This vintage video is the best Black Widow spider explainer in the entirety of the Internet

Originally published at: This vintage video is the best Black Widow spider explainer in the entirety of the Internet | Boing Boing


I wish there’d been some mention of entomologist William Baerg who studied the effects of the Black Widow bite by getting one to bite him.

Admittedly I always feel compelled to add don’t try this at home or anywhere else, and I’m glad the video doesn’t sensationalize or treat these spiders as villains or even a threat but a valuable part of the natural world.


I picked pumpkins as a teenager for a little extra cash and quickly found that the creepy critters love living under pumpkins. Their association with Halloween is strong to me.


So there’s the joke about two fish hanging out chatting, when a third swims by and says, “Morning boys, how’s the water?” and after that fish leaves one fish turns to the other and says, “What the hell is ‘water’?”

And yet… those spiderlings born into a big sac, knowing nothing but the sac and its world, know to escape the sac. If hunger motivates them to leave, then why not canabalise one another? What prevents them from eating one another? What informs them that the solution to their hunger problem lies outside in a world they don’t know exists?

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gahhhhh, black widows are the only spider i kill. it’s with a tad of reluctance, because i hate killing things, but omg they are the WORST.


I was a wanna be entomologist / arthropologist when I was 8 (at 12 I dedicated myself to myrmecology – ants), so I carefully researched what I could about black widows, genus Latrodectus.

The claim that black widow venom is more powerful than rattlesnake venom is true, but a black widow produces far less venom that a rattler (and the rattler in turn uses a fraction of its venom in self-defense that it does on its prey for obvious reasons). The illness caused by a widow bite is called latrodectism and it’s pretty awful, but most people recover from it after a couple of weeks. I think that brown recluse venom is far worse as it necrotizes any skin and muscle tissue it comes in contact with.

My one takeaway from my early interest in arthropod behavior is just how much built-in, instinctive behavior can be crammed into a brain and nervous system smaller than a little dot → ·

The solution is that through some careful evolution, widow spiderlings are born roughly the same size, and are not in a position to over-power and eat each other.


Obviously there’s an infinitude of examples of amazing instinctive behaviors of newborns, but my mind immediately goes to cuckoos, whose first act (while still blind, and using their backs) is to push all the other eggs out of the nest.


I lived in Ontario, about an hour’s drive inland from El Lay, Coliforniyah in the early 90s. My BF told me about one of his encounters with a widow. (He was a pathological liar, but his mom confirmed this story.) He was playing tennis at a nearby public court, when he sat down against the back fence to take a break and drink some soda.

A widow took serious umbrage at such behavior, charged him, and bit him. He was rushed to the hospital, where he spent three weeks, and during the first week they weren’t sure he’d survive.

I have always been terrified of spiders, so much so I think somebody musta murdered me with them in a past life.

My BF, his best friend, and I were cleaning my BF’s house one day, and I found a widow in a web in the sun room. I grabbed a shoe, summoned all my courage, and successfully smashed the nasty thing. When I told the guys, who were well aware of my phobia, they applauded, congratulated, and thanked me for my service and immense bravery.


i will add that in addition to my black widow assassinating tendencies, i also include brown recluses, but i (to my knowledge) never see them. i don’t think they live in N. Nevada. but when i was a kid in Denver, my mom was bitten by a brown recluse. the pain and the medical nightmare from that was… quite scary and educational to a young me.


I love black widows. They’re everywhere around here, so killing them doesn’t much good. Remove one and another, likely bigger one will show up. I make a note of where the webs are and avoid them. I’ve also been very careful around educating my kid about them, as well. She knows to look, but not touch or get too close.

Frankly, I’m way more afraid of the giant house spiders we get here.

The Widows are plentiful and easy to find here in central OK. I taught the kids about their habitat and how to recognize their web. The strength of the strands gives the web a surprising resistance when encountered, and makes a sharp crackling noise when torn. I took some photos of a particularly spectacular deployment and its artist in residence some years back. It is amazing how they can quickly navigate that mess. Without it, they are comparatively slow and unwieldy.


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