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Debunking Black Widow Spider Myths

by | Sep 6, 2017 | Spiders, Tips and Tricks

Black widow spiders have become a symbol of things scary and dangerous. The shiny black appearance and bright red hourglass causes anxiety and fear among people all over the country. But how much of what you know about black widows is true? Let’s take a look at some of the common myths we often hear and hopefully shed some light on the truth about black widow spiders.




Myth: Black widow females always eat their mates.

Truth: Black widows got their name from the belief that the female spider eats her mate. This behavior was observed in laboratory conditions in which the male spiders could not escape. In the wild, however, this behavior is rarely seen. There are three species of black widow spiders in North America, and none of them regularly cannibalize their mates. In fact, cannibalism in the western black widow has never been observed in the wild.

Myth: All black widows have a reddish hourglass marking on their underside.

Truth: Although the hourglass mark is the standard way that people identify black widows, only the adult female has this unique marking. Males and juveniles have yellow and red bands or spots across their backs. Newly hatched black widows are mostly white or slightly yellow.



Attribution By Tanthalas39 (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Myth: Black Widows are extremely deadly creatures.

Truth: It is true that the venom of the black widow spider is extremely toxic. In fact, it is much more toxic than a rattlesnake. That being said, the black widow’s bite seldom causes death. Only the adult female is dangerous, and she injects such a small amount of poison that human mortality from black widow bites is well under 1%. Those few that die from black widow bites are usually the very young, very old, or ill.  Seeking medical attention after a black widow bite is still good practice, but more than likely, there will be no lasting effects from the bite.


Myth: Black widows are aggressive spiders.

Truth: From all of the scary stories that people tell about black widows, you would be under the impression that they are aggressive and go out seeking their prey. That is a false assumption. Black widows are shy and solitary creatures that want to be left alone. They prefer dark, secluded crevices outdoors and dim locations like garages and basements when found indoors. Since they are nocturnal, they are rarely seen during the day. When a black widow does bite, it is usually because they have been trapped or squished while people are moving boxes or clutter near their webs.
While black widows are not as scary as these myths would lead you to believe, they are still a poisonous creature, and as such should be treated with caution. Chances are good that even when you know the truth about black widows, you still do not want them around your home and family. At Midwest Pest Control, we can handle all of your spider problems. We want you to feel safe and confident in your own home. Give us a call today for an inspection and treatment plan.