The Black Widow spider is one of the most dangerous and venomous creatures on earth. The name of the species means “black widow”. It fully justifies itself and is due to the ability of a female to eat males after mating. For humans, spiders are also a great danger, especially females who have reached a period of gender maturity. They tend to move very quickly.
It has been scientifically proven that the venom of this spider is 15-20 times stronger than the venom of the most venomous snake. Males are much smaller and unable to bite through human skin and cause harm. This type of spider is very often associated with mysticism. This is due to the presence of thirteen red spots on the body of the spider.
Origin and Characteristics
Black Widow belongs to the arthropod arachnids. The exact period of origin of the ancient ancestors of modern spiders is quite difficult to establish since they do not have a shell, and the chitinous layer is destroyed rather quickly. However, scientists and researchers still manage to occasionally find such finds. Most often, the remains of the ancient ancestors of modern spiders were preserved in amber. The discovered finds made it possible not only to recreate the external image of the ancient ancestor of arthropods, but also to obtain whole pictures in the form of a frozen mating process, or weaving a web.
Ancient amber finds allowed scientists to conclude that spiders already existed about 300 – 330 million years ago. On the territory of modern China, scientists managed to find fossils of ancient arthropods. In these finds, the shapes and structure of the body of insects were very clearly traced. It was in this area that the remains of the most ancient spider Attercopus Fimbriunguis were found. The ancient representative of arthropods was small, not exceeding five millimeters, and a long tail, which was about a fifth of the length of the body.
It was used by insects to excrete sticky filaments. They were involuntarily isolated and used by ancient spiders for lining holes, wrapping cocoons, and attracting individuals of the opposite sex. Ancient arthropods of that time had a slightly different body structure. In addition to the presence of a tail, which is absent in modern insects, they had incompletely fused head and abdomen.
Presumably, the first spiders appeared on Gondwana. With the formation of Pangea, they rapidly began to multiply and inhabited almost all parts of the Earth. Subsequent ice ages somewhat reduced the regions of arachnid habitat. These insects were characterized by a fairly rapid spread and modification. At the beginning of the Carboniferous, they tended to lose the division of the cephalothorax and abdomen. Scientists claim that the remains of spiders, which date back to 150-180 million years, allow us to conclude that the arthropods of that time were practically no different from modern spiders.
Black Widow looks like a medium-sized spider. Females are much larger than males. The female grows to be 2 cm in size, while the male is only 0.7 cm in size. Black Widow looks rather unusual. The spider has a black body, and on its abdomen, it has red or orange spots of various shapes. Both the male and the female have this color. Sometimes there may be a white outline around the spots. Often, upon reaching maturity, the spider can turn completely black without spots.
Black Widow lives in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Afghanistan, along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa, southern Europe, and Ukraine. In especially hot periods, this spider can migrate to the northern regions, but in such areas, the Black Widow lives only before the onset of winter. The most favorable living conditions for the spider are those areas where the summer is hot and autumn is warm. Black Widow lives in desert and steppe zones, on wastelands, salt marshes, ravine slopes, and abandoned buildings.
Black Widow Bite
Black Widow venom is strong enough that a bite can be fatal. Fortunately, Black Widow only attacks if disturbed. Spider venom affects both animals and humans. The bite is invisible immediately and manifests itself within 10-15 minutes. During this time, the poison has already spread throughout the body and the first signs of toxic poisoning begin to appear. Bite symptoms begin with burning pain that spreads throughout the body. Usually, patients complain of severe pain in the chest, abdomen, and lower back. Also, a spider bite has the following symptoms: increased heart rate, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, headache, trembling, vomiting, sweating, bronchospasm, and urinary retention. In the later stages of poisoning, a person begins to darken their consciousness and delirium. Fatal cases have been reported in humans and farm animals that have been bitten by this spider.
Experts say that people with strong immunity will tolerate the Black Widow bite more easily than those who are weakened by diseases or allergies. It should be remembered that the greatest concentration of venom in spiders occurs during the mating season and after laying eggs; in other seasons, the bites are less terrible. Males, in principle, do not pose a danger, since they do not have poison and, due to their small size, cannot bite through the skin.
