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black widow spider
Beware the Black Widow
Source:  National Geograhic Photo Library
Photographer: Bates Littlehales


The Black Widow spider is the most poisonous spider in North America, but only the adult female.

The female Black Widow is easy to recognize (if you care to get that close) by the red hourglass shape on the underneath part of her abdomen.  She has a shiny black body with various types of red markings on the top, depending on the species.  There are about five species of Black Widow spiders in North America.

The black widow will grow to about 8-10mm.

Black Widows will lay up to 400 eggs at a time, but they are known to be cannibals, which means that they will eat each other. The Black Widow has unfairly earned a bad reputation for wanting to eat her mate.  She will only eat her mate when she mistakes him for a meal!

The silk of this spider is known to be the strongest of all silk.  The Black Widow spider does not spin the pretty webs, instead she will spin the thick jumbles looking cobweb.  These webs catch beetles, flies, grasshoppers, moths and other spiders.

These spiders, although a little scary, have enemies, as well.  A few wasps can sting and paralyze, before eating the Black Widow.  She is also a favorite food of the Praying Mantis.  Some birds will eat these spiders but could end up with an upset stomach from her poisons.  The bright red markings on her belly will warn possible predators that she is a nasty meal.


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