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Black Widow Spider Dangers: Truth Or Fiction?

Is there truth to black widow spider myths?

The National Geographic calls the black widow spider the most venomous spider in North America. Its venom is said to be 15 times more potent than a rattlesnake's. That sounds pretty dangerous, doesn't it? So, how scared should you be when you find a black widow living on your property? It depends on a few factors. Here's what you need to know.

Not all black widow bites are venomous. Male black widows and immature spiders are no threat at all to humans. A bite from one of these is not medically important. And bites from female black widows do not always result in envenomation. That means that even a bite from a female may not result in a visit to the hospital.

Black widow spiders are also not inclined to bite. They will usually flee when approached. It is only when a female feels threatened that she will decide to bite. This can happen when she crawls into a boot or shoe and you decide to put your foot in there. It can happen when you crawl into bed and press yourself against a black widow spider that is hiding there. It may also happen in a yard when you turn something over that has a female hiding under it, or reach your hand into a place where a female has established her web. It is a good idea to always wear gloves when you do yard work.

Bites from black widows spiders rarely result in death, especially here in the United States where we have a robust and easily accessible medical infrastructure. But that isn't to say that it is fun to be bitten by one of these spiders. If envenomation occurs it can result in many bad symptoms, including nausea, severe pain in the abdomen and back, profuse sweating, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms can last eight to twelve hours.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, antivenom is available for black widow spiders, but it is often withheld due to fear of acute hypersensitivity reactions. Studies are being conducted to increase the successful use of antivenoms.

Black widows are most dangerous to small children and the elderly. These are the two groups that see the most life-threatening reactions.

If you've seen black widows on your property, it is important to take action. These spiders are known to get into homes, and they can present a danger--certainly not the level of danger attributed to them, but enough danger that it is practical to protect ourselves from them.

a black widow spider on its web in a middle tennessee yard

Tips to reduce and control black widow spiders.

  • A big reason these spiders come into a yard is the availability of hiding places. If you have a wood pile, construction materials, toys, appliances, brush piles, or some other objects they can hide in, they may take advantage of them. They can also be found hiding under porches, decks, patios, and other structures.
  • The taller your grass, and the more overgrowth you have in your yard, the more inviting your property will be to these spiders.
  • The more bugs and small animals you have in your yard, the more attractive it will be to black widows. These spiders dine on a wide range of creatures, from tiny mosquitoes to mice and lizards. Anything you do to resist pests will help to reduce black widows as well.
  • When these spiders come into your yard and up close to your foundation, it is vital that they don't find a way in. Do a detailed inspection of your exterior walls and seal any gaps, cracks, or holes you find. Pay close attention to locations where pipes or electrical conduit pass through your walls.

The best solution for black widows is to enlist the aid of an educated and experienced pest control professional. A professional will not only deal with your black widow issues but give you guidance on how to deal with all of the pests that lure black widows into your yard.

If you're in our Middle Tennessee service area, consider talking to us about ongoing pest control service for your property. When you have All-American Pest Control managing the pests in your yard, you'll have up-to-date information about all of the pest pressures in your yard, including black widow spiders. But, more than this, your exterior will have the protection it needs to keep those pests out of your home. 


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