An anti-venom serum is used to neutralize the action of the Black Widow poison. Also, intravenous novocaine, calcium chloride, and magnesium hydrogen sulfate are administered, which give positive results. If it is impossible to get medical help, you should cauterize the bite with a burning match. But this must be done no later than 5 minutes after the bite. You can also cauterize the bite with a hot metal object. Since the spider bites through the skin to a depth of only 0.5 mm, the poison that did not have time to be absorbed is destroyed by heating. But even after moxibustion, you need to seek medical help.
The Black Widow feeds on insects that enter its nets. These are usually those species of arthropods that directly live in the neighborhood of the spiders themselves:
- flies and horseflies.
It is interesting that the victims of spiders come across horizontally stretched webs. At the same time, the web does not differ in the grace of circular lines but is made, as it were, randomly, but at the same time, it is very viscous and does not give the insect that has got into it any chance of salvation. A caught insect is paralyzed by a spider with poison and then sucks out its liquid tissues.
It is interesting! Did you know that spiders have blue blood. It turns out that not red hemoglobin, but blue (copper) hemocyanin is responsible for the formation of blood in them!
In the summer, spiders, having found a secluded place, begin mating games. The male makes a patina, aromatizing it with his pheromones to attract the female. As noted above, after mating, the male is mercilessly eaten, and the female begins to look for a secluded place for arranging a clutch, in which she places up to 130 eggs.
Unlike other arachnids, the Black Widow female forms two to four cocoons in which she lays eggs. For egg-laying, she uses rodent burrows or similar secluded places. Here she weaves a web, to which she hangs her cocoons. With the onset of the autumn cold, the female dies, not much outliving her eaten husband.
Eggs in a cocoon are reliably protected from cold weather and easily endure winter, and in spring they begin to struggle for existence. In autumn, the wind tears off the cocoons from the cobwebs, and the clutch begins its journey across the steppe, thus expanding the habitat of the species.
Spiders appear quickly, within 10-15 days, depending on the weather, but they do not leave the cocoon but live in it until next spring. At first, they feed on the supply of food that nature has laid inside their bodies, then they switch to cannibalism, as a result of which only the strongest individuals are selected from the cocoon. During spring and summer, they grow, living several molts during this time: males – seven times, females – nine times.
Natural Enemies of the Black Widow Spider
Despite the fact that these spiders are considered one of the most dangerous creatures on earth, they have enemies in their natural habitat. The greatest danger for them is represented by herd ungulates, since they trample not only the arthropods themselves in huge quantities, but also their cocoons with eggs.
In addition to ungulates, the enemies of spiders are the sphex wasps. They attack arthropods in a similar manner. Wasps have a special gland that produces poison, which they inject into spiders, immobilizing them. After that, the insects calmly eat the black widow.
Another enemy of poisonous and dangerous arthropods is horse riders. They lay their eggs in arthropod cocoons. Subsequently, the larvae that appear eat small spiders. It is impossible not to note one more enemy who is also capable of eating Black Widow in large quantities. These are hedgehogs. They are absolutely not afraid of attacks from these insects, as they are reliably protected by a shell with needles.
In some regions, a decrease in the number of this species of spiders is caused by human activities associated with the destruction of rodents, as well as the use of insecticides of chemical origin.
Population and Status
To date, scientists are confident that the Black Widow population is not threatened. In some regions, their numbers are even too large, and their habitats are constantly expanding in a northern direction.
In some regions, in which spiders behave especially actively, penetrate the dwelling, or get very close to humans, it is recommended to use means of protection and fight against them. People are trying to protect their homes in all known ways. The poison of arthropods is especially dangerous for children, the elderly, weakened patients, or allergy sufferers. The difficulty lies in the fact that a person does not always feel the bite of an insect, and after 15-20 minutes from the moment the poison enters the body, serious manifestations begin. The sooner medical assistance is provided to the victim and the serum is administered, the more chances of recovery are.
The Black Widow is one of the most poisonous and dangerous creatures on earth. However, it is worth remembering that a spider does not attack a person on its own initiative. He attacks only when danger approaches.