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Category: Pest Rat Control | 02.11.2013
The black widows are characterised by their glossy black colour and large round abdomens with a red hourglass pattern on the underside. These spiders are found in warm dry habitats all over the world but are perhaps best known from the species found in the western USA and the redback spider found in Australia. The name ‘widow’ comes from the reported practice of the female spider of some species eating the smaller male as a post-sex snack! The black widow’s venom is highly toxic, second only in strength to the Brazilian wandering spider.
The venom is a nuerotoxin known as latrotoxin and results in the system wide condition of latrodectism in around 25% of bites. The false widow spiders (Steatoda) are quite closely related to the widow spiders (Latrodectus) and there are definite similarities.

There are however considerable variations between individuals in both species with some true widows being lighter in colour so confusion is still possible.
As the weather gets cooler and wetter the spiders (which have been growing all summer!!) head indoors. There are around 30 species in this group but by far the best known is the black widow spider (although this includes more than one species). The widow spiders are approximately the same size as the false widows, having a body length of around 15mm and a total leg span of up to 35mm.
They are not native to the UK and despite the occasional spider hitching a ride on a boat or plane they have never become established. Only 0.05mg of the venom can be fatal to a human and 36 deaths were attributed to black widow bites the USA alone between 1965 and 1990.

All the black widow spiders are also capable of inflicting a painful bite that is potentially fatal to humans. Where the spiders differ is in their colouration and markings; the false widows have an orangey brown thorax and legs whereas the true widows are black.
The markings on the abdomen also differ with the classic black widow having a distinct red hourglass marking on the underside compared with false widows having various cream coloured markings on the top of the abdomen.

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