Mom and I were out walking the other night, and we came through our gate in our side yard. Mom opened the gate and chained it open like she always does. As we walked past the wooden gate, she looked down and saw this ginormous black widow spider, hanging out in the open in a web on the gate. I walked right by it! Mom knocked it down with her foot and stepped on it. It really freaked her out. Black widow spiders are very common around here, but they usually hang out in dark, enclosed places (like fingers of work gloves or toes of work shoes kept outside). But this was right out in the open! She squished it before thinking to take a picture, but it looked very much like this:
So I thought I'd do a Thursday Thirteen on Black Widow spiders, cause every cat should be very careful if they live in an area that has them.
1. Black widows are in the Genus Latrodectus. There are 6 species, with the species L. hesperus being the most common in the western US and is the Black Widow found in the North American deserts. They occur throughout all four deserts of the American Southwest.
2. The Black Widow is considered the most venomous spider in North America.
3. The venom of the black widow spider is 15 times as toxic as the venom of the prairie rattlesnake.
4. Black widow spider venom is categorized as a nerve toxin.
5. Black Widow spiders are not usually deadly, especially to adult humans, because they inject only a small amount of venom.
6. However, cats are extremely sensitive to black widow spider bites, showing signs of severe pain, drooling, restlessness, and early paralysis. Death is common in cats.
7. While there is an antivenin available that has been helpful in people, it is very expensive and usually available only through human hospitals, and is not common in vet hospitals. So avoidance is the best defense for cats.
8. Black widows are often found on the underside of ledges, rocks, plants and debris, wherever a web can be strung. Cold weather and drought may drive these spiders into buildings.
9. The black widow spider is shy and nocturnal in habit, usually staying hidden in her web, hanging belly upward. Although not aggressive, she may rush out and bite when her web is disturbed or when accidentally trapped in clothing or shoes.
10. Only the female Black Widow is dangerous to cats; males and juveniles are harmless.
11. The female Black Widow is shiny black, usually with a reddish hourglass shape on the underside of her spherical abdomen.
12. Females may occasionally kill and eat a male after mating but this is more the exception than the rule.
13. The Black Widow is preyed upon by Mud-Dauber wasps.
So cats, protect yourself and stay away from these nasty feme fatailes!