Saturday, October 23, 2010

Black Widow

Black Widows are spiders that belong to the genus Latrodectus. Species of within this genus can be found in tropical and temperate climates around the world. In the United States, Latrodectus hesperus is one of the best known. It lives in the western parts of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

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All species of widow are venomous, with the females being more potent than the males, and having much larger venom glands. The bite of a Black Widow  is 15 times more potent than that of a Rattlesnake and is responsible for the condition known as Latrodectism (named for the genus.) Females are also larger than the males, and often have a red, hour-glass shaped mark on their abdomen. Both males and females range from brown to black in overall color.

Widows are so named because of the cannibalistic behavior that they exhibit during the mating process. After mating is complete, the male is sometimes killed and consumed. Cannibalism is further witnessed in the spiderling stage. Females will lay hundreds of eggs, but very few young will hatch and actually survive to adulthood due to consumption of one another.

Black Widows typically feed off of other insects, capturing them in their extremely strong webs and then injecting the prey with enzymes that will liquefy their insides. The spiders are then able to drink up the fluids.

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