Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus mactans

Average life span in the wild: 1 to 3 years
Size: 1.5 in (38 mm) long, 0.25 in (6.4 mm) in diameter

Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider

Weight: .035 ounce (1 gram)
Group name: Black widow spiders are considered the most venomous spiders in North America.

Texas has two venomous species of spiders, the black widow (Latrodectus mactans) and the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa). Both of these species of spiders can be found indoors and outdoors through out the State. The female black widow can be identified by its jet black color, globular abdomen with a reddish or yellowish hourglass on the underside. Male, black widow spiders are smaller, brown and nondescript. The black widow spider is aptly named because the female usually eats the male after mating. The venom of the black widow is a neurotoxin and can lead to severe systemic reactions and in rare cases, death. The black widow’s venom is reportedly 15 times more toxic than the venom of the prairie rattlesnake. However, only a minute quantity is injected with each bite. The most severe reactions occur in children and older adults. Black widow spiders can frequently be found in woodpiles, boxes, outdoor toilets, meter boxes, under eaves, and other undisturbed areas.

Symptoms of Envenomation by Spiders
The severity of a victim’s reaction to any spider bite depends on the area of the body bitten, the amount of venom injected, depth of the bite, the victim’s age, and other factors. Additionally symptoms usually differ between black widow bite victims and brown recluse bite victims. Many times, the bite of a spider feels like a pin-prick and may not be noticed by the victim.

General Black Widow Spider Envenomation Symptoms

  • abdominal cramping
  • abdominal rigidity
  • convulsions
  • headache
  • lesion at site of bite
  • nausea
  • pain
  • profuse sweating
  • tremors
  • unconsciousness
  • vomiting

First Aid for Spider Bite Victims
Antivenom is generally not prescribed for black widow envenomations. Although an antivenom for the black widow is available, it has a high probability of an anaphylactic reaction and is used only in extreme cases. There is no effective antivenom available for brown recluse envenomation victims. All spider bites posses the potential for a secondary infection and should be washed thoroughly with soap and water or an antiseptic if available. If possible, the spider should be captured for positive identification. An Ice pack may be applied to alleviate pain and swelling in the bite area. First Aid is of limited help so you will need to contact the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-POISON-1 (1-800-764-7661) or your family physician for information about treatment. In severe cases, where the victim has systemic reactions, the victim may be hospitalized and the physician may administer cortisone-type hormones, muscle relaxants, or pain relievers.

Spider Bite Prevention
Prevention is the best treatment of all for spider bites.