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Are the Spiders In Tucson A Danger to Me and My Pets?

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While all spiders have fangs and venom, widow spiders are the only medically important spiders in Tucson. These spiders can bite you and your pets. Let's take a look at some essential facts about these venomous spiders.

What You Should Know About Widow Spiders

The more you know about widow spiders, the less you'll fear them, and the more likely you will be to avoid a venomous bite. Here are a few important facts every Tucson resident should know.

  • Male widow spiders don't bite. You can tell males from females by the fact that they're half the size, and they have markings on the top of the abdomen, not the bottom.
  • Both male and female widow spiders don't bite when they are juveniles. A juvenile female does not have a clearly defined red or yellowish-orange hourglass marking on the underside of its abdomen. It may also have a different overall coloration, depending on the species. 
  • Female widow spiders don't tend to bite when they are away from their webs. Bites most often occur when a web is touched and when the female is tending to her egg sac.
  • The egg sac of a widow spider is paper-like and may be smooth or spiky (like a World War II naval mine). This sac can be collected with a spider web-removal tool and it can be crushed and destroyed. Wear protective clothing when doing so, or have a licensed pest professional handle this task for you.
  • Female widow spiders eat other arachnids and sometimes attack and eat male widow spiders. This is what led to the name. But you should know that she doesn't mate with the male and then kill it. If she kills a male, it is an honest mistake. We point this out because it is important to know that female black widows aren't evil. You don't need to fear them.
  • Often, a female widow will cause a dry bite. This is when no venom is introduced into the bite wound.
  • An envenomated wound can lead to medical symptoms, such as tightness in the chest, severe pain in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, an itchy rash, fever, sweating, and more. The toxin of a widow spider often targets the nervous system. This can lead to overall weakness, tremors, and even paralysis. At the first sign of symptoms, seek medical assistance.
  • According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there hasn't been a death in the United States caused by a black widow bite since 1983.
  • While most widows are black, brown widows have been found in Arizona, and they present the same threat as black widows. 

What You Should Know About Widow Spider Webs

Before you see a widow spider, you're likely to see a web. Here are a few important facts about widow spider webs.

  • A female widow spider establishes a web for the purpose of catching food and making babies. The food she prefers to catch in her web is larger insects, such as crickets, centipedes, and grasshoppers. Therefore, you'll often find these webs close to the ground.
  • Since the web of a widow spider is used to catch large prey, the threads are very strong. If you pluck one, it is likely to make a detectable sound.
  • A widow web is not pretty to look at. In fact, you might think it is a tangled mess. But there is a method to that madness. A widow spider can't catch the kind of food she wants by creating a beautiful and intricate web, like an orb weaver's web.
  • You're likely to find a black widow spider hanging upside down in her web. If so, she's not just relaxing; she's waiting for prey.

Spider Prevention

There are a few steps you can take to reduce widow spider activity in your yard.

  • Remove yard clutter. These spiders hide in and under the objects in your yard.
  • Seal any openings that can allow these spiders to get into voids, such as the hollow pipes of a swingset.
  • Keep your grass and landscaping trimmed and free of weeds.
  • Stay on top of yard work, such as removing leaf litter.
  • Address any moisture issues.

Spider Management

The best way to avoid a bite from a widow spider is to invest in a pest control plan for your property. Pest management will reduce the food sources widow spiders are seeking, and this will work to deter widow spiders from living in your yard. If you're in the Tucson area, reach out to Pest Friends. We can answer any questions you have and guide you in selecting the right services for your specific needs and budget. While widow spiders aren't nearly as dangerous as you might have heard, it is still better to not have them in your yard.