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Northern Black Widow

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Other common names: Hourglass Spider; Shoe-Button Spider

Scientific name: Latrodectus variolus

The basics:
The Northern Black Widow spider is considered an “east coast” spider because of it’s natural range. It has been seen from Florida all the way up through the other east coast states up into southeastern Canada. They are usually found in undisturbed woodland areas, rock and stone piles, and any other place where a crack or crevice is suitable for a web. The range for L. variolus is much larger than for the Southern Black Widow (L. mactans).

Appearance / health:
The Northern Black Widow can usually be distinguished from the Southern Black Widow spider because the hourglass on the underside of the abdomen of the Northern is not connected., whereas in the Southern the hourglass is whole but that’s not always the case. Another way to distinguish the Northern Black Widow is by the row of red spots on the upper side of the abdomen as well as whitish color bands. These colored bands are not always seen on mature Widows, they are usually on immature and younger individuals.

Behavior / temperament:
Black Widows are strictly display pets only. They are semi-aggressive and nervous but usually try to flee before taking extreme measures in defense. However, they have a very potent venom and can cause many reactions in humans depending on the age and health of the person who was bit. This spider should only be kept by mature, responsible, non-beginner keepers and should not be handled.

Housing:
Adults can live in a 2-5 gallon tank. Immature and baby Widows may live in small plastic containers with holes in the center stuffed with cotton to provide ventilation. Air holes will be too large, and they will escape. Whatever tank is being used for an adult, make sure it’s in a location where it will not fall and always make sure there is a non-escape lid. They like living up high, so height is better than floor space.

Temperatures should be in a range of 70-80F with humidity levels around 55-65%. Misting the tank once a week will help hydrate the spider. Substrate is not important, but could be potting soil, peat, or vermiculite 1-2 inches deep. Tank décor is important and should consist of branches, vines, sticks, and tall live or fake plants. This will provide good spaces for the Widow to start a web. All items inside the tank should be secure so they do not fall over and injure the spider.

Diet:
Adults will feed on crickets and other insects. Babies should be offered fruit flies and pin head crickets. In the wild, they would also eat other arachnids, moths, wood lice, and other bugs. If catching bugs from outside, be sure they are from a pesticide free area.

Breeding:
Black Widows reproduce sexually, and the male will insert his male parts into the female and will inject sperm into her genital area. Males will spin a sperm web, gather up the sperm and go search for a female. He will vibrate the web to make sure she’s the right species, ready to mate, and if she’s receptive copulation takes place. Males are not always eaten after mating, some are lucky to get away. The female will then lay her eggs on the web and builds a sac that will incubate 20-30 days. After they hatch, it takes 2-4 months for the babies to mature. Sometimes, a non-fertile female will lay a “dud” egg sac.

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