Before mating, a male leaves his web to find a female. Once he finds one, he drums his partner’s web with his abdomen. If she responds favourably, he approaches her very slowly and spins a fine layer of silk around her. If she holds still, they mate. Once mating is complete, the male leaves quickly – being careful not to disturb the female, so as to avoid becoming her post-nuptial meal.
This spider species builds very sturdy webs, with strands heading off in every direction, becoming veritable traps for their prey.
The name “black widow” comes from the colour of these spiders, with their funeral-like black and blood-like red, and the fact that females sometimes eat males after mating.
Images of black widow spiders used in Navajo ritual ceremonies have been found.
Interesting and curious facts
The venom is neurotoxic, and among the most dangerous known. In addition to such symptoms as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, a bite can sometimes be fatal for highly sensitive individuals (young children, the elderly and people with allergies). Death is usually caused by the involuntary contraction of the abdominal muscles, resulting in respiratory failure. Such cases are very rare, however, because a specific antidote is available.