I first became interested in black widow spiders after finally buying Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare CD. I had looked at the vinyl version at the Virgin store in Manchester many times and never bought a copy of it. I had already bought From The Inside on vinyl many years before and loved that so I can’t really think why it took be so long to buy Welcome to My Nightmare. Looking back I think that I’d switched to more extreme music, but was obviously still intrigued by Alice and the album title especially.
When I did eventually buy I was just blown away, I thought it was brilliant. Cold Ethyl is still one of my favourite songs and I loved the narration by Vincent Price on Devil’s Food/Black Widow. I liked that piece so much that I wrote it down and memorised it.
Leaving lepidoptera – please, don’t touch the display, little boy, aha cute! Moving to the next aisle we have arachnida, the spiders, our.. finest collection. This friendly little devil is the heptophilidi, unfortunately harmless. Next to him, the nasty lycosa raptoria, his tiny fangs cause creeping ulcerations of the skin. And here, my prize, the Black Widow. Isn’t she lovely?… and so deadly. Her kiss is fifteen times as poisonous as that of the rattlesnake. You see her venom is highly neuro toxic, which is to say that it attacks the central nervous system causing intense pain, profuse sweating, difficulty in breathing, loss of consciousness, violent convulsions and, finally… death. You know what I think I love the most about her is her inborn need to dominate, possess. In fact, immediately after the consummation of her marriage to the smaller and weaker male of the species she kills and eats him – oh, she is delicious… and I hope he was! Such power and dignity – unhampered by sentiment. If I may put forward a slice of personal philosophy, I feel that man has ruled this world as a stumbling demented child-king long enough! And as his empire crumbles, my precious Black Widow shall rise as his most fitting successor!
In 2003 I found a small booklet, about the black widow spider, for sale on eBay.
The description of the item said that it was from the 1940’s but, unfortunately, there is no date printed anywhere on it. You can only really have a guess at it’s age based on the style of the typeface used and the condition of the paper. It seems to be a document that was given to engineers to alert them to the dangers of spider bites. I’ve looked on the internet to see if there is more information about it but couldn’t find anything. So here it is.
Black Widow Spiders
Maryland Casualty Company
The Spiders – Effect Of Their Bites
Black widow spiders are venomous insects. The bites of the female spiders are poisonous and often fatal in a few hours. The bites of the make spiders may be painful but they are not known to be poisonous.
How To Identify The Spiders
The adult female spiders have jet black bodies three-eights to five-eights of an inch long, with a vermillion spot, resembling an hour-glass in pattern, on their abdomens. Sometimes there may be more than one spot on their abdomens, resembling a Maltese cross. The spiders have eight eyes and a leg spread of up to two inches. The hind legs carry a kind of a comb with which the spiders throw their silk to enmesh their victims.
Male spiders are smaller than the females. The familiar vermillion hour-glass may appear on their abdomens.
The Spiders' Webs
The webs of black widow spiders are irregular, with criss-cross strands at various angles and in different planes. They are tough and strong and usually built in corners, crevices or knot holes, into which poorly formed tunnels are directed.
Habitat Of The Spiders
Due to favorable climatic conditions no section of the United States seems to be free from black widow spiders. The southern section of the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, is especially favorable to the propagation of the insect and black widow spiders may be found around almost every dwelling, garage and outbuilding.
Black widows prefer dry, dimly lighted locations for their homes around human habitations such as in cellars and closets, on porches and many other places that may suit their fancy. They may also be found in rubbish, wood piles, stables, sheds, garages and other outbuildings, as well as under planks, logs, wooden and concrete bridges, culverts, and other protected places. They are always upside down.
Nature Of The Spiders
Black widow spiders are timid and make effort to escape if disturbed. They usually eat their mates. They attack humans only when cornered, their webs, egg sacs or food are threatened, or when they are hungry. If compressed between the skin and clothing, they will become aggressive. Eggs are deposited and egg sacs and cocoons spun during the summer. The fresh cocoons are white but as they dry become tan or yellowish and very tough. The fluid from crushed eggs is said to be as poisonous as the venom of adult spiders. Each cocoon contains several hundred eggs which require about one month to hatch.
