The black widow spider is not a rare creature. It belongs to the genus Latrodectus, in the family Theridiidae. This genus contains a total of 32 recognized species. However, the black widow spider is perhaps the best-known member of the genus, being mentioned in pop culture and feared for very good reasons.
These animals are known to possess a venomous bite and are treated as extremely dangerous creatures because of the neurotoxin they secrete, called latrotoxin. When injected into their victims, it causes a condition called latrodectism.
The female black widow possesses abnormally large venom glands, while the males’ is significantly smaller. As such, it is her bite that is particularly very harmful to man, while her male counterpart’s is not so much of a threat. It must be noted, though, that Latrodectus’ bites do not usually kill if proper medical treatment is provided in time.
These spiders are not just fierce predators, but like some other arthropods, they display a trait called sexual cannibalism. This occurs when the female eats the male just after mating. A classic example would be the praying mantis. For this reason, spiders from this species are given the common name – ‘widow spiders’.