Since it’s October, we’ve decided to continue our tradition of introducing you to a creepy beastie. Last year’s house centipede was alarming, but now let’s look at what may be the most widely-recognized “bug" in North America. Today, we’ll discuss facts about black widow spiders and what homeowners in Knoxville and the surrounding counties need to know about keeping themselves safe.
Probably almost all of our readers have at least seen a picture of a black widow. But, just as a review, you can identify a black widow by its bulbous, round body that is shiny, black, and hairless. They have thin, jointed legs, which are also hairless. Adult black widow spiders have that tell-tale hour glass on their stomachs, which is most famously known to be red but can also be orange, yellow, or even white. We are also seeing a rise of brown widows, which obviously have a different body color but usually still have a bright spot on their stomachs. Black widows prefer to make their webs near to the ground where they will not be disturbed. The webbing is extremely dense and messy; clearing it away with a broom may be difficult because the silk is so strong and sticky.
Black widows are one of the only two dangerous spiders in our area. Although brown recluses are probably more famous for their dangerous bites, pest professionals like those at Russell’s Pest Control consider the black widow to be more of a threat. They can be quite aggressive, particularly when guarding their eggs. Unlike recluses, who produce a toxin that attacks skin cells, black widow spiders produce a neurotoxin. A neurotoxin is a poison that affects the nervous system. This means that the location of the bite itself may show only mild symptoms, but other side effects could be more problematic. Additional symptoms of a black widow bite include nausea, fever, and severe muscle cramps, particularly in the abdomen. Despite the possible severity of these symptoms, black widow bites are very rarely fatal in the U.S. and usually only require observation by a doctor for a day or two.
So, you don’t want to meet a black widow…what should you do? Unfortunately, widows are very common in East Tennessee and are most likely to be found by homeowners in stored items or debris around the property. The crevices in wood piles make great homes for widows as do boxes that are rarely opened in the garage. Keep your wood piles well away from the house, and always wear long sleeves and gloves if you’re going to haul wood to burn inside. In addition, keeping your garage as tidy as possible will also deter black widows from settling at your house. If you’re going to clean out your garage and move old boxes, always wear gloves to protect yourself.
Generally, the position of a good pest control company is that spiders should be preserved because they serve such a crucial role in nature. However, black widows around your house are dangerous, and Russell’s does not recommend that you view them as good neighbors. If you find a black widow at your house, kill it (use a closed-toed shoe, not a paper towel or broom). Widows reproduce very rapidly and can easily have around 350 eggs in one sac. If you think you have a widow problem at your house and want to try to treat them yourself, read the label of your over-the-counter pesticide carefully. Most store-bought products are not labeled to kill spiders and will not do so effectively. There are plenty of people who can’t stand spiders and don’t want to deal with them. We at Russell’s Pest Control understand that completely and would be glad to set you up on a quarterly pest control plan that takes care of ants, roaches, and mice in addition to alarming arachnids. Think about it, and visit us here if you’re interested.