Other common names: Hourglass Spider; Shoe-Button Spider
Scientific name: Latrodectus mactans
The Southern Black Widow is found throughout parts of the southern United States as well as the central east coast United States. They are usually found in undisturbed areas in forests, shrubbery, hollowed stumps, and are also found in cracks and crevices near human buildings.
Appearance / health:
Mature female Black Widows are the most infamous of the widows. They have the shiny jet black color on their entire body except one area on the underside of their abdomen where a bright red hourglass shape is located. In Southern Back Widows, this hourglass is complete (no separation). Males are always smaller then the females, usually half the size of the female. Males have much different coloring compared to females. Males have longer legs with orange-brown joints with black on the ends. On the males abdomen, there are red and white stripes. Females full grown size is between 1-2 inches, with males being half or less of that size.
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 will cause convulsions, tremors, horrible pains in the abdomen and back, and other reactions. These reactions vary depending on the age and health of the person who was bit. This spider should only be kept by mature, responsible, non-beginner keepers.
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 pretty high, ranging between 75-90F. Humidity should remain low around 55-65%. 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. Mist the tank occasionally, but not so much that it makes humidity levels soar.
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.
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.
voracious appitites, beautiful spiders, experienced keepers, fascinating captives
venomous spider, hazardous spiders, medically significant bite, newer keepers
messy web weavers., egg sacks, bad housekeeper, wild caught insects, low traffic area, small crickets
A beautiful and lazy lady that deserves your respect
As part of a study, I owned a very large black widow procured in an Oklahoma storm cellar a couple years back. I have always loved spiders and used this one as a point of reference for a college paper. I kept her in a super large bulk pickle jar and dressed it up according to her needs.
During the months that she was with me, she was always docile, rarely excitable, and only really moved to eat or do a web repair. If you want a spider with a pretty web or creative skills, this one is not a good choice at all. Her house is a mess and she weaves it haphazardly. Remnants stay in it after she eats and, unlike many other spiders, she doesn't always care to untether and drop her past meals.
Despite being a bad housekeeper, she is a lethal killer. When food is placed in her web and she is actually interested in it (this is hit or miss) she will weave a thick web-spray onto her prey from her bulbous abdomen and then hit them with a shot of that famous deadly venom. Watching her is admittedly intriguing when this occurs. Her shiny black and spindly legs moving so gracefully is a neat sight to behold. I, of course, only watched. I never came close to handling her with my hands, but the swiftness at which her prey died was rather remarkable.
In the end, owning a black widow is a practice in patience. She is dirty, quiet, slow, and really doesn't care about anything but a decent meal every once in a while. If you like your spiders with practically no maintenance and locked away in the dark, then she is your girl. If you want one you can handle, then consider practically anything else but her..
From Elijah Aug 13 2014 6:31PM
Black Widow Spider
In my experience, black widow spiders are a joy to keep. My time with widows started when we found one in our garage that had to be removed. Instead of relocating or killing her, I decided to keep her as a pet. I set up a simple habitat consisting of a flower pot and a toilet paper roll inside a Critter Keeper. I offer her three small crickets a week in this set-up, and she has thrived in this set-up for two years!
Care: Keep your widow in a dark, low traffic area of your house, such as in the corner of a bedroom. There are no special temperature and humidity requirements for this spider, anything that is comfortable with you will be fine with her. Feed small or incapacitated domestic crickets (Acheta domesticus) two to three times weekly. Do NOT use wild caught insects, as they may be contaminated with pesticides or carry parasites. Field crickets are to be avoided, as they may eat your spider. Black widows are very docile and unlikely to bite, however, they do have a medically significant bite, so handling is not a good idea. Black widows are also nocturnal, so your best chance of observing them is after the sun goes down.
I would recommend this spider to anyone who wants a low cost, low maintenance display only animal..
From Latrodectus Sep 28 2013 7:52AM
there wasnt a spot for "do not recommend"...dont get this spider as a pet. its understood that enthusiasts, like me, have a natural curiousity towards dangerous or "hot" species. i was once curious and owned a widow. it did no harm and was an interesting site to see, but i will not have another.
From Spiderdan Feb 12 2010 7:19AM