Geographical Range Tropical and temperate regions worldwide
Habitat Various habitats, including forests, woodlands, grasslands, deserts, and urban areas
Scientific Name Latrodectus sp.
Conservation Status Common

There are actually five species of spiders we refer to as black widows, four of which live in the United States. These shy little spider have a nasty reputation, but they're not aggressive animals. When disturbed, they will either scurry away or play dead first. Only as a last resort will they bite.

Black widows prefer dark, moist places as their homes. They can go months without food and can live up to three years.

All black widow spiders are venomous, since they use their venom to subdue and and eat their prey. But only adult females seem to be able to harm humans with their bite. Males and juveniles either don't bite humans, or else their mouthparts are not large or strong enough to inject their venom into us.

Drop for drop, a black widow's venom is said to be 15 times more deadly than rattlesnake venom. Yet far more people have been killed by rattlesnake bites, simply because of the much higher quantity of venom injected by the snakes. Very few people bitten by a widow spider actually die, though the bite is painful.

The markings on widow spiders can be extremely unpredictable and variable. Female black widows usually have a red spot or red hourglass-shaped marking on their abdomen, but males can also have red spots on their abdomens.

And to correct the common myth implied by its name, not every female black widow kills the male after mating.