Black Widow Bite

Spider bites poise different reactions based on the spider that bit you. The black widow's power is rivaled by only that of the brown recluse, where both are capable of producing amazing damage and different effects entirely. The bite of a black widow causes an array of painful internal symptoms and stages, making it much more dangerous than your everyday house spider. Because there are over 30,000 species of spiders, identification plays a crucial role in bite prevention and best practices when it comes to getting rid of black widows.

If you are experiencing an emergency, contact the American Association of Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for free professional advice.

Bite Identification

The bite of a black widow is difficult to physically characterize. This is because it lacks any cytotoxic properties (visible symptoms) and primarily affects the victim's central nervous system. Identification is crucial in properly diagnosing any spider bite, which can rarely be concluded based on how the bite looks. The most important thing to do if you have been bit is to identify the spider.

What's the difference between a black widow bite and that of a brown recluse? The symptomatic response of an individual to a black widow bite is accompanied by heavy internal pain not visible to the naked eye. This is different than the brown recluse spider bite, which leaves a large open sore after it has bitten its victim.

  • Bites cannot be identified on looks alone. Symptoms vary depending on the size, health, and age of the individual.
  • Most people do not die from black widow bites. In fact, no single death from a black widow bite has occurred in the United States in several years. Regardless, children, pets, and the elderly are at significantly higher risk.
  • Do not jump to conclusions. Many insects deliver a mild pain killer when they bite, so the victim does not feel penetration. Spiders are often wrongly blamed for unexplainable wounds and rashes.

The two most common black widow species in the United States are the Northern and Southern Black Widow species.

Black Widow Identification

The black widow spider is identified by its black shiny abdomen, marked with red triangular patterns (in the shape of an hourglass) and can be found all over the world. They range in size but rarely grow beyond the size of a large marble. If positive identification has been made, contact the American Association of Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for expert advice.

Bite Symptoms, Stages, & Treatment

The black widow spider bite produces pretty serious side effects, but the bite itself is virtually painless. Symptom stages can occur in any order and some side effects include heavy pain on the affected extremity, cramping, and labored breathing. It is impossible to identify a black widow bite based on how it looks.

  • Necrosis (rot and ulcerations) should not occur at the local bite wound. Unlike the bite of the brown recluse, this bite is characterized by internalized pain.
  • The black widow bite is known to cause extreme bouts of cramping in the abdominal region and other muscle masses.
  • It is always best to stay calm. When the body gets excited, blood flow increases, encouraging the spread of venom.

Other symptomatic responses may include chest pain, labored breathing, and parasthesia, or burning sensations at the localized bite wound. Children and the elderly are at most risk of having a fatal reaction to the black widow's bite, but less than one percent of all victims have a chance of dying. These are extremely low numbers, offset by the advent of modern medicine and powerful antivenins. Seek medical attention in case of a bite - in some cases, Lactrodectus antivenin is administered, accompanied by common pain medications and or pain killers.

If you are the mother of a newborn baby and suspect black widow activity around your home, it's not a bad idea to place the feet of the baby's crib inside of glass jars. Any spiders or insects won't be able to climb the glass to get into the crib.

Black widow bites in dogs, cats, & pets:

Due to their size, smaller animals are at much higher risk of dying when bitten. Unfortunately, most vets do not even carry the antivenin necessary to counteract the effects of the toxic venom. Cats have less of a chance at survival than dogs - none the less, you should contact your local vet for advice. Benadryl is safe for pets and will help reduce swelling. Symptoms & stages can include paralysis, excessive heart rate, and excessive drooling.

Black Widow Bite Prevention

Black widows prefer to stay out of sight, hiding under rocks, rain traps, and leaf debris. Ensuring all of your family members know what locations to avoid will help in preventing exposure and reduce the risk of bites. A large percentage of spider bites occur in gloveless gardeners or when the spider is trapped between clothing and cannot escape - this is especially common in families who leave their shoes outside. Bring shoes indoors and be wary of box filled basements and garages - black widows produce chaotic sticky webs (no symmetry) and hide away between objects and darks spaces. As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For a complete guide on how to get rid of black widows, view our discussion related to their elimination and control.