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Wednesday April 16th 2014

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The Dreaded Black Widow (Just how dangerous is her bite anyway?)


Black Widow Female. She's the one with the dangerous bite.

“Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly,” is an often quoted saying.  Whoever originated it may have had this creature in mind.  The mere thought of the Blackwidow causes most of us to pause and even strikes fear in the hearts of some folks.

Contrary to urban legend, Blackwidows (Latrodectus hesperus) do not agressively come out to bite us.  They are shy creatures that prefer to avoid contact with us or any creatures that may pose a threat to them.  If disturbed, as with any spider, Black Widows will flee to a sheltered area and wait until whatever caused it to flee has passed.  (A female with an egg sac may aggressively defend it.)  They tend to inhabit secluded areas, usually low to the ground, where, they are likely to avoid detection.  It is this habit, however, that is the main problem.  Bites usually occur when unsuspecting humans put their unprotected hands, bare feet, etc. in secluded areas, such as wood piles, shrubs & ground cover plants, rarely used boxes, occasionally used personal articles, like boots shoes stored in dark places, etc.  Children’s play equipment can harbor Blackwidows too:  Things like sand boxes, swings, play houses, etc. can have areas where these spiders may hide.  Be sure to wear gloves when working in areas where Blackwidows may harbor.  Check footwear, that hasn’t been used for some time, prior to wearing it.  Periodically check children’s toys and recreational equipment to minimize the chance of an unfortunate encounter. 

Blackwidow Male - Harmless to Humans

It is the female that poses the threat when she comes in contact with humans.  The bite of the Blackwidow may initially inflict a sharp pain or, in some cases, may not be noticed at all.  However,as the  venom spreads through the body, it wreaks can can cause debilitating pain.  Although the venom is not fatal for most people, the very young, the very old those with hypertension, allergies to venom, compromised immune systems and other weaknesses may be at risk of serious illness or death.  It is important for anyone who has been bitten, regardless of age, to seek immediate medical attention.

Photo use licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

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