One of North America’s Most Venomous Spiders Lives in New York State
A spider with venom 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake's is now "prevalent" in the Empire State.
With cooler temperatures settling in, that means spiders will try and migrate inside your home to wait out the winter months.
If this arachnid gets into your home, approach with caution because they're capable of leaving a nasty bite.
The Most Dangerous Spider in the Country
The northern black widow spider is North America's most venomous spider, in addition to being classified among the deadliest spiders in the world.
While it can be found across several states and in parts of Canada, Western Pest Services said the black widow is "prevalent" in New York State.
There are three different species of black widow, so the northern black widow looks a little different from its other variants.
The northern black widow spider has a black, shiny body while that distinctive "hourglass" marking on the underside of their abdomen appears split or incomplete.
They also have red dots along their dorsal midline and can have white stripes on their side.
Why are they dangerous?
Black widows are considered dangerous because of their venom, which National Geographic says is 15 times more powerful than that of a rattlesnake's.
The toxin attacks the central nervous system and can cause a variety of issues. Side effects are determined by the bite's severity and how much venom the spider pumped into it.
Milder side effects include swelling and pain at the bite site, as well as achy muscles, nausea, and a rash.
Said Michigan State University:
Pain is felt almost immediately after the bite, and increases for 1 to 3 hours but may last for 24 hours. In severe cases, large muscles become rigid with spasms, there is a rise in body temp, blood pressure, profuse perspiration, and a tendency to be nauseous.
On the more severe side, people have experienced muscle stiffness or spasms, paralysis of the legs, vomiting, trouble breathing, swollen eyes, and weakness.
Those who develop any of those symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.
Health officials say children or elderly people bitten by one of these spiders should be taken to the emergency room. Both groups are the most likely to develop serious side effects and can even die.
While black widow spiders have deadly venom, they only bite as a last resort. These spiders are timid and would rather flee than fight.
But if they feel threatened, they will bite.
Where to find them
This section is basically a guide to help you avoid areas where these spiders like to hide. These creatures are most likely to come out at night and tend to enjoy dry, secluded environments.
Outside, they can be found in wood piles, old stumps, hollow logs, brush piles and abandoned burrows.
Those who manage to make their way inside tend to seek refuge in the basement, eaves, unused blankets, and closets. They also can seek shelter in barns and garages.
The benefits of having black widow spiders
While these spiders are dangerous, they are great for the ecosystem. These predators seek out pests that can wreak havoc on us and our gardens.
Black widows feast on flies, mosquitos, locusts and even caterpillars.
This is great considering bug populations have grown out of control this year due to a warmer-than-average summer and a super long reproductive season.
Read More: A "Pest-Pocalypse" Is Invading New York
This means black widows will be doing their part to bring down the number of pests. If you find one in your house, you're better off trying to find a way to safely bring it outdoors than squishing it.
Safely evicting black widow spiders from your home
If you like the idea of having these mini bouncers keep your pest populations under control, there are ways to safely move them outside if one manages to get inside your house.
The key is to be calm and keep your hands at a safe distance. If you see one in your house, grab a glass jar and gently coax it into the opening by using something like a stick or a paintbrush. Be slow and patient.
Once the spider falls inside the jar, cover the top and take it outside. Once you bring it to an area where it'll be safe from you and you'll be safe from it, open the jar and leave it outside. The spider will climb out and release itself.
But if the idea of physically handling a spider gives you chills, you can always call a professional to do the dirty work for you.
Also, if you don't want them in your home to begin with, they apparently hate strong scents like lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and peppermint. National Geographic says these arachnids are equipped with a great sense of smell.
They smell using their feet, so if they climb across something that smells like something yucky, they are going to find somewhere else to go.
Beware of look alikes
There are several species of spiders that mimic the appearance of a black widow, but they are harmless.
There's one species called the false black widows because they have the signature shiny black body and the same rounded abdomen, but they don't have that red hourglass marking.
These critters can bite if provoked, but they don't do enough damage to be considered medically important.
The black house spider can also be confused for a black widow, but they appear more bulky and awkward than the real deal.
They are also less aggressive than the black widow and would rather try escaping than bite. If you are bitten by one of these spiders, you're likely to experience pain and localized swelling.
Other venomous spiders found in New York
While black widows are the most dangerous arachnid in the Empire State, residents should also keep their distance from yellow sac spiders.
These creatures, which are small and pale, are also venomous.
Their venom is necrotic and can cause itchy or painful sores on the skin. These sores can also be slow to heal.
People bitten by a yellow sac spider tend to mistakenly attribute their injury to that of a brown recluse, which isn't settled in New York State.
However, brown recluses can wind up in the state if they slip into produce shipment from areas they are native to - like the southern United States.
That said, know your spiders and, more importantly, handle them with care. No one likes getting bitten.
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