Black widow spiders are easily recognizable. They’re plump, black, and shiny, with an hourglass-shaped, red mark on their abdomens. Sometimes, this red mark may take a slightly different shape. In other cases, the spider may have red markings on its back too.
This type of spider gets its name from its mating behavior. After mating, the females typically kill and then eat their male partners, leaving them as “widows.”
These spiders aren’t aggressive and only bite when they feel threatened. The bites usually aren’t fatal, but they can still cause some serious and uncomfortable symptoms.
If a black widow spider has bitten you, get medical treatment right away.
Black widow spiders are reclusive and not aggressive. They’ll never seek you out to bite you. Instead, they only bite in self-defense or when they feel threatened.
Black widow spiders live in dark, hidden spots, such as in piles of rocks, leaves, or wood.
These spiders might also hide in a variety of other dark places, such as:
inside your shoes, especially if they’re stored somewhere dark
in piles of unused blankets
in the crevices of porch furniture
between stones in a rock wall
You’ll usually feel the sensation of a minor pinprick when a black widow spider first bites you. You might not realize that you’ve been bitten at first unless you caught the spider in the act. In some cases, the bite might be painful right away.
Symptoms may vary for each individual.
Local pain, redness, burning and swelling at bite site (Some may have minimal pain from the bite itself)
Abdominal pain (pain can be similar to appendicitis) and localized or generalized muscle cramps (stomach, shoulders and back)
Rash and itching
Salivation, tearing of the eyes
Weakness, tremors or paralysis (especially in the legs)
Nausea and/or vomiting
Dizziness and/or fainting
Chest pain (similar to a heart attack)
Respiratory difficulties may follow
High blood pressure
What should I do if a black widow spider bites me?
If you believe you have been bitten by a black widow spider:
Get medical help immediately. Call your doctor, hospital, or poison control center.
Remain calm. Too much excitement or movement will increase the flow of venom into the blood.
Apply ice to the bite area.
Do not apply a tourniquet. It may cause more harm than benefit.
Try to positively identify the spider or catch it to confirm its type.