Not all of the little spiders survive as the strong ones eat the weaker ones. Baby spiders may be white or grayish with two of three rows of black dots down the back. The outline of the hour-glass is also visible and quite white for a while. The young spiders soon begin to spin their webs, which are often scattered over the country by winds, causing wide distribution of the insects.
As the spiders grow their bodies become darker and the hour-glass begins to take on a reddish hue. They grow to full size and reach maturity by the late spring or early summer of the following year.
Symptoms And Effects Of Bites
The bites of black widow spiders are sharp, similar to the prick of a needle, sting of a bee or wasp and are usually accompanied by itching and burning pains that increase rapidly and become almost unbearable. Sometimes one may not be aware of having been bitten until symptoms become manifest a few minutes or even several hours later. Pains become severe in muscles of the back, chest, abdomen and extremities. The muscles may become rigid, the legs drawn up, and breathing may be labored due to paralysis of the respiratory muscles. There may be subnormal temperature, cold extremities, cold perspiration, nervousness, mental depression, weak pulse, unconsciousness, or death may ensue, especially if medical aid is not available.
What To Do When Bitten
If bitten by any kind of spider, do not debate as to its species. Kill, and if possible, save the spider for identification. If proper treatment is to be given, the doctor must know the kind of spider which did the biting, especially if it were a black widow.
Some people do not believe the bites of black widow spiders are dangerous. Do not be misled by false opinions. Experience has proved otherwise.
In case of a bite do not lose time in calling a physician or have some one summon the physician. If a physician is not available, call an ambulance or use another vehicle to convey the patient to the physician or hospital.
When summoning a physician or calling an ambulance, state who is calling, where the patient may be found, describe the cause and nature of injury, how the patient is affected and first aid treatment, if any, that was or is to be administered.
If the one who is bitten should be alone and no assistance or telephone is available, do not delay in seeking a physician or hospital at once. Call for help as you go. This may bring assistance.
While waiting for a physician or ambulance have the patient lie down and keep him warm and quiet. If strong soap, household ammonia or bicarbonate of soda is available, wash the injury with plenty of suds, or apply the ammonia or solution of bicarbonate of soda to the injury. The latter can be made immediately by dissolving bicarbonate of soda in water.
First aid is merely a precaution – an effort in an emergency to relieve the effects of the poison. It can do no harm and will at least assure the patient and he will be in better condition for the physician.
How To Destroy Spiders And Their Nests
Poisonous spiders should be destroyed. Kill them, destroy their webs, cocoons and eggs. Use long sticks or brooms with long handles to accomplish this. When crushing eggs, be sure that none of the fluid gets on your skin or clothing.
If you are employed in an industrial plant and observe the presence of spiders, kill them or inform you employer, superintendent or foreman where the spiders may be found.
If you are at work away from the plant, whether in buildings or open spaces, destroy the spiders, their webs, cocoons and eggs wherever you may see them.
Look for spiders around your homes, garages, outbuildings, and among other places where they may lurk.
Keep all places clean where spiders are likely to be.
Spray insecticides or pour boiling water over areas infested by the spiders or where their nests are observed, especially in cracks, crevices and holes.
Where there is no danger of fire, a blow torch will be useful in destroying the pests.
Advise others about the danger from black widow spiders, how to destroy them, precautions to be taken and what to do when bitten.
Precautions To Prevent Being Bitten
Wear gloves when engaged in any activities where spiders my lurk.
Use long bars or other prys to tear down structures, and rakes or shovels with long handles to remove refuse.
Slap your hands together occasionally to shake off spiders that may be on the gloves. Brush your clothing and have some one brush you back, occasionally. There activities should kill spiders that may not be seen crawling on your clothing.
Do not remove gloves from your hands while at work unless it is necessary, and do not lay them on the ground, on objects or in other places that have been infested with spiders. Before placing the gloves back on your hands, shake them to remove spiders that may be on them. If in doubt about spiders being on the inside of the gloves, even after shaking, slap them against some hard object. This should kill the spiders. Then shake the gloves again to be sure the spiders are removed from the inside of the gloves.
Every spider killed means no eggs in the future. Every cocoon destroyed means from 200 to 300 spiders destroyed.
If In Doubt, Kill All Spiders!