How to Keep
Your New Black Widow Spider
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Pet World Visit
Female black widow hanging in typical belly up position. Good "hourglass" shot.
Origin: Black widow spiders grow all over the United States (except Alaska) -- mostly in agricultural areas. I'd never seen one in real life until a large grocery chain called Aqualand and asked me to pick one up at their produce department Sunday, October 28, 2007. It came in with a shipment of muskmelons. They captured two (which they threw together). The one above ate the other one -- no professional courtesy whatsoever.
Size: For us tarantula fans, black widows stay pretty small -- some 0.5 to 0.6 inches. The males stay about half that size. Her leg span measures about 1.5 inches. Her small size means she can lurk in any pile of rubbish waiting for unsuspecting prey. Rick says when he lived in Oklahoma, he found small lizards in their webs. Black widow spiders used to bite more people on the butt before we switched to indoor plumbing in Des Moines. So, those two-holers provided an excellent source of fresh flies on a daily basis. You'd think that the nests of wasps up in the corner would help control the black widow population. Ain't ecology great?
Temperament: When feeding tarantulas, you expect instant action when you drop in a cricket. Tarantulas will often catch the crickets in the air. Not so with the black widow. They're primarily nocturnal so she ignored the cricket we offered. She was placid except when the cricket actually bumped into her. The cricket trashed the rudimentary web she was reposing within. She still pretty much ignored him.
Nocturnal Diner: Black widows apparently prefer to dine fashionably late. When we checked her the next morning, she had taken care of the cricket. Widows either disable their prey with webbing or with their venom. They then inject a substance which turns their prey into a spider Slurpee. She's been within my purview for only two days and already seems to have grown.
Diet: Latrodectus species eat insects, other spiders, and apparently any other critters small enough to overpower. Since we have thousands of crickets she'll be on the LA chirper diet for a while. We'll try mealworms later -- maybe even a superworm..
Temperament: She stays nearly immobile during the day with her well known hour glass warning off potential intruders.
Omar, Bakersfield, CA, January 13, 2008
A: Thanks for the extra info. I'm adding it to my black widow page. LA
Footing: Black widows sport very long legs. You see them most often in Halloween decorations. She apparently can't clamber up the clean walls of the plastic Deli container. However, overnight she attaches bits of web that enable her to come up the walls at will. Wiping the webbing off the sides keeps her mostly on the first floor.
Neurotoxin: Black widow spider venom is 15 times stronger than timber rattlesnakes according to most venomometers. Luckily they crank out little bitty quantities -- plenty strong enough to make you very sick for a couple days. You won't like it but it won't kill you.
Intriguing Side Effect: Her venom causes priapism -- look it up. The cure? Calcium gluconate. You won't find this info on the "web." Use it carefully.
Fear Factor: Even tarantula people fear black widows. They're really not much of a threat. You'll probably never even see one. That's part of their modus operandi -- they don't want you to see them.
Breeding, etc: Black widow females evidently often eat the males. We assume that this female is fertile and will make an egg sac. We'll keep our eyes peeled.
Eulogy: Black widow spiders have a possibly bad reputation. But it would be wise to remember that crickets also bite. It will be tough for us to locate a leading lady for a sequel. LA
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