The Black Widow Spider is the largest and best known of the Cobweb Weavers. Cobweb weavers are spiders that spin webs to catch their prey. They use their webs to ensnare prey. They then wrap their prey in silk and pierce the prey with their fangs to kill them.
Some Cobweb weavers suck the juices from their captured prey until they are dry and dead. The black widow spider injects poisonous juices into its victim. The juice liquifies the victim and the black widow sucks up its prey.
Black widow spiders like other cobweb weaver spiders have jagged hairs or bristles at the end of their fourth leg; these bristles are used to help wrap the prey in silk. The silk produced by black widows and other cobweb weavers is very strong; it can bend and stretch without breaking.
A female black widow spider is about 1½ inches (3.8cm) long. The male black widow is smaller. Both have a shiny black body. The adult female black widow has a red hourglass-shaped marking on the underside of its bulbous abdomen.
The female black widow has a powerful venom used to kill its prey. The venom is said to be 15 times more deadly than a rattlesnake’s. The black widow kills and eats flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars. Because the black widow is so small, the venom it injects is rarely fatal to an adult human.
Male widow spiders sometimes die after mating. It is not out of the ordinary for the female to then eat the male, hence the common name, black widow.
The scientific name of the black widow spider is Latrodectus mactans.