Book Review: Black Widow Spiders by Joanne Randolph, Nightmare Creatures: Spiders! Series Title #1

by DerdriuMarriner

Black Widow Spiders is Nightmare Creatures: Spiders! series title #1. Joanne Randolph tells facts on black widow spider bio-geography, life cycle, and natural history.

Introverted with each other, irksome to food sources:

The name black widow spider accords well with the arachnid in question's adult appearance and behavior. Candy cane-striped spiderlings within a year become:
• dull black, lateral red and white-striped, narrow-bellied, solitary widower-like males; or
• glossy black, round-bellied, solitary widow-like females with red hourglass-like or two-dotted under-abdominal markings.

They count among the world's most venomous animals since a Lactrodectus genus member's bite causes all-body paralysis and liquefied interiors -- to be sipped out -- in insects and muscle pain and temporary paralysis in humans. Few predators -- excepting mud-daubing wasps (Crabronidae, Sphecildae families) of similarly paralyzing venom -- dare to stalk black widow spiders since black and red are Mother Nature's warnings of crass behaviors, smells, and tastes.




scarily extensive distribution of black widow spiders

Latrodectus map
Latrodectus map

Mean and messy in memorable black and red


Black widow spiders generally entertain adult lengths of 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters). Prey and viewers additionally find intimidating the black widow's: 

  • four sets of legs with oil-coated tips for scaling sticky web strands and with bristled, comb-footed, heavy back-legs for silk-wrapping food; 
  • set of leg-like mouth-parts; 
  • set of small leg-like pedipalps for assisting in feeding, mating, and moving; and
  • two rows of four low-vision eyes. 

Black widow spiders indeed get bad reputations because of post-mating and web-making behaviors. All 32 extra-polar species have messy, sticky webs separated into supportive upper threads, tangled middle threads, and vertical-trap lower threads; and spun in basements, burrows, logs, sheds, and woodpiles. The female is known for devouring males during mating seasons. 


Black widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus) living in flower pot with egg sac (left center)

Los Angeles, southern California
Los Angeles, southern California

Quarrelsome when necessary, quick and quiet in general


Female black widow spiders join 200 eggs into pear-shaped, silken sacs. Scientists know that black widow spider cocoon and web silk are sufficiently strong to include among their applications service as crosshairs for the United States of America's guns during World War II (September 1, 1939 - September 2, 1945). The cocoons last 30 days after hatch-time to let hatchlings increase size, skills, and strength before leaving their mother and her special web for holding egg sacs in place. Hatchlings mature into spiderlings, which mature into adults whose hanging upside-down in the middle of night-monitored food webs may be mimicked by less poisonous species, such as: 

  • brown widow spiders (Lactrodectus geometricus); and 
  • false widow spiders (Steatoda spp). 


Orange hourglass marking on ventral (under) side of brown widow spider (Latrodectus geometricus):

Less poisonous than black widows, brown widow spiders may mimic their more lethal relatives' proclivity for hanging upside down in food webs.
captured and photographed in Los Angeles, southern California
captured and photographed in Los Angeles, southern California

Underhanded in predatory means, upright in pest-controlling ends


Viewers generally notice black widow spiders busy at:

  • biting, hiding, jumping, or playing; or
  • keeping beetle, caterpillar, fly, and grasshopper populations manageable.

They thereby observe collateral damage to people and pets during life cycles and natural histories in beneficial niches within predator - prey food chains, as elucidated in the PowerKids Press-released, 2014-published Black Widow Spiders of: 

  • book designer Andrew Povolny; 
  • editors Norman D. Graubart and Jennifer Way; 
  • photo researcher Katie Stryker; 
  • photographers Brian Chase, Arman Davtyan, E.R. Degginger, Robinson James, Jessica Lewis, Hway Kiong Lim, Pete Pattavina, Colton Stiffler, Les Stocker, Keith Szafranski, Peter Waters; 
  • The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.'s Nightmare Creatures: Spiders! series for third- to seventh-graders aged 8 to 12; and 
  • writer Joanne Randolph. 


Female Northern Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus variolus)

Collected in Beltsville, Prince George's County, southern Maryland, by Jessica Zelt
Collected in Beltsville, Prince George's County, southern Maryland, by Jessica Zelt



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Remaining undaunted by black widow spiders, mud daubers have no qualms about Latrodectus confrontations:

black and yellow mud dauber (Sceliphron caementarium)
Fronton, Haute-Garonne, southwestern France
Fronton, Haute-Garonne, southwestern France

Sources Consulted


Randolph, Joanne. 2014. Black Widow Spiders. PowerKids Press: Nightmare Creatures: Spiders! Series Title #1. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. 


Western black widow (Latrodectus mactans) spiders range through western United States, as well as in southwestern Canada and much of Mexico.

Western black widow displays signature hourglass.
Western black widow displays signature hourglass.
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Black Widow Spiders by Joanne Randolph

Nightmare Creatures: Spiders
Black Widow Spiders

Fantasy - Black Widow: black t-shirt available via AllPosters

Fantasy - Black Widow
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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 03/11/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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