Western Black Widow

Black Widow -color.jpg
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Family: Theridiidae
  • Genus: Latrodectus
  • Species: L. hesperus

ARTIST'S NOTES

This illustration of a female Western Black Widow was completed on March 3, 2017. I chose this subject for a variety of reasons: 1) I am fascinated with venomous and potentially dangerous animals, 2) This species was, until recently, by far the most common spider around my home in Los Angeles (rapidly being displaced by the introduced Brown Widow), 3) I was bitten by one on the finger a few years back. I realized the bite was a Black Widow bite as it progressed over several days, with my hand and lower arm swelling and extreme pain. I didn't know how the bite occurred, until my wife and I searched and found a large female on a web at the head of our bed just below my pillow. Studying this creature in detail for several days was cathartic.

INFORMATION ABOUT WESTERN BLACK WIDOW

The Western Black Widow is a highly venomous spider found in western North America. Adult females, which are much larger than males, are readily identified by their shiny black body coloration and the red hourglass on the abdomen, though the hourglass color can be highly variable. Males are roughly half the size of the female and are usually tan and striped. Their webs are known for being very sloppy. They are most active at night in warmer climates. This species is not aggressive and generally tries to avoid contact with humans. While the side effects of bites are often bad, bites are rarely fatal. Consumption of males by females, which gives them their name, is extremely rare.

  • Habitat: Western Black Widows are most commonly found in arid environments, in locations where they can avoid bright sunlight. Natural locations include rodent holes and crevices between rocks. They are also commonly found around human residences, including basements, the underside of patio furniture, and cracks in concrete. 
  • Food: Western Black Widows feed on a wide variety of invertebrate prey caught in their webs. The spider wraps potential prey in silk to immobilize it, bites to inject the prey with venom, then continues wrapping its prey.
  • Breeding: When ready to mate males spin a web, deposit semen into the web, and then take that semen into specialized structures on their pedipalps. The male then searches for a female and, upon finding one, taps a signal on the web in an attempt to entice her to mate. If the opportunity presents itself, he climbs on top of her and inserts his sperm-charged pedipalps into her genital opening. The female will then create an egg sac containing 100-500 eggs.
  • Conservation Status: Not ranked. This species is being displaced in southern California by the introduced Brown Widow (Latrodectus geometricus).
Black Widow - Map.jpg

ORIGINAL IMAGE SIZE

8 inches X 10 inches

MATERIALS

  • Pen and ink on paper (Staedtler pigment liner on Strathmore medium drawing paper)
  • Colored in Corel Painter Essentials 5.

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