Red Widow Spider: How to Identify Latrodectus Bishopi

The Red widow spider shares the same uncertain future Cerbalus aravaensis, the largest spider in the Middle East—a greatly threatened, irreplaceable habitat.

Red Widow Spiders (Latrodectus bishopi) are endemic to Florida but only live in a restricted range. Currently, Red Widow Spiders dwell in Lake Wales Ridge and other Southern and Central Florida areas. 

Within these areas, the Red widow spider is further limited to the dry dunes home to the Pinus clausa (sand pine).

To further complicate their odds for continued survival, the Red widow spider sticks almost entirely to palmetto bushes at least one foot or more above ground.

Given the Red widow spider’s habitat and potential for destruction, this spider is listed as a Threatened Species. 

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Red widow spider. Photo credit:

Red widow spider: Description.

The head and thorax of red widow spiders are orange-red, and their abdomen is black with yellowish rings surrounding a row of red spots. Its legs are a deep, brilliant shade of red. Unlike the Black widow spider, it does not have an hourglass figure but has one or two smaller red marks.

The female Red widow spider is 1/2 an inch with a leg span of 1/2 to 2 inches. The male is 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the female.

Red widow spiders: Mating.

As the name implies, the red widow spider has a nasty habit of consuming her male mate if he is slow to escape. Eating the male probably provides an additional level of food to provide for the soon-to-be-born spiderlings.

After mating, the female red widow spider uses palmetto leave and silk webbing to secure and conceal her egg sac. While a red widow spider’s web is invisible most days, it can be seen on foggy mornings.

The Red widow spider web is built specifically to catch flying insects by using snare lines that tangle up their prey and drop them in a sheet of cobwebs below.

The red widow spider’s favorite treat is the palmetto tortoise beetle.

Is the bite of a Red widow spider dangerous?

According to Hollenbeck, Jeff. “Species Latrodectus bishopi – Red Widow.” BugGuide. Iowa State University. Retrieved 20 September 2018.

“This spider is venomous and can be harmful to people. The female’s venom is a neurotoxin that causes sustained muscle spasm rather than local tissue injury. 

Note from J. Hollenbeck:

A clear lymph fluid also oozes from the pores surrounding the bite. The muscle spasms are permanent, (at least my case) reoccurring several times a year for several minutes at a time. The bite was treated as L. mactans, although treatment may have been unnecessary, as spasms, oozing, and localized redness were the only effects of the bite.

Males and immatures do not bite.”

Contact between human red widow spiders is rare, due to their restrictive habitat.

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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

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