Arguably, black widow spiders are best known for giving Spider-Man his powers when he was bitten by one of them! Black widow spiders belong to the genus Latrodectus which also includes the brown widow spiders and other species. Following are some characteristics of this notorious spider :
- These spiders are found on every continent except Antarctica. In North America, they are found in most of the U.S.A. and southern Canada and thrive in temperate zones. Inside homes, they build their silken fiber webs in dimly lit and sheltered locations like garages, dark corners, basements, corners of furniture, closets and other cluttered areas.
- The characteristic image of the black widow is its black body, eight legs and red hourglass boldly displayed across its abdomen. This is specific to the females, though. A male is about half the size of a female and is brown or gray with varied markings.
- The black widow attacks humans only when provoked, and their bite can cause severe pain, burning, swelling, and redness at the sting site. While their bite is not fatal to humans, that cannot be said for the mate of the female black widow; she is known to kill and eat the male after mating — a phenomenon called sexual cannibalism.
- The spider feeds on mostly bugs and is known to paralyze the victim with its venom. The venom of black widows is 15 times stronger than that of rattlesnakes. Once they incapacitate their victim, the widow uses an enzyme to digest it, leaving behind only an empty carcass.