Latrodectus mactans Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
Of all the world’s spiders, the black widow is probably the most feared and most people are horrified to discover that these spiders are not uncommon in the southern United States.
The southern black widow is found throughout Florida. This spider’s body is about half an inch long and the round, shiny black abdomen has a distinctive red hourglass marking on the underside and a red spot just behind the spinnerets.
Black widows are active at night and are found in dark places, in outbuildings, outhouses, garages, water meter holes, old yard equipment, or anything that has been left undisturbed for a long period of time. The one in the photo above was found under an overturned canoe that had been left on the beach for several months. These spiders are fairly timid and only the female bites humans, usually in defense of their egg case (photo above) or when accidentally pinned against human skin.
The symptoms of a black widow bite usually start about one to three hours after the bite, an include intense pain, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and muscle cramps. Left untreated the symptoms last 3-5 days, but an antivenin is available.
Black widows are named because it was believed that they kill the much smaller male after mating, but this is not true.
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