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Black widow spiders (latrodectus hesperus) are potentially dangerous arachnids. They are shiny and black with a red hourglass marking on the abdomen of the female only. They are usually about 1/2 inch long. The black widow spider can be found in dark corners of sheds and out buildings, under logs and brush, in rock piles, in dark garages, in basements, in stables, and in abandoned rodent holes. They have been known to be found even in crevices of pool filter lids.

Their reproduction is unique. The male transfers his sperm to the female genital opening. The female stores the sperm and can produce several egg sacs from each mating. She often eats the male after mating. After mating, the female spins an egg sac in which she lays 150 eggs or more. She places it in the web and guards it until the eggs hatch in about 30 days. The orange, brown, and white spiderlings climb plants and other high structures on a windy day and spin a long strand of silk. When the breeze catches the silk, they balloon away to a new home. The spiderlings change colors after each molting.

Black widow spiders can be found throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Southern California.

The black widow spider will bite if provoked. The bite contains a neurotoxin venom that affects the nervous system. The bite can be very dangerous to people of all ages, but they are rarely fatal. Pain spreads throughout the body accompanied by headache, dizziness, respiratory paralysis, nausea, and excruciating stomach cramps. It is written that by placing ice on the bite location immediately after the bite, you can virtually detoxify the venom and you may need no other treatment, under normal conditions. However, this is a rarity. As always, a person prone to allergic reactions or in poor physical health is advised to seek medical help as a precaution. Do not use the "cut and suck" method.

In areas where venomous species are expected, carefully inspect all clothing and bedding before use, especially items that have been on or near the ground during the night. And don't forget to shake out your shoes.