THE BLACK WIDOW SPIDER is active when the temperature is 70 degrees or higher, but can survive lower temperatures with the right conditions. The black widow spider spins irregular webs, which is built at night near ground level. Once complete, these spiders hang upside-down in their webs.
Bites will only cause localized pain, however, if a substantial amount of venom is injected it leads to pain, muscle rigidity, vomiting, and sweatinglasting 3 to 5 days. The venom of the black widow spider is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s although most people who are bitten by the black widow spider suffer no serious damage. The bite can be fatal to small children, the elderly or the infirm.
These small spiders have an unusually potent venom containing the neurotoxin latrotoxin, which causes the condition latrodectism, both named after the genus. Female widow spiders have unusually large venom glands and their bite can be particularly harmful to large vertebrates, including humans. Only the bites of the females are dangerous to humans. Despite their notoriety, Latrodectus bites rarely cause death or produce serious complications.
Outdoors, black widow spiders commonly live in protected areas like under stones and in firewood piles. They are often found in barns, outhouses and sheds. Indoors, black widows prefer cluttered areas of garages, basements and crawl spaces.
AVOIDING BLACK WIDOW SPIDER BITES
- Reduce clutter in basements and garages to eliminate hiding spots.
- When spider webs are visible, use caution before putting your hands or feet in that area.
- Wear heavy gloves when moving items that have been stored for a long period of time.
- Shake out shoes before wearing them.
- Store firewood at least twenty feet from the home and five inches off the ground.
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