Female vs Male Black Widow: How to Tell the Difference

Pity the plight of the male Black widow spider. Like all spiders, he is smaller, weaker, and less aggressive than his female mate. Heck, he can’t even give you a good scare or inject you with venom.

And the male Black widow spider has a mate with a bad reputation. Oh, I know; supposedly, she’s not that bad. But, as you will see in the close-up pictures, she always looks enormous and angry.

Male black widow
Male vs Female black widow spiders. Photo credit: Shutterstock/Lighttrace Studio

Male black widow vs. female black widow.

What are the differences between male black widow spiders and females?

Female black widows are shiny black, with a red-orange hourglass patterns on their abdomen. Male black widows are brown or gray with small red spots. Only females bite and inject venom. Females can live for up to 18 months, but males only five. Female black widows are twice the size of males.

Black male widow spider size vs female.

A black male widow spider can have a body length of between 1/10 to 2/5 of an inch. The average size of a black male widow is 1/4 of an inch. Female black widows have body lengths averaging 1/2 of an inch. However, at the start of some early season courtships, the male is only about 1/10 the size of the female.

Male black widow spider vs female: Color differences.

The male black widow spider is gray or brown with differing red or red and white discolorations on the top of its abdomen. These markings range from spots to a single, solid stripe.

Female black widows have dark brown to shiny black bodies and conscious orange to red hourglass on the bottom of their abdomens.

Male black widow
Male black widow mating with female widow spider. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/LighTTrace.

Male black widow mating ritual.

Black widow spiders mate in the late spring. The process begins when the males wrap sperm-soaked silk around their palps.

Spider palps are appendages of touch and are elongated leg-like structures, serving as secondary sex organs.

With its palps ready, the male will rely on chemical lures to locate available females. When he finds a suitable (preferably recently fed) female black widow spider, he will dance on her web and pluck at its strands to create a song of vibration.

Over time, he will slowly approach her and begin tapping her body. Finally, if all goes well, she will allow him to insert his sperm-covered palps into the reproductive opening on her abdomen.

The female will then create an eggs sac containing several hundred eggs. These eggs will hatch thirty days later, producing spiderlings.

Male black widow lifespan vs female.

Male black widow spiders can live for 12 -20 weeks. However, if they fail to move away from the larger females after mating quickly, they may be cannibalized to provide the female with the nutrition she needs to lay as many eggs as possible.

Female black widows can live for up to a year and a half in the wild, but this is highly unlikely. Mist females die shortly after laying their eggs and storing them in an egg sac. In effect, female black widows rarely live for as long as one year.

Male black widow venom vs female.

Black widow spiders are one of only a few spiders with the ability to cause a poisonous bite to humans. Only female widow spiders are dangerous. They can be identified by the hourglass pattern (red or orange in color) on the ventral aspect of their shiny, black abdomen. Male widow spiders are much smaller and lighter in color, and they lack the ability to deliver venom.

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Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for ThePredatorHunter.com.

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