In her very limited spare time, WYSK’s Western US Contributor loves to tend to her bountiful garden and lush yard. Readying herself to dig in the dirt this past weekend, she opened her tool shed and was stopped in her treaded tracks by one of the most feared females on eight legs. She was face to face with a black widow spider, but unlike Little Miss Muffet, our WYSKer was not frightened away.

“I was not positive about her identity when I got very close and snapped this shot. Now I get her awesomeness and will tread lightly,” Christine shared. Initially mesmerized by the arachnid’s globular abdomen, she realized exactly what and whom she was dealing with when she spotted the distinct blood-red hourglass marking on her shiny black body… a dead giveaway that the most venomous spider in North America had inhabited her shed.

“I’ve moved everything, including mice out of my office while my male colleague squealed.”

Nonetheless, our WYSKy, nature loving, Little Miss Muffet was not frightened away. Rather, Christine hatched a “relocation” plan to get the web spinning squatter out of her shed.

Western_black_widowNews of this sent most of us (urbanites and suburbanites alike) following the hair raising saga into a collective concerned panic. “Wear gloves!” “Be careful… that thing can kill you!” “Are you nuts?” “Burn down the shed!” But Christine assured us, “In case you doubt my relocation skills, I’ve moved everything, including mice out of my office while my male colleague squealed.”

Not entirely satisfied, we went into research mode to better understand just what our colleague was dealing with since our knowledge of black widows was isolated to urban legend and Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal in Marvel’s The Avengers.

This is what we found out, which made us more comfortable (mildly) with Christine’s strategy. Sharing the facts here in case anyone has a similar run-in with a female black widow.

  • The black widow’s venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s.
  • The things most at risk from the black widow’s bite are insects – and male black widow spiders.
  • When it comes to humans, black widows are nonaggressive and bite only in self-defense, such as when someone accidentally sits on them or her web is disturbed.
  • However, contrary to popular belief, most people who are bitten suffer no serious damage – let alone death. But bites can be fatal – usually to small children, the elderly, or the infirm.
  • The black widow gets its name from its macabre courtship ritual. After mating, the female often kills and eats the male, explaining the males’ short lifespans.
  • Black widows are solitary year-round except during this violent mating ritual.

PS – Christine’s relocation efforts were successful, via this transport vehicle she rigged up! Her western black widow is now spending her preferred solitary life in the woods. Gardening was safely resumed.


Black widow fact sources: National Geographic, Live Science, imp/ncsu