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Are Black Widow Spiders Lethal (and How to Get Rid of Them)?

The mere mention of black widow spiders gives most people the creeps. We don’t need to see them to be terrified of them. However, when we encounter one, more often than not, our first reaction is to crush them or run.

But is that the appropriate reaction?

You may wonder if black widow spiders cause us that much grief. Are they lethal, and how do we get rid of them? We have the answers to those questions and more. Let’s dive in!

What Are Black Widow Spiders?

The black widow spider lives in temperate regions across the globe. It gets its name from the black coloration of its body and the red hourglass shape on its abdomen, more common to the females of this species.

The males are generally lighter in color with a pinkish marking, and they are also smaller compared to their female counterparts. Regardless of their minuscule size, this paper clip-size arachnid is one of the most feared creatures because of its creepy appearance and razor-sharp fangs.

How Poisonous Are Black Widow Spiders?

The black widow spider has fangs and is the most venomous spider in North America. However, their bites are rarely fatal to humans. Female black widow spiders are more dangerous because of their size, and their venom is 15 times more powerful than that of a rattlesnake.

However, the amount of venom is much less than a rattlesnake, making it less threatening.

The bite from a black widow spider can still be quite painful. The toxins from the bite take over the nerve cells at the site. This quickly causes swelling and sharp pain. The pain can last up to eight hours, with other symptoms hanging around for days.

Pro Tip: 7 Snake-Infested States That’ll Surprise You

What Happens If a Black Widow Spider Bites You?

The black widow spider seeks out other spiders and insects for its meals. Generally trapped within its web, the black widow will bite its victims. It injects a venom that will paralyze and ultimately kill them. They then become nourishing food for the arachnid.

If a black widow spider bites you, it is not to consume you. More likely, a bite from a black widow spider means that you have frightened it, and it is defending itself.

So what happens if a black widow bites you? You are reasonably sure not to die from a black widow spider bite. On the contrary, you can still experience a range of symptoms from the bite. 

The severity of the symptoms depends on the amount of venom and the person’s reaction to it. In most cases, black widow bites cause mild symptoms like pain, swelling, and redness at the site.

However, in some cases, the venom can spread through the body and cause more severe symptoms like abdominal pain, muscle cramps, nausea, and possible difficulty breathing. If a black widow spider bites you, you must seek medical attention immediately. 

How to Treat a Black Widow Spider Bite

In the meantime, until you can get medical attention, there are a few things you can do to ease the symptoms and prevent infection. Wash the area with soap and water, then apply a cold compress or ice pack. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, and if the bite is on a limb, elevate it to reduce swelling. Finally, apply an antibiotic cream to the affected area. 

Black widow spider bites can be fatal, especially in children and the elderly, so it’s vital to get them to a doctor as soon as possible. If you can, catch the spider to take it with you for identification.

Once at the doctor’s office or the ER, the physician will review symptoms and decide what more treatment, if any, is needed. Only during the most severe cases will anyone need an antivenin.

Where Do Black Widow Spiders Live?

One of the best ways to prevent a black widow spider bite is to know where they live. First, so you can avoid those places. Second, so you know where they are and get rid of them.

The black widow spider is in many regions around the world. You can find them on every continent except Antarctica. In North America, they are most common in the southern and western United States in warmer and drier climates.

They prefer to live in dry, dark places like caves, woodpiles, and garages. They can also often be in crevices, hollow logs, and cracks in furniture. This means that they can be almost anywhere.

How to Get Rid of Black Widow Spiders

Knowing where black widows live is one step in preventing bites. Getting rid of them is another. Fortunately, there are many ways to remove these scary spiders. Some methods include pesticides and traps, while others are more natural and involve decluttering and removing outdoor debris. 

Whatever you need to do to rid your space of black widows, do it. While they may not cross paths with you without your intervention, it’s still better to take action than do nothing at all.

Use Strong Scented Repellents

One of the most effective black widow repellants is a strong scent. Black widows “smell” through their feet and are sensitive to strong scents. They will quickly vacate an area with strong odors. 

Grab a spray bottle filled with water, a few drops of essential oils, and dish soap. Oils like lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, or peppermint are best.

Spray this combination along baseboards, doorways, window ledges, and other entry points to help repel unwanted pests. Be wary, though; some essential oils can be hazardous to pets.

Spray Them With Vinegar

Another way to rid your space of black widows is by spraying them with vinegar. Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spritz it on the spider. The vinegar will kill the spider by dissolving its exoskeleton. 

You can also use vinegar to remove black widow webs. Spray the web with vinegar, and the spiders will quickly abandon it. Vinegar is also effective at repelling black widows. If you have black widow spiders in your home, spray some vinegar around the room’s perimeter to keep them out. 

Use Insecticides

Another effective way to control and exterminate black widows is to use chemical insecticides. These insecticides come in dusting and liquid forms. You should use the dusting form of insecticides in areas that pets and humans won’t frequent.

You can use liquids with care in more livable areas. Both are available online or at most hardware and home living stores. Like any chemicals, take care around children and pets, as many chemicals can be harmful.  

Use Insect Traps

You can also purchase insect traps. Some of the most popular traps are bug zappers and fly sticky traps. While many insect traps won’t directly kill the black widows, they will kill their food sources, making their home inhospitable.

Like other insecticides, be sure to place these in a space where they are practical yet still out of the way of kids and pets.

Remove Webs 

Webs belong to spiders. If you remove the webs, the spiders will have no choice but to rebuild or go elsewhere. This is one of the easiest ways to eliminate black widow spiders without chemicals.

Reduce Clutter and Web-Building Opportunities

Clutter, wood piles, and old furniture are prime real estate for black widow spiders. If you remove the possible space for web-building opportunities, you remove the chances of housing black widow spiders. 

When uncluttering, pay attention to outdoor lighting. Keep outdoor lighting to a minimum, as this attracts the insects that spiders eat. When decorating your outdoor space, include nests for birds and fragrant plants. Many birds prey on black widows, while some plants deter spiders with aromatic scents.

Call an Exterminator

If all else fails, you can always call an exterminator. Exterminators are especially beneficial if you have an infestation of black widows and need potent chemicals. They know how to use pesticides correctly and with care, knowing that spiders aren’t the only living creatures that call your yard and house home.

Nobody Wants to Surprise a Black Widow Spider 

When it comes to the home, we would all rather leave the surprises to parties, not an unexpected black widow spider. Unless that black widow spider is a friend dressed up for a costume party. That changes the game entirely. 

Don’t let a black widow spider surprise you first. Following the steps listed above, your hiding spots can be spider-free.

Have you had any black widow encounters? 

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