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Black Widow Spiders

Venomous Spiders Are Common in Phoenix

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Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider

© Texas A&M University

Black widow spiders can be found in all four deserts of the American Southwest, including the Sonoran Desert where Phoenix is located. There are different types of widow spiders, and all of them are venomous to varying degrees.

Here in Arizona you are most likely come into contact with the L. hesperus species. You can recognize the black widow spider fairly easily: the female black widow is shiny black, usually with a reddish hourglass shape on the underside of her abdomen. Her body is about 1.5 inches long. Adult males are harmless, about half the female's size, with smaller bodies and longer legs.

See a larger photo of a black widow spider.

Black Widow Spider Facts

  • The black widow is the most venomous spider in the U.S.
  • People rarely die from black widow spider bites, since the amount of venom injected is so small.
  • The adult female black widow is venomous. Males and juveniles are usually harmless, having smaller quanities of venom as compared to the female.
  • The female black widow spider is sometimes referred to as the "hourglass" spider because the red marking on her belly is often in the shape of an hourglass. Sometimes it may look like two triangles.
  • The adult female black widow spider is often easy to see since she hangs upside down in her web, making the red hourglass marking visible.
  • The female black widow sometimes eats the male spider after mating.
  • There are more than 35,000 species of spiders in the world.
  • The black widow spider is nocturnal, and will generally only attack when disturbed or touched.

You will find black widow spider most often in dark, hidden places, like garages, sheds, or woodpiles. Webs are usually near the ground.

The best way to keep black widow spiders away is to keep areas clean and free of webs. The spiders prey on insects like crickets and roaches, so if you regularly rid your property of insects you will have fewer black widow spiders.

If you are working around areas where black widow spiders may be established, like in piles of stored boxes in the garage, or piles of wood outside, wear gloves.

Common insecticides may or may not be helpful. Check all labels before using commercial insecticides, especially if you have small children or pets. When in doubt, contact your local exterminator.

Have you been bitten by a black widow spider? Don't panic, but click here!

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