A southern black widow (<i>Latrodectus mactans</i>) photographed at Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana
A southern black widow (Latrodectus mactans) photographed at Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Black Widow Spiders

Black widows are notorious spiders identified by the colored, hourglass-shaped mark on their abdomens. Several species answer to the name, and they are found in temperate regions around the world.

This spider's bite is much feared because its venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake's. In humans, bites produce muscle aches, nausea, and a paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult; 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. Fortunately, fatalities are fairly rare; the spiders are nonaggressive and bite only in self-defense, such as when someone accidentally sits on them.

The animals most at

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