Black Widow

What is it?
First Aid

What is a black widow?

The black widow is a type of spider with a poisonous bite. There are several species of black widow, all of which have shiny black bodies with big bellies and bright red or orange markings on the underside.

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 Southern black widow photos courtesy of Jim Prive of Manchester, NH

The southern black widow has the classic red hourglass markings and is the species most people are familiar with. Southern black widows do not live in Northern New England, but will occasionally come into the region from other parts of the country, often in produce, such as grapes.

The northern black widow, which usually has two red or orange patches on its underside, may live in our region but is rarely seen. The NNEPC has not had a case involving a confirmed northern black widow bite in the 15 years that are covered by our electronic records.

What are the symptoms of a black widow bite?

A black widow bite usually becomes painful within the first two hours. The pain can turn into severe muscle cramping or twitching in the next two hours, often in the stomach area. Other common symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up
  • Fast heart beat
  • Sweating

What should you do if someone has been bitten by a black widow?

It is very unlikely that you will be bitten by a black widow in Northern New England. If you think you have been bitten, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511. If you can safely capture the spider or take a picture of it, we may be able to identify it, which can help with treatment. Take care not to get bitten again.

Last Updated: Monday May 2nd 2016