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    Occasionally, when we store things in basements, garages, crawl spaces, attics, barns, or other spaces where we don’t frequent, there’s bound to be an unwelcome guest or two that sets up camp.

    The black widow, for example, is a huge fan of dark and unbothered places. This isn’t limited to the indoors, either. If you have any dense vegetation, trash outside, hollow tree stumps, rodent holes, or outdoor toilets, they will try to make it their home. As the most venomous spider in North America, they’re a rival that is sure to pop up, and we have some key things to look out for in case you do have a run in with this particular pest.

    Firstly, the most common and easily identifiable trait of a female widow is a red or orange-yellow shape on the abdomen, ranging from an hourglass to a dot, against a glossy, jet black body. In the immature stages of a female black widow, it looks quite unassuming. They are brown or gray with some splotches, banding, or somewhat hourglass figures on the abdomen but not nearly as standout as when it is at full maturity. A mature female black widow is typically 1.5 inches, including her leg span (or around the size of a quarter). Whereas a male will be half this size, if not smaller. These spiders are primarily solitary, and in having that lifestyle, females can live up to 3 years with the average being 2 years.

Immature Female Black Widow pictured above

    They will start mating in late spring, and once the eggs are fertilized and laid, they’ll hatch after 30 days. This is just a single example of why we do a 30 day follow up after your first appointment with us. We make sure all generations of the pest are taken care of, especially in the immature stages, such as fresh out of the egg sac. Our dust treatment also plays a big part in preventing further infestation. When spiders crawl into the dark cracks and crevices around the home, the dust treatment we apply will absorb through the exoskeleton on the abdomen, through breathing orifices, and get ingested when they groom themselves. In addition, spiders also go through a process called web recycling. So even though a web may look abandoned or inactive, it is a common practice for spiders to revisit these areas, and consume the portions of web they deem to. By doing this, they replenish some of the energy they used spinning the web all day. When we treat, we typically remove unsightly webbing, but we will try to leave it up for a period of time depending on web activity, so when the web recycling process takes place, the spider then consumes the dust treatment applied. This can kill adult spiders, and any that may hatch during the residual period. Pest control with a residual like ours will also eliminate smaller, or lesser bugs, cutting down the widow’s food source and in turn, cutting down the widow population.

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Mature, Female Black Widow pictured above

   Egg sacs from a black widow can carry 200-900 eggs each, so it is important to eliminate them with residual pesticides as soon as they are located. Widows are nocturnal, and they become more dormant in the day time. That isn’t to say these pests should be taken lightly, you aren’t safe to simply handle them during the day. We recommend the use of gloves at all times if you suspect you have a black widow problem. The venom of a fully grown black widow is meant to attack and affect the brain, chest, and stomach of a predator or prey. Black Widows aren’t aggressive, they only bite when disturbed, whether it is their web or their egg sacs, and venom is a commodity in their eyes. It does take a lot of energy for the widow to produce it, and they do prefer to use it on prey as it was intended, so using its venom against you is a last resort. Unfortunately, the majority of the time we come across them is by disturbing where they have built a home, which “antagonizes” them. More than likely, you will cause them to scurry away, unless they feel trapped or like they may be squished.

 

   Caution should be used at all times to ensure your safety. Pesticides are the most effective way to kill active black widows and their offspring, but you can prevent potential nesting spots. Cutting grass regularly, removing wood piles from the property, clearing areas and storage rooms of clutter, checking the undersides of patio furniture, and always checking items from these types of areas before carrying them with you or bringing them into your home will help. An additional, cheap preventative is setting up glue boards (typically manufactured for mice) in dark corners of your home, and low to the ground areas.

 

   The cozier, cleaner, and less cluttered your home is for you, the less appetizing it will be for spiders looking to become your housemates.

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Male Western Black Widow pictured