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Black Widow Spider
Latrodectus mactans

Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus mactansThe black widow spider is really quite common.  Fortunately it is very shy, and tends to hide in places people seldom go, small dark spaces.  In this case the spider spun its web in an overturned flower pot.  When working near small dark places in the garage, under the house, around the wood pile, I make it a practice to never put a finger any place I can't see into.  Especially if there are shapeless webs in the vicinity.  Bites need immediate treatment even if they don't hurt at first.

Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus mactansBy twitching her web with a stick, I persuaded this spider to come see what she might have caught.  Here you can see the characteristic red spot on her under side.  When I first looked into the pot, she had her legs pulled in tight and looked like a round black lump, a defencive posture.

Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus mactansHere the black widow spider is coming directly at you.  It's time to back off, but don't panic.  The spider really doesn't want you, and she can't jump.  But she may have trouble telling the difference between your finger and a tasty bug.  The tangled web is designed more to trap crawling insects rather than flying ones.

A close relative, the brown widow has become common in Southern California since 2003.  In 2008, it appears to me that the brown widow is more numerous than the black widow ever was, and is driving the native black widow out.

[Taxonomy: Classification]
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