One of the deadliest spiders in the world is resurfacing in the US – here’s what to look


Scientists and pest control experts are urging residents of Texas, Arizona and other southwest states to stay vigilant as deadly black widow spiders return this summer.

Females of the species can strike with a powerful neurotoxic venom, 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake bite, experts warn, used for defense and to paralyze prey.

The venom, known as latrotoxin, can induce severe muscle pain and spasms, heart issues, abdominal cramps, and can paralyze the diaphragm leading to serious trouble breathing — but it is mostly a threat to children, the elderly and the infirm. 

Entomologists at Texas A&M advised that locals should ‘take precautions when dealing with stored items or working in areas where these spiders might hide,’ specifically, ‘undisturbed sites such as basements and storage areas.’

Scientists and pest control experts are urging residents of Texas, Arizona and other southwest states to stay vigilant as deadly black widow spiders return this summer. A Texas A&M expert advised that the spider likes to hide in 'undisturbed sites such as basements and storage areas'

Scientists and pest control experts are urging residents of Texas, Arizona and other southwest states to stay vigilant as deadly black widow spiders return this summer. A Texas A&M expert advised that the spider likes to hide in ‘undisturbed sites such as basements and storage areas’

The scientific consensus remains that the species is not aggressive to humans unless threatened.

Here’s what you need to know to stay safe as another ‘black widow summer’ descends upon the American southwest.

‘They prefer cluttered areas,’ according to Bryant McDowell, a pest management specialist who runs training and seminars on the topic for Texas A&M university.

‘I have personally come across black widow spiders hanging out in outdoor trashcans, BBQ smoke pits that have been untouched for some time, and underneath patio furniture,’ McDowell said.

Black widows generally prefer to hide out in fortified hiding spots closer to the ground, McDowell explained in an advisory this spring, including under stones, wood piles, holes dug by other animals and hollowed-out tree stumps.

A key sign that there might be a black widow nearby is their uniquely messy webs.  

‘Look for webs that look like they were spun by a very drunk spider!’ explained T.J. Martin, of the University of Arizona’s Cochise County Master Gardeners program.

‘The black widow typically spins a very messy-looking web,’ Martin said, ‘[it] bears little resemblance to the stereotypical neat and symmetrical web of most spiders.’

June is when residents of the state should be most alert to the reemergence of the species in their area, according to a University of Arizona factsheet, because black widows ‘are highly active during hot summer nights.’

Half of all snake-on-spider attacks took place in North America. Pictured: A lined snake killed in web of black widow spider in a building in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Half of all snake-on-spider attacks took place in North America. Pictured: A lined snake killed in web of black widow spider in a building in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Meteorologist Cody Gottschalk told local Polk County, Texas TV station KTRE that he almost accidentally grabbed a black widow just before mowing his lawn this May.

‘I reached for where the handlebar was,’ Gottschalk told KTRE, ‘I noticed something scurrying and sure enough, it was probably the biggest black widow I’ve ever seen.’

Broken Arrow Pest Control owner Daniel Shank told the station that a recent spate of warm and wet rainy weather in East Texas has boosted the insect population on which arachnids like the black widow feed.

‘They’re feeding on insects that are out and about around these areas,’ he said.

Shank’s advise to locals is to always bring a flashlight when searching for these jet black, like many other spiders and scorpions, will reflect light vividly.  

‘They will shine when a flashlight hits them,’ Shank explained.

Pest control experts, health professionals and spider experts agree that the black widow's venomous bite is most a threat to children, the elderly and the infirm. Many health adults, they note, have survived black widow spider bites

Pest control experts, health professionals and spider experts agree that the black widow’s venomous bite is most a threat to children, the elderly and the infirm. Many health adults, they note, have survived black widow spider bites

Pest control experts, health professionals and spider experts agree that the black widow’s venomous bite is most a threat to children, the elderly and the infirm. 

Many health adults, they note, have survived black widow spider bites. 

‘Black widows have always had a bad reputation because they are quite venomous, which is unfortunate,’ according to Francisco Garcia, an insect and arachnid expert and entomology manager at the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado. 

‘But we have to remember that spiders are super important for the environment,’ Garcia said last year.

For many homeowners, however, particularly those with at risk loved ones, experts advise safely removing black widows from their property.

‘I love spiders, I’ll let them do their thing,’ Gottschalk, the Texas meteorologist, said.

‘But when it comes to black widows, we’ll not let that one hang around. That one had to be dealt with.’ 



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