Fast Facts about Latrodectus Genus: Black and Brown Widow Spiders

 Kevin Brown
  Jan 10, 2019

Latrodectus is a genus of spiders that contains 31 species, including black widow and brown widow spiders. These spiders belong to Theridiidae family and vary widely in size. Female widow spiders are dark colored and have an hourglass-shaped reddish marking on the underside of their abdomen. The bite of widow spiders very rarely results in serious complications.

Behaviour

Widow spiders prefer to construct webs near the ground in dark and undisturbed areas. They hang upside down in the center of the web and wait for insects to get stuck in the web. They feed themselves on mosquitoes, beetles, grasshoppers, flies, and caterpillars. Like other spiders widow spiders also have poor eyesight. They sense vibrations to reach for the trapped prey and to detect potential threats.

Mating

Sexual cannibalism is observed in widow spiders. Female widow spiders kill and eat their male counterparts right after mating more than often. In order to protect themselves male spiders search for a female who has already fed themselves. in general widow spiders are solitary.

Bite

Small widow spiders have strong venom containing the neurotoxin latrotoxin, which causes latrodectism, causing pain, vomiting, muscle rigidity and sweating. Their venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than rattlesnakes. The female widow spider bite is harmful to the humans because they have large venom glands. It causes muscle aches, nausea, and a paralysis of the diaphragm which makes breathing difficult. Their bites do not pose any serious threat to humans. But in the case of children and adults, these bites can prove harmful. Widow spiders are not really aggressive; they bite only while defending themselves

latrodectus spider

Latrodectus Mactans: black widow spiders

Black spiders are active in temperatures of 70 degrees or higher but they are capable of surviving lower temps. These spiders spin irregular webs near the ground at night then they hang upside down in their webs. Black widow spiders make three dimensional tangled cobweb of strong silk. These spiders are found in every US state except Alaska. Outdoors, these spiders are normally found under the stones, in piles of firewood, barns, outhouses and shed. In indoors they prefer to stay in basements, garages, and crawl space.

A female black widow spider can create four to nine egg sacs, each containing around 100-200 eggs in one summer. Widow spiders become mature enough to breed in two to four months. The lifespan of male black widow spiders is about three to four months while the female can live up to 3 years. Natural enemies of the black widow are wasps, centipedes, and mantis. Widow spiders generally feed themselves on insects but their web is strong enough to capture animals as big as mice.

Black widow spiders are not aggressive but female widow spiders can attack while defending their eggs. Their bite can cause fever, increased blood pressure, sweating, and nausea.

Latrodectus Geometricus: Brown widow spiders

Brown widow is slightly smaller and lighter in color as compared to black widow spiders. Brown widow spiders also have an hourglass-shaped mark on the underside of their abdomen like black widow spider but this mark is generally in vivid orange or yellowish color. They have a black and white geometric pattern on the dorsal side of the abdomen which is not present in the black widow. They also have stripes on their legs. Enemies for the brown spiders are Mud Daubers and Digger wasps.

A female brown widow spider can lay around 120-150 eggs per sac and can create 20 egg sacs over a lifetime. The brown widow spider bite is usually less dangerous than black widow spider bite because brown widow cannot deliver the same amount of venom as black widow spider. Effect of the neurotoxin present brown spider venom is generally confined to the bite area and surrounding tissue.

If you ever discover that you are bitten by a widow spider, it is advisable to apply ice pack immediately and approach nearest emergency center with the concerned spider. Identifying the spider will help you get the proper treatment.

Fast Facts about Latrodectus Genus: Black and Brown Widow Spiders

Kevin Brown

Kevin Brown is a journalist at his own start-up, born and residing in Seattle, Washington. He has a knack of reading up newspaper articles and coming up with summaries and points of view, hence taking up a profession similar to his interest. Simply covering events and activities is something he can do as good as a professional, but he seems to enjoy writing on events that need viewpoints and suggestions.

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