Black Widows: A Dark Menace
Arizona is home to many different fearsome creatures, some of which have fangs and stingers, and that creep, crawl or slither. The black widow spider is one of the most common inhabitants of the valley which contains 22 different kinds of these arachnids.
The Black Widow is a creature that receives its name for its particular reproductive pattern and cannibalism: females, which are larger and stronger than males, eat their mates after copulating. These females can be easily identified by their characteristic 1.5-inch-black bodies with a red dual triangle-shaped mark on their abdomen. Males are smaller and weaker as their only function is to inseminate the females. Black widows search for dark, cool places to build their spider webs and lay their egg-sacs, usually on corners, on the floor, under patio furniture, around a barbecue, inside mailboxes, toys lying on the floor, and also in the outdoors, inside shrubs or vines. Black widows spread very fast as a female can lay up to 750 eggs (inside up to 9 egg-sacs) several times throughout summer. However, only some of the spiderlings survive, as the fittest prey on their weaker siblings.
Contrary to popular belief, these spiders actually hide from humans and do not attack unless they feel their shelters or offspring are being threatened. In case someone accidentally puts their hand in a black widow’s web, the spider will automatically bite that person. Black widow bites consist of two red spots that mark the area where the spider pierced the skin and injected the neurotoxin into the nervous system. The symptoms are mainly pain, muscle cramps, nausea and in extreme cases, trouble breathing. In order to prevent these unfortunate encounters, it is useful to learn how to identify these venomous spiders and to keep the house and surrounding vegetation clean and free of debris and clutter.
Though black widows are the deadliest spiders in the USA, they inject a little amount of venom when they bite a human, so people do not generally die from these bites. Nevertheless, if you are bitten by a black widow, call the local authorities immediately for help. In order to keep these creatures away from your home, make sure you keep others pests away, such as crickets, roaches, and mosquitoes, their favorite meals. In cold weather and drought, black widows look for refuge indoors, so make sure you keep your floors free of clutter!