Black Widow in my Garage!

I live in a small town in the high and dry southwest corner of Colorado. We have lots of critters here, including deer, elk, black bears, and black widow spiders. I did know that it was possible for black widows to live in my neighborhood, but until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know that they ARE in fact living right here in my house.

Here’s my story…

I was returning from my morning chauffeur run, after dropping off my three kids at their schools. After parking inside my garage, I approached the door that separates the garage from the rest of the house. I just happened to look up at the top of the door. There was something black there, right at the top edge, where the door meets the frame. See it in the photo below? It’s pretty big.

What's that thing on my door?
What’s that thing on my door?

I got closer to see what it was. A spider! It didn’t occur to me that it might be a black widow, so I got up close and took some photos. I was a biology major in college, and I try not to freak out about critters.

Wow, cool! A big spider! Never seen one quite like this in the house before. Good thing I looked up before opening the door, or it would have landed on my head!

Oooh, look! Big spider!
Oooh, look! Big spider!

I even took a video of the spider and posted it on Facebook. I asked if anyone knew what kind of spider this was.

My husband was the first to reply. “Black widow.” Hahaha. He’s just like that. But then other people started commenting that it really did look like a black widow. I thought they were kidding, because they know I’m gullible and trusting. So they posted reference photos and descriptions and “how to identify a black widow” tips.

I started to wonder. I grabbed a can of Raid and went out the front door and took the long way around to the garage door. I sprayed the spider down from the top of the door to the floor. It was still pretty lively, so I gave it another generous squirt and left it there for a while. After it stopped moving, I went inside and got a juice glass and a piece of paper.

I scooped the spider into the glass and took it inside, where I covered it with plastic wrap and secured it with a rubber band. When I looked closely, I noticed it was still twitching, so I put the glass into a Ziploc bag, and placed the whole thing in my freezer. I was not going to mess with a “mostly dead,” possibly deadly spider.

When I was sure it was completely dead, I took it out of the freezer. I had learned that black widows usually have a red hourglass on the underside of the abdomen. For years, I’d thought that marking was supposed to be on the spider’s back! So when I first observed my sneaky spider friend, I assumed it wasn’t a black widow. No red on the back! Who looks at the belly?!

Red marking on underbelly!
Red marking on underbelly!

Oh my goodness. Yes, it’s a female black widow. Apparently, they are prolific breeders. Females rarely leave the nest, and they typically produce one or two egg sacs, each containing up to 900 eggs. Therefore, it’s likely that there are up to 1800 black widow babies nearby. Great.

I think I deserve some credit for staying pretty calm. I could have freaked out! I admit, when I thought about how many more spiders might be in the garage, I considered using a flamethrower for spring cleaning. Instead, my husband brought me a pair of work gloves and some home insecticide. True love!

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