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I found this black widow in my underground sprinkler control box in Payson Utah. It was an extremely large one, with the body measuring a little less than an inch, which is considered larger than what these spiders can get. I have seen a lot of them, and this one was by far the largest. This Western black widow latrodectus hesperus is the one that gives the spider it's reputation. Though all of the widow spiders - of which there are approximately 30 varieties - have awful bites it is this one that is the most feared. It's venom is a powerful neurotoxin that can kill. It is 15 times as potent as rattlesnake venom, but due to the fact that a rattlesnake has more to give the black widow is not quite as dangerous.
Deaths from widow bites have occured in 4% of all recorded cases and usually in children and the elderly. This is considered rare by the "experts" but is not in my opinion. Severe sickness is inevitable. The pain is excruciating. Young children and people over 60 need special attention, and for those two groups antivenom should be administered. Spastic muscle activity and hypertension are notable symptoms, and raised blood pressure can cause the elderly to have strokes.
Western black widows spin a three dimensional tangle web, which from my experience is small when it is either concealed or below ground level - as it was in my sprinkler control box, and can be very large when it is spun above ground - like when it is in the bushes. It is a chaotic web with no order whatsoever. The strands are shiny and very strong. Often the web is spun between boards in wood piles or in the spaces between large rocks.
If removed from the web, female black widows cannot get around very well, but in the web they can sprint fast enough to ambush insects. They run away from people and do not usually bite unless you squeeze them somehow; I have heard of young children catching black widows not knowing the danger and bringing them home in their hands to show mom without getting bit because they did not handle them roughly. Fat chance I'd try it!. But it is true that you can normally handle them directly without getting bit.
People will get bit when a black widow goes under the blankets or gets into shoes and clothing and then gets pinned between the clothes and the person. If trapped in clothing they will bite, and the same is true if one gets into your shoes and you put them on. They will bite if you accidentally grab and squeeze them when you pick up an object. So bites are fairly common, since the only times they are not prone to bite is when you know they are there and are careful with them, which requires some luck.
Female Black widows do not always eat after mating, often the guy gets away. Females lay eggs more than once and often have egg sacks strewn about their messy webs. Young widow spiders do not have the colors, they are born white and get them later. Males typically have brown lines and patterns as adults, for females that is a transitional stage on the way to all black. The red hour glass is a characteristic of the Western black widow, others either have the hour glass or red but not both.
click here for a better picture of this argiope spider
This Black and yellow argiope spider is a member of the orb weaver family, and it spins a circular web. It is a very large and conspicuous spider that is downright intimidating to approach. I saw this one scaling down the side of a house from a street in Branson Missouri, and since I had my insect camera with me I took advantage of an opportunity to get a shot.
While in the web, Black and yellow argiopes are obvious. Their bright colors and large size make them stand out clearly as they hang head down in wait of prey. Their webs can be identified by their large size, circular shape, and a zig zag pattern which runs down the center.
Black and yellow agiope spiders are found in temperate regions of North America. Due to their large size, they can take on any insect including grasshoppers, which can spell disaster for some spiders due to their fierce kick which can injure a spider, and weight which will destroy most webs. This argiope spider had a leg span that was easily four inches across and a very large body.
The arigope spider has a fairly mild bite for it's size, but it never has a problem doing it. If you get bit by one it will definitely get you good but the poison is not too bad. The bite will swell and you may become nauseated for a short time but symptoms are not severe.
This type of Argiope spider makes an egg sack by first making a silk platform which it lays the eggs on. It then covers them with silk. At this point, the un finished sack which is wrapped in thin fine silk appears yellow, which is the color of the eggs. After this initial wrap has been applied, the Argiope then finishes the sack with a thick layer of white colored silk. It then ties the egg sack off at several points and suspends it in the air between blades of grass or leaves of weeds - what ever it can find that will suspend the sack and hold it steady.
click for a better picture of this jumping spider
This phidippus audax jumping spider is indiginous to North America. As ferocious as it looks, they don't often bite but if they do it can be painful. Even after playing with these spiders and handling them directly many times, I never once got bit. I disagree with the leading article on this subject which claims they are agressive biters; perhaps the writer of that article never actually played with these spiders. If you play with them for a while they begin to behave a lot like a cat. I gave this one my attention for several hours, enough to get it tamed down for some nice poses.
I had several of these in my house, and let them run free. I observed these spiders in a fairly detailed way, and noticed that they can see very well. If a fly was on a far wall, these spiders would go up to the ceiling, walk across to the wall the fly was on and pounce on it, just like a cat after a mouse. There seems to be disagreement with how well they can see, some "experts" say their vision is limited to 20 centimeters while others claim the distance is much farther, which is what matches my experience.
As a group, jumping spiders are very alert and aware of their surroundings. They hunt like experts. They are amazing to watch. I once saw a daddy long legs grab a leaf hopper, and go back up in the air on it's long legs, only to be shot down the second it stood up by a jumping spider. So the jumping spider got two for one.
Jumping spiders do not spin webs; they use the silk to help them catch prey on vertical surfaces by using it to improve jump accuracy. Before jumping, they will often attach a thread of silk to the surface they are jumping off of which will cause them to stay close to the vertical surface while they jump; it anchors them. From what I observed, it improved their accuracy because they could use it for braking if they overshot the target and it provided a way for them to climb back up to where they were if they missed their prey completely.
Jumping spiders are very coordinated and will interact with you if you notice them. They can be playful if you give them enough attention. They are very aware and intelligent. They can jump forty or more times the length of their bodies; so if the one in the picture is 13mm long, how far is that? Quite a distance, and they land with accuracy. They are usually successful at ambush. They have been observed catching insects that were flying by, right out of thin air.
When a male jumping spider finds a female, he will raise his front legs up, just like in this picture. If the female is interested, she will do the same. The female wraps her eggs in a silk coccoon and then guards them.
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