Glossy black, often with a red "hourglass" on the back. May also be dark or light brown. 3/4-inch length, 3/8-inch diameter.


Contrary to legend, female black widow spiders rarely devour males after mating. They are found in all 50 states, often living around woodpiles and gaining entry to a structure when firewood is carried in. They spin their webs near ground level in protected areas, such as in cluttered garages, outhouses, and stacks of firewood. These webs are almost always constructed in a protected site such as among items piled together, beneath boards, in firewood, and between boxes. The black widow is widely feared because its bite results in severe pain that may take several days to subside. Such bites are rarely fatal, but because small children and elderly persons are at risk, spider control is important if you suspect black widows.


Black widows eat any insect they can capture. They paralyze or kill their prey with venom, then inject a fluid that enables them to suck out the digestive liquid food. They can survive without food for several weeks to a few months.


Bites can be avoided by wearing heavy gloves when moving items stored for long periods outside or in garages, basements, or warehouses. Shoes should be stored inside shoeboxes or shaken vigorously prior to wearing. Inspect carefully before putting your hand down under an object such as a log or rock. Professionals can remove spider infestations with a shop vacuum and apply spider control materials that help prevent their return.