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Black Widow Spider

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Black widow spiders are one of the most recognizable spiders. The shiny black body and red hourglass marking on the female spider are clear markers of this spider. This fall, whether working in the yard or cleaning out garages, watch out for these spiders. Xing Ping Hu, an Alabama Extension entomologist, provides the following information about black widow spiders and how to manage them.

Bites

Black widow spiders are not aggressive by nature. They only bite when they feel threatened, and even then, not all black widows can cause harm. Only adult and larger immature female spiders are able to use a pair of fangs on their jaws to penetrate a person’s skin and inject enough venom to cause a painful reaction. Anyone bitten by a black widow spider should seek medical attention quickly.

Be Alert

Black widows can often be found lurking in dark, dry, sheltered and relatively undisturbed places. Some of the places you might find these spiders this fall include:

  • stones and rocks
  • basements and crawl spaces
  • garages and sheds
  • jars and tin cans
  • decks and outdoor furniture
  • building supplies and equipment
  • brick veneer and cement blocks
  • hollow tree stumps and wood piles
  • barrels and plant pots
  • old tires
  • trash piles
  • faucets
  • boxes (water, electrical, children’s toys, etc.)

Hu said to be cautious when working in these areas.

“Please always wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when working in the areas where black widow spiders may be hiding,” Hu said.

Management

According to Hu, one of the best ways to discourage spiders from taking up residence is to minimize sites around the home where spiders may hide. The next most important step is to sweep, mop or vacuum spider webs in concerned spots. Vacuuming spiders can be an effective control technique, because their soft bodies usually do not survive the process.

While there are various insecticides registered for spider control, they typically do not yield satisfactory results. This is greatly because the silk of spider egg sacs repels these mostly water based products.

These chemicals are able to kill spiders when direct contact is made. However, control by spraying is only temporary, because the spray residual does not have a long-lasting effect. If a spider-infested area is covered from the elements, homeowners can consider absorptive dust for control. Hu said dust is mostly used in cracks, crevices and enclosed or unused spaces.

More Information

More information about black widow spiders can be found in the Alabama Extension publication The Black Widow, ANR-1039. For further information, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.

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