Controlling & Preventing Black Widow Spiders

Black widow spiders are found throughout the Americas despite being more common in the Southern Regions of the U.S. and Canada. In Canada, they are found in at least five provinces from Ontario to British Columbia with their highest population known to be in Ontario.

This is not to say that the black widow spiders are a common sight. These spiders are considered rare, but the venom they pack is the main reason you should have some understanding about them, what they feed on, effects of a potential bite and how to get rid of them safely. In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about black widow spiders and how to handle a situation where you run into one at home.

How To Identify Black Widow Spiders

Before attempting to identify black widow spiders, it is important to note that the male and female species look entirely different, with the females being the most recognizable amongst these spiders. Female black widows are about 1.5 inches long, have a shiny black colour with a very noticeable red hourglass marking on their abdomens. Males are about half the size of the females (0.5-0.75 inches long), lighter in colour with red or pink spots on their backs. Due to this striking difference in their appearance, most people often fail to realize that both these spiders belong to the same species.

Where You Could Find Black Widow Spiders

Black widows can usually be found inside dark, shady areas that are not too far from the ground. They like being around wood piles, basements, crevices and other cluttered areas. Typically, they prefer to be in secluded areas away from too much movement.

Black widow spiders are known to spin messy, irregular webs that are usually located closer to the ground. These webs could also be located under a protected ledge such as under lawn furniture or wood piles.

What Black Widow Spiders Eat

Black widow spiders can survive for several months without eating food. However, this does not mean that they do not seek out prey. Black widow spiders feed on a variety of different insects that can be trapped in their webs and eventually end up being eaten by them. Some of their favourite meals are mentioned below:

  • Flies
  • Grasshoppers
  • Beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Cockroaches
  • Scorpions
  • Ants

Knowing what black widow spiders feed on can also tell you a thing or two about how an infestation of the insects mentioned above, can attract black widow spiders to your house or backyard.

How Black Widow Spiders Can Cause Danger

Black widow spiders are not known to actively seek out and bite human beings, but would do so if they are disturbed. It is important to know that since their webs are located so close to the ground, it is more likely for them to be accidentally disrupted by humans or pets. While male black widow spiders are less likely to bite, females are the ones that are most commonly responsible for biting humans.

Symptoms of a Black Widow Spider Bite

Despite their relatively small size, their bites can be quite serious. People bitten by Black Widow spiders experience symptoms ranging from pain at the bite site, fever, nausea and increased blood pressure. Black Widow bites are rarely fatal, however, once bitten by a Black Widow spider, an individual (especially a child or elderly person) must seek medical attention immediately.

Treating A Black Widow Spider Bite At Home

If the bite victim is not a child, an elderly person, a pregnant woman or any other low risk victim, treating a black widow spider bite at home is possible. Follow the instructions below to treat yourself at home:

  • If you have any prescribed medication given to you by a Doctor, take it first.
  • Place ice on the bite for 10-20 minutes.
  • Buy yourself an antihistamine such as Claritin or Allegra. This will help you reduce the itching and control any potential swelling that may occur.

If your symptoms get worse or do not improve with the general advice mentioned above, seek medical attention.

Treating A High Risk Black Widow Spider Bite Victim

Contrary to common opinion, anti-venom for Black Widow spider bites does exist and has been around since the 1930s. However, it is important to note that anti-venom is not recommended in all cases of black widow spider bites. It is only used if the bite victim is at high risk such as if they are elderly, pregnant or they have trouble breathing.

How To Get Rid Of Black Widow Spiders In Your Home

To keep Black Widow spiders out of your home, use a strong insect control product that would not only help you get rid of spiders but also other insects such as aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs and spider-mites.

For best results, follow these steps to use an insect control product:

  1. Shake the product well before any usage.
  2. Test a small inconspicuous area of the carpet for colour fastness & staining before applying the product on the desired area.
  3. Hold the container approximately 30 centimetres from the surface that needs to be sprayed and spray until wet.
  4. Thorough applications produce a coating which will vapourize into cracks and crevices for insect control.

How To Prevent Black Widow Spiders From Coming Back

Preventative measures are important in making sure black widow spiders do not enter your home again. Perform the following actions to keep these venomous spiders away for good:

Remove Materials That Cause Infestation

Get rid of any rock piles, firewood piles and other materials that provide an ideal habitat for black widow spiders. This will make sure that the spiders do not find spaces to hide. Remember to also eliminate clutter in storage areas such as basements, attics and closets.

Keep Plants Trimmed

Overgrown plants can also cause clutter in your garden or elsewhere. Keeping them trimmed to the height that you prefer, is a good way to reduce clutter and create open spaces. This would discourage spiders from living next to the house.

Seal And Protect

Openings to basements or other areas can also be a cause for concern. It is important to quickly seal off these areas which can also be done by installing screens and door sweeps to help prevent the entry of spiders.

Insect Traps

With an understanding of what types of insects black widows consume, being mindful of removing those insects in your home will greatly reduce the odds of seeing black widows. Installing insect traps to control insects in your home can reduce the food source for black widow spiders and keep them away for good.