Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It's Black Widow Breeding Season

Late Spring to Autumn Is Black Widow Breeding Season

Black widow breeding season seems to bring black widows out of their hiding places. You are most likely to see them at dusk or after dark. They would prefer to avoid contact with you, just as you probably would like to avoid contact with them. This one showed up in my living room last week. I know she's a black widow without turning her over to see her red hour glass. After taking this picture I moved her to the innards of my vacuum cleaner.

I have heard what I hope is an old wives' tale about spiders being able to crawl   out of vacuum cleaners, so I taped  every exit over.

There actually were two spiders I saw within two feet of each other. When I first attempted to photograph this one, she hid before I could.  I had to wait until she came out of hiding again. By that time the other one was no longer to be seen and I haven't gone looking yet. I'm hoping he was a male and she ate him. I will be searching soon  enough to see if the spider is still where I think he or she might be. I will also be checking to see if any egg nest is around.

Close Black Widow Encounters of the Creepy Kind

I never like being surprised by a black widow. I happens, though, because you can't always predict where they will be. In our previous home we had a pantry in our sun room in which we stored extra kitchen items and a few tools I used in the house. I opened a sack of small nails one day, and the first thing I saw was a black widow inside, moving. Rational person that I am, I screamed and ran outside to drop the sack. 

I probably could have skipped the screaming and panic and just calmly carried the sack out, opened it, and let the spider escape. She probably would not have attacked me unless she had an egg nest she was guarding. The black widow is not aggressive unless guarding her eggs. Normally she will retreat if you let her, rather than attacking you. The video below will illustrate that. 

I will add that the person who made this video says you probably shouldn't try this yourself unless you are  experienced at handling spiders. I would prefer not to become experienced at this. You will notice that you don't see the underside of the spider until the very end. I don't have to see it anymore to know if it's a black widow. The shiny black color and the long creepy legs usually tip me off.

Be Careful When Working Near Black Widow Hideouts

This morning we found a black widow spider on the outside of the garage door. (It's pictured in the photo at the very end of this post.)That surprised me because I rarely see a black widow in an exposed position in the sunlight. My first impression was that she might be ready to die. She was near some sacks of thorn heads my husband was waiting to put in the trash. They wouldn't fit for the pickup, so we had to leave until after the cans were emptied. Someone had opened them to look through them. Perhaps the spider had been inside one of them. I didn't want her that close.  I was afraid she might crawl under the  garage door and get inside, so I brought her down with a broom and stepped on her. I was surprised she did not try to scuttle away, since these spiders can be very fast.

Black widows hang out in dark places. That includes wood piles, storage boxes, and under large appliances and heavy furniture. Those that live under the heavy things you can't move probably won't hurt you. They only come out at night to hunt insects you don't want there anyway. Just don't go around the house barefoot at night. Don't put on shoes from your closet without looking  -- especially if they are shoes you haven't worn lately.

If you decide to dust a large bookcase or grab a book from a shelf you haven't touched lately, have a vacuum cleaner within easy reach. I know we've had them in our bookcases.

Use caution when entering storage sheds and other outbuildings -- especially if you haven't  entered them in a few weeks or months. Be careful if you see uneven web designs. I just read that the black widow's web is so strong it can even catch a mouse. No wonder it's so creepy when you touch it.

Protect Yourself from Black Widows and Other Poisonous Spiders

To protect yourself from the black widow and other poisonous spiders, you need to be able to identify them and know where they like to lurk. The books below can help with that. I use the Audubon Society Field Guide as my main reference for  identifying spiders and insects. It has a photo of not only the adult black widow we see most often, but also the immature form, which looks quite different. It does not picture the brown widow, not quite as dangerous, but still poisonous.

If you find a poisonous spider in a place where it it hard to capture or kill by hand or foot or vacuum cleaner, you might want to have some of the Terro Spider Killer on hand so you can act quickly. I had to use spray when black widows had decided to hang out over my sliding glass door (on the outside). It was the main   entrance to our home.

If you are cleaning out the garage or any storage place or outdoor place where a black widow might be hiding, wear a pair of heavy gloves such as those below. (They are also good when you prune roses.) You never know who may be hiding in the next box you open or piece of firewood you pick up.

The children's book on black widows pictured below is part of an informative series I used to sell in my online store. Children should also inform themselves about black widows so that they will know to avoid them. Trust me. You don't want a black widow to bite an inquisitive child. On one of my trips to the ER I saw a friend with her son who had just been bitten, in the waiting room. He didn't look very good, but the treatment got him back to normal. If a black widow should bite you, apply ice immediately to ease pain and get immediate medical help.

Have you or anyone you know ever been bitten by a poisonous spider? Do you know which ones live in your area so you will not get too close to them? 

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