Thursday, August 04, 2011

Male Widow

Creeping along on the outside wall of the house near the water faucet was a male black widow. I've found many females around here that I've written about before, (1), (2), but never a male. To tell you the truth I had no idea at the time what a male looked like. The female version though is pretty obvious with her large bulbous abdomen, long spindly legs and trademark red hourglass

The name “black widow” was derived from the idea that the female eats the male soon after they copulate. I’m finding out though that this is not always true. The female is unpredictable when it comes to “sexual cannibalism” of the male. Sometimes she eats him before copulating, sometimes after- because she's hungry. Most times though he leaves unharmed, and that's because most males mate with well-fed females more than ones that haven't eaten in a while, but how do they know the difference? Has something to do with the male sensing chemical and architectural cues in the female’s web that tells him if the she is ravenous or not. (3) All in all, I guess it just depends on what kinda mood she’s in.

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