Black Widow




Range: Most warm climates worldwide

Habitat: Wooded areas

Natural Diet: Insects

Diet at RainForest: Crickets

Size:  1/2"-3/4"

RainForest Facts:  The Black widow is one of the most easily recognized spiders in the world.   Found in virtually all warm climates the Black Widow is recognized to have several sub-species.   The Red Widow is found south of Tampa, Florida in  palm scrub habitat.

Black widow spiders are commonly found around homes, garages, barns and other man-made structures. They build tough, irregularly shaped webs with strands running in many directions. The “messy” looking webs are often found in or behind objects in secluded and protected locations. During the summer they are known to set up house near porch lights in order to make an easy meal of the insects that gather there. They hide during the day and often hang upside down in their webs at night.

The color markings on this species of spider are variable by geography.  The egg sac of the Black Widow is brown appears papery. 


Black widows are the only spiders in the United States with a neurotoxic poison, which means it affects nerves or nervous tissue. The initial bite may feel like a pin prick, and is followed by pain in the vicinity of the bite, muscle aches, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, muscular cramping, sweating, fever and headache. There is usually no swelling of the bite area, but a small lesion may form. Black widow bites are rarely life threatening but can be dangerous for small children or people with chronic health problems.  They also can be dangerous for pets, and are sometimes fatal to small dogs or cats.

Contact with black widows can be avoided or minimized by observing these practices:

  • Be cautious when picking up or moving objects, particularly in outbuildings such as shed or garages, or in shady undisturbed areas such as under parked cars or in flower pots.

  • Although they are not commonly found indoors it is always a good idea to shake out and check clothing before putting it on (for brown recluse spiders and scorpions as well).

  • Manage household, yard and garden insects (roaches, crickets etc.). Lack of food will discourage spiders and force them to move elsewhere.

  • Keep outdoor lighting off as much as possible to prevent luring the insects upon which these spiders feed.

  • Remove collections of paper, boxes, rubbish piles in the house, attic, storage areas, etc.

As a part of the web of life, black widow spiders are as important as any other species including deer and quail. Where humankind is concerned it is pointless to try to label them as good or bad - they are simply part of the natural world. Whether they are a nuisance or beneficial involves individual perceptions and reactions

This little lady has a bad reputation for eating her mate, hence the name Black Widow, but the truth is males are rarely eaten by their partners, in fact in most cases the female simply chases the male away. 


Status in Wild: Stable, listed as least concern on the IUCN list. 


RainForest Adventures zoo, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN