, this time on my calf. Being handicapped and unable to run, though I did a fairly good impression of all three stooges melded into one trying to make my escape, I will take appropriate measures next time I try to get that close to something and its food. I almost had to have my ring cut off my hand it swelled up so fast. The only pics taken that day were of me after a shot of benadryl, not so hilarious pics taken by my ‘firends’ while I was passed out from the benadryl and drooled on the sofa. Those stings are about on par or worse with the few scorpion stings I have had in the past. A regular wasp or bee sting pales in comparison. I am just glad that I did not have a very severe allergic reaction. So be warned do not attempt to get to close to these flying strike force wasps once they have their prey in ‘hand’.”

#2:  Bark Scorpion
Bark Scorpions in the genus
Centruroides are among the most dangerous North American Scorpions.  Here is what BugGuide has to say about the sting of several species of Bark Scorpions:  “The sting of most scorpions is not serious and usually causes only localized pain, some swelling, tenderness and some discoloration. Systemic reactions to scorpion stings are rare.
The sting of one of our scorpions, however, Centruroides sculpturatus(until recently thought to be the same as Centruroides exilicauda), the Arizona Bark Scorpion, can be fatal. Most healthy adults are not at significant risk- only children, with their smaller body size, are in danger (treatment with antivenom has pretty much put a stop to deaths where available, but bark-scorpion stings should still be taken very seriously). The site of the sting does not become discolored.  Another scorpion known to have an intense sting is Centruroides vittatus, but no deaths have been attributed to it directly.”

Bark Scorpion

#3:  Red Headed Centipede
Most of our reports of Red Headed House Centipedes,
Scolopendra heros, come from Oklahoma and Texas and they are reported to grow as large as 8 inches in length.  All Centipedes have venom, but the Tropical Centipedes in the order Scolopendromorpha are generally considered the ones with the most virulent venom.  There are several subspecies of Scolopendra heros, and there are also numerous color variations.  Not all individuals have a red head.

Red Headed Centipede

#4: Black Widow
With her glossy black body and red hourglass marking, the Black Widow Spider is an icon of warning coloration.  The venom of the Black Widow is a powerful neurotoxin, and according to Emedicine Health, it is described as:  “Local pain may be followed by localized or generalized severe muscle cramps, abdominal pain, weakness, and tremor. Large muscle groups (such as shoulder or back) are often affected, resulting in considerable pain. In severe cases, nausea, vomiting, fainting, dizziness, chest pain, and respiratory difficulties may follow.  The severity of the reaction depends on the age and physical condition of the person bitten. Children and the elderly are more seriously affected than young adults.   In some cases, abdominal pain may mimic such conditions as appendicitis or gallbladder problems. Chest pain may be mistaken for a heart attack.   Blood pressure and heart rate may be elevated. The elevation of blood pressure can lead to one of the most severe complications.   People rarely die from a black widow’s bite. Life-threatening reactions are generally seen only in small children and the elderly.”


Black Widow

#5:  Cowkiller
The Cowkiller is a female Velvet Ant, a flightless wasp that is alleged to have a sting painful enough to kill a cow.


Runner-Up:  Creechie
Unlike the Big 5, the runner-up, the Paederus Rove Beetle, does not bite or sting, but it can cause an horrific skin reaction by merely touching it.  Most of our reports of Creechie (African name) where it is also called the Acid Bug, AKA Cari-Cari in Malaysia, Potó in Brazil  and potentially Bicho de Fuego in Panama, come from tropical countries.  Though most of our reports of Paederus Rove Beetles have come from Africa, Asia and South America, we did receive a report from Arizona two years ago and one from West Virginia in 2008 in December which we imagine means Creechies can survive the cold.  Paederus Rove Beetles also sport aposematic coloration.

Creechie in Camaroon or Cari-Cari in Malaysia

 Runner-Up:  Muskmares
Walkingsticks in the genus Anisomorpha are commonly called Two Striped Walkingsticks or Muskmares. The second common name is due to the frequency that these Walkingsticks are found in the act of mating.  These Muskmares are capable of spraying a noxious substance with great accuracy over some distance, and they are good at hitting the eyes of a potential threat.  The effects wear off shortly, but will cause the eyes to water and blur as well as sting.  The latest information posted to BugGuide has the potential for harm as more serious:  “Members of this genus can deliver a chemical spray to the eyes that can cause corneal damage.” 

Mating Muskmares

Update:  August 10, 2014
Runner-Up:  Asp
A comment today has prompted us to add the Asp, or Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar, to The Big 5 tag.  This stinging caterpillar is reported to have a very painful sting.

Asp or Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar

Asp or Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar


black widow with bess beetle
Location: Garner/Raleigh NC
April 28, 2011 6:49 am
Greetings! I don’t often have anything to post, but here’s some shots I took this morning of a black widow spider that lives in a crack in the brick mortar outside the front door of where I work in Garner, NC. I noticed the web some time ago, but couldn’t tell what was in there until it came out to ’web up’ this rather large meal of what I believe to be a Bess beetle. Sure do hope it doesn’t decide to come inside!
I apologize that the one pic of the front came out so blurry, but I had to put the camera down on the ground to take it & couldn’t see the screen. I included it anyway to possibly help identify age, as I know the spots on the back mean it is younger.
Really enjoy checking out your site, and have had many chuckles over some of your replies to those ’challenged’ posters who don’t quite get the spirit of your site. Rock on!
Signature: thank God for macro lens

Black Widow Eats Bess Beetle

Dear tGfml,
We are really impressed with this incredible Food Chain documentation.  We agree that the prey is a Bess Beetle, one of the few insects that actually has family values where adults care for and feed larvae.  Both adults and larvae are capable of making sounds by stridulation and it is believe that the sounds are a form of communication.  BugGuide has a very informative page devoted to this family of interesting beetles.  When the Black Widow matures, she will lose all of her red spots and only the red hourglass marking under her abdomen will remain on her otherwise glossy black surface, making her a strikingly distinctive creature.  Black Widows are shy, hiding by day, though they can often be found in the open in their webs once darkness falls.  Though they are not aggressive spiders, readers should treat Black Widows with respect as their neurotoxic venom is quite potent.  Again, BugGuide has a marvelous information page on Widow spiders.

Black Widow eats Bess Beetle

Brown Widow catches a solifuge
Location: Masai Mara, Kenya
January 11, 2011 11:44 pm
Hi Daniel,
A while ago, I sent you a picture of a tiny little solifuge that we weren’t able to identify. The other day, I watched the same solifuge (or at least one of the same species) running across the floor of my tent to the corner behind my toilet. It was the wrong corner to run to, as there’s a resident Brown Widow (Latrodectus geometricus) that lives behind my toilet. This was the result. I got a few more pics, but they were all out of focus as I was to excited to hold the camera steady.
Signature: Zarek

Brown Widow eats Solifugid

Hi again Zarek,
Thank you for sending us documentation of this awesome Food Chain encounter, a Brown Widow ensnaring a Solifugid.