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Western Black Widow (Latrodectus hesperus)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Western Black Widow

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Image Credit: Hugo B., taken in Apple Valley, CA
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Image Credit: Joy H. from Tucson, AZ
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Image Credit: Terri M. from TX
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Image Credit: Travis K. from Billings, MT
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Image Credit: Travis K. from Billings, MT
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Image Credit: Randy G., taken in the foothills above the Sacramento Valley, CA
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Image Credit: Hugo B., taken in Apple Valley, CA
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Though not as deadly as its relative, a Western Black Widow bite still merits immediate medical attention.

Updated: 03/26/2024; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Though the Western Black Widow is not as venomous as the famous Black Widow most commonly imagined when the name 'widow' is used, this species deserves an equal measure of caution. The Western Black Widow still has a poisonous venom that demands immediate medical attention if one is bitten. Common symptoms right after a bite include (in no particular order): pain at the bite site, sweating, redness at the bite site, difficulty breathing, muscle spasms or tightness, vomiting, a burning sensation and possible chest pain, depending on the person. Medical intervention is necessary to monitor symptoms and ease the severity of them. Most bite victims recover fully after 3-5 days, but some may feel symptoms for weeks after. The female's bite is considered worse than a male's. Neither male nor female are aggressive, and bites are a defensive maneuver, especially if a person is near a nest or egg sac.

The color and pattern of both female and male are effective visual warnings for approaching animals and humans. Females are black, like the typical Black Widow, and have a red, yellow or white hourglass on the ventral abdomen (belly). She becomes shinier and may appear dark brown instead of black as she ages. The male is sandy brown and also has a red or orange hourglass on its belly. The top of its abdomen has a red line or red spots running down the middle. Three diagonal white or pale lines are on each side. The brown legs have black bands at intervals. Females are twice as large as males. Young males and females are similar to each other in appearance. They have many pale or white stripes on them and may be brown, white, gray or black. After hatching, young spiders eventually cast silk into the air and go where the wind carries their tiny bodies.

While males wander around looking for a female, females build sticky webs using spider silk. These webs are low to the ground in fields, or are tucked into corners or open tunnels and pipes in outbuildings or sheds. Use caution when entering such areas and look out for spider webs. Regular cleaning of outbuildings can help deter a Western Black Widow from taking up residence.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Araneae
        Family: Theridiidae
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          Genus: Latrodectus
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            Species: hesperus

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Latrodectus hesperus
Category: Spider
Size (Adult; Length): 7mm to 16mm (0.27" to 0.62")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; red; white; tan; brown
Descriptors: biting; dangerous; poisonous; glossy; bulbous; widow; red hourglass; curve

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 7mm (0.3in) and 16mm (0.6in)
Lo: 7mm
Md: 11.5mm
Hi: 16mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Western Black Widow may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Western Black Widow. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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