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Friday, December 14, 2007


The Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus spp.) is a spider notorious for its neurotoxic venom. It is a large widow spider found throughout the world and commonly associated with urban habitats or agricultural areas. Although the name 'black widow spider' is most commonly used to refer to the three North American species best known for their dark coloration, black hair and red hourglass pattern, occasionally it is applied to several other members of a the Latrodectus (widow spider) genus in which there are 31 recognized species including the Australian red-back, brown widow spider (sometimes called the gray widow), and the red widow spider. In South Africa, widow spiders are also known as the button spiders.

Currently, there are three recognized species of black widow found in North America: The southern black widow (L. mactans), the northern black widow (L. variolus), and the western black widow (L. hesperus).

The spider Latrodectus tredecimguttatus, commonly known as the European or Mediterranean black widow, malmignatte spider, or karakurt (Russian: каракурт, or steppe spider), is one of the widow spiders in the genus Latrodectus. This species is commonly found throughout the Mediterranean region, ranging from Spain to southwest and central Asia.

The Red-Back Spider (Latrodectus hasselti) is a potentially dangerous spider native to Australia. It resembles a Black widow spider. It is a member of the genus Latrodectus or the widow family of spiders, which are found throughout the world. It is easily recognisable by its black body with prominent red stripe on its abdomen. Females measure about a centimetre in length while the male is smaller being only 3 to 4 milimetres long. The redback spider is one of few animals which display sexual cannibalism while mating.

Redbacks, along with Australasian funnel-web spiders (a category of spider which includes the notorious Atrax robustus, or Sydney funnel-web spider), are the most dangerous spiders in Australia. The redback spider has a neurotoxic venom which is toxic to humans with bites causing severe pain. There is an antivenom for redback bites commercially available.

The Brown Widow spider (Latrodectus geometricus), is one of the widow spiders in the genus Latrodectus. It is a "cousin" to the more famous black widow spider. The brown widow is found in parts of the southern United States (including Florida, Alabama, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas); as well as in parts of Australia, northeast USA and South Africa. The origin of this species is uncertain, as specimens were independently discovered in both Africa and in the Americas. They are usually found around building in tropical areas.

The Brown Widow has a medically significant neurotoxic venom. Dr. G.B. Edwards, a University of Florida arachnologist claims that brown widow venom is twice as potent as the black widow venom but is usually confined to the bite area and surrounding tissue, as opposed to the Black Widow. Other sources say that the brown widow is less venomous. Regardless, people who have been bitten typically describe the experience as very painful and extreme care should be taken when working or playing in the areas they inhabit.

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