How Dangerous Are Brown and Black Widow Spiders?

black widow spider

As our Lexington pest control company knows, we have a wide variety of spider species in South Carolina. One particular type of spider can been seen regularly and often sparks fear in those who find them: the widow spider. While they’re both considered highly dangerous, (the black widow, especially), not many people die from their bite. So how dangerous are they really?

In the Insect World

Life is very different in the insect world. While insects need to be weary of humans, they also need to be weary of other insects. When it comes to widow spiders, their diet consists of flies, mosquitoes, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles. Their webs, however, are unlike other spider webs. Instead of having a specific shape, their webs are often rough, shapeless, and sticky. This means that to other insects, widow spiders may be a little more dangerous than other spiders.

When it comes to the male widow spider, however, it’s a different story. During their mating season, female widow spiders (both black and brown) will often eat their male companion after mating, which – technically – makes female widow spiders quite dangerous to male widow spiders.

To Humans

Black widow spiders are considered the most venomous spiders in North America, however, their bites rarely cause fatalities. When a person is bit by a black widow, they may experience symptoms like burning and swelling of the area followed by nausea, muscle cramps, sweating, or chills.

Brown widow spiders, on the other hand, aren’t as dangerous to humans as black widows. When a person is bit by a brown widow, they will likely only experience burning and swelling of the area.

A black widow bite can be severe, but it can be easily treated by a professional. The most important thing is to get to a doctor as soon as possible if you believe you’ve been bitten by a black widow. On occasion, a black widow bite can cause a fatality, but it’s usually in small children, the elderly, or the infirmed.

Widows may be dangerous, but they’re not very aggressive and rarely bite humans.

Identifying Widows

Black Widows

Female black widow spiders are about .5 inches long (1.5 inches when their legs are spread). They are black in color and usually have red markings on the underside of their abdomen. Often times, these markings are shaped like an hourglass, or in some cases, spots with crosswise bars. Male black widows spiders are smaller, about .25 inches (.75 inches when their legs are spread), and are black with yellow or red bands or spots on their backs.

Brown Widows