Aug 272008

Wednesday is garbage night in our neighborhood.  One of our two cans is outside.  When I absently reached for it tonight, I put my hand through a tangly spider web, and pulled it back quickly:

Is that…?  Yup, looks like it could be.  Better investigate further.  Hmmm.  Don’t see anything on the outside of the can.  Perhaps under the lid?  Oh, my goodness.  Hello, my lovely:

Yes, folks, it’s one of the baddest girls in all of arachnia:  the black widow.  This one is young, and has reached adult size, but has not lost all of her juvenile coloration.  See the broken red stripe?  That’s actually on the dorsal side of her body, believe it or not.  Black widows don’t develop the familiar ventral red hourglass on an otherwise shiny black body (as exclusive coloration) until full adulthood.  Until then, she can be quite gaily colored, actually:  swirls and spots of blue, red, and even yellow.  (She can still hurt you even then, so be careful.)


Her ventral hourglass is a textbook example.  Not all of them have it, though most do.  If you see a nearly spherical body and those long front legs, you’ve got a widow whether she has an hourglass or not, so behave accordingly.

If she settles down and spins a web toward the bottom of this tennis ball can, I may keep her in the garage for a while.  If she stays poised near the top like this, I’ll release her.  I’m not attempting to feed and water an eternally-lookin’-like-she’s-’bout-to-pounce venomous animal.

Dig:  a black widow bite is a medical emergency.  Do not try to tough it out.  If you think you have been bitten by a black widow, go to the hospital.  This is particularly important for young children, senior citizens, and anyone who is already ill.  Though not likely to threaten the life of a healthy person, the neurotoxic venom produces extremely painful involuntary muscle contractions.  At the ER, you can get powerful muscle relaxants, as well as narcotics for pain.

Black widows are common throughout nearly all of the United States, and they like woodpiles and out-of-the-way corners (like garbage can lids!).  They spin tangly, haphazard webs.  They’re not aggressive, but will bite if they feel threatened.  Don’t reach into such places without thorough investigation.

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 Posted by at 7:28 pm

  16 Responses to “Wednesday widow”

  1. What the hell are you doing catching it? And, have you see that there is now a brown widow, along the gulf coast?

  2. ‘seester: I didn’t know about the brown widow, but I see on Wikipedia that she’s got that same familiar body and legs. Actually that’s what I key on–when you throw juvenile black widows into the mix, the coloration can be so varied that it’s worthless for exclusive identification. Remember the weird-looking red and blue spider that bit Peter Parker in the first Spider-Man movie? That coloration wasn’t far-fetched.

    She wasn’t particularly tough to catch. I gingerly poked near her with a welding rod for a few seconds, and after she rode a web to the ground, it was cake. You just have to remember that they’re deceptively quick, and gauge your movements accordingly.

    I’m between Anastasia and Jezebel for her name.

  3. “If she stays poised near the top like this, I’ll release her.”

    What?! It’s a freakin’ black widow spider… KILL IT!! NOW!! It doesn’t need to be released to breed MORE spiders in the vicinity of our house.

  4. I didn’t say I’d turn it loose in the vicinity of our house. 🙂

  5. OK, she looks like she’s going to camp in the top of the can no matter what, so I turned it over so the top is the opposite of the lid side.

    I’d like to watch her eat once. After that I’ll release her.

  6. I agree with Lea … KILL IT NOW! Yeah yeah … good for the environment, spiders are our friends, curiosity, good lesson for kids, watching nature at work, blah blah blah.

    I’m the daughter of an entomologist. I’ve had enough of the catch and hold phenomenon, thankyouverymuch.


    Oh, and I will no longer just blithely take my trash down to the street in the dark on Wednesdays after class. Thanks for ruining that mind-numbing chore, too. ;->

  7. lol….you guys are funny. Kill the spider Bo 🙂

  8. Tami and Jenny, thanks for the votes. Tonight, Bo tried to convince me the spider should live by telling me that there were probably “50 currently in the yard and the house”. I think the logic was supposed to be that one more wouldn’t matter. I still say a dead one is one less one breeding and adding to the population.

  9. I got to watch her eat a small dragonfly late last night (sorry, Mrs. Chili; it was the insect of opportunity).

    I’ll likely get out to run some errands on Sunday afternoon. I’ll take her with me and release her at an undisclosed location. Lea, I give you my word that said undisclosed location shall be at least five miles from the house.

  10. I’m gonna be more careful when messing with the garbage can from now on. Brown widow?! Great…just one more thing to watch out for when gardening. Does it look like a brown recluse? Been bitten by one of those – definitely NOT fun!

    Jezebel is a fitting name for a spider, even a black widow.

  11. I didn’t realize that 5 fricken miles from your house would mean MY front door!!

    Saterday afternoon I found one remarkable similar to the one in your picture enwebbed (is that even a word) in the upper right of my front door portico.

    The NERVE of you releasing your catch in my yard!!


    My solution to this intruder … and yes, I’m very grateful she was ensconed OUTSIDE my door because I could then lob her with wasp and hornet spray from a goodly distance away. Then I RAN! Her web was way too high for me to safely (let alone do the cootie dance and kill her at the same time) swat at her with a broom or something to get her down to stomping-on-her-during-said-cootie-dance level.

    Finally ventured back out this afternoon to see if the spray worked. I was gratified to see the belly-up and quite dead she-bug on my welcome mat.

    I stomped on her anyway.

    Then thoroughly brushedaway all traces of said webbing.


  12. Uhm … that should be “Saturday” … I is a tech writer and I do myself know how ta spell.

    Typing on a laptop is quite the adventure.


  13. Well, I forgot to take her on Sunday.

    I took her to work yesterday and was going to release her in a stand of trees, but a coworker asked if he could take her home to show his boys. I said sure, just please release her instead of killing her. He agreed.

    So, she doesn’t live at my house anymore. Lea, my coworker lives in the next town. Is that far enough away? 🙂

  14. One down, 49 to go! 🙂

  15. You know how occasionally you will read about some fool who was bitten by an adder or other dangerous animal in their home, and you wonder, “how on earth could something like that happen?” Now, I am starting to have an idea.

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