Black Widow Spider Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The black widow spider is a spider to watch out for! The female has a venomous bite and earns her name by sometimes killing her partner after mating. Learn what the black widow spider likes to eat and where it lives.

The Scary Black Widow Spider

Lurking in the dark crevices of an old barn is a big black spider with a red, hourglass-shaped mark on its belly called the black widow spider. It has spun a web and is patiently waiting for its prey to arrive. Whap! A fly hits the web and flaps wildly to escape, but it's too late! The black widow has caught its dinner and is wrapping it up in its silk web. The spider bites into the fly, injecting digestive fluids that liquefy the fly's insides, and then with a slurp, the spider enjoys her meal.

A black widow spider wrapping up her prey.

The black widow spider is a scary creature with a venomous bite that is 15 times stronger than the bite of a rattlesnake. Fortunately, these scary spiders don't attack humans unless they are disturbed. In fact, they are quite shy, preferring to hide near the ground in dry and dark places like barns, garages, old tree stumps, and below trash or brush.

Female vs. Male

If you do ever see a black widow spider, you only have to be concerned about the female because she is the only one that bites. It's easy to tell the females and males apart. The female black widow spider has a shiny black body with a red or sometimes yellow mark on its abdomen that is shaped like an hourglass. A full-grown female is larger and darker than the male and about an inch and a half in length with all eight of its legs stretched out.

The male black widow spider is smaller and lighter than the female.

The male is lighter in color and has a pale red or brown streak down its back. It's only about an inch in length with outstretched legs.

The term widow is used to describe a woman whose husband has died. The female black widow spider lives up to her name by killing her male partner after mating, which makes her a widow, though not all species of black widows kill their partner after mating.

A female black widow spider protects her web of eggs.

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