Things are starting to warm up outside and the creepy crawlies are starting to come out of their winter slumber.
The female black widow spider is one that has a very unique characteristics of a shiny black body and a red hourglass shape on its underside. The hourglass marking can also be orange-yellow on some occasions. They are considered the most venomous spiders in North America. Although they are extremely venomous, their bite rarely is fatal to humans. Two years ago our Senior Patrol Leader was bit by a black widow as he was cleaning out some rocks at his house. Immediately he was rushed to the emergency room by his mother (which so happens to be our Scoutmaster also). For the next two weeks he was in an extreme amount of pain from the bite. Not only on the point of contact on his skin, but all through his nervous system.
Black widows may be found in dark, dry shelters. Barns, garages, basements, outdoor toilets, hollow stumps, rodent holes, trash, brush and dense vegetation all serve as “home” for this arachnid. During the Christmas holidays we placed out Christmas Tree in the living-room, close to the door that leads to our garage. As we were cleaning up the house one night my wife noticed that there was something in the tree that looked like cotton candy… I took a look and discovered that a female black widow decided to set up camp in the tree! Needless to say, I did not show any Christmas cheer that night and sucked it up with the vacuum.
Male black widow spiders are smaller, lighter in color, usually have pink or red spots on their backs, and are not harmful to humans when they bite. Males typically live for one or two months. Black widow spiders received their name due to the female usually cannibalizing (killing and eating) the male after mating. Which would explain the short life expectancy of the male.
The best way to avoid getting bitten by black widow spiders is to be careful in areas where they like to spend time. Don't play around in rock piles or woodpiles. If you are working outside in the yard in big piles of logs or leaves, wear gloves. Be sure to shake out blankets and clothing that have been stored in the attic or the basement, or if they have been in a closet but not used for a long time. If you are cleaning behind furniture, look carefully behind it before reaching around. If you keep your shoes in a mudroom or garage, shake them out before putting them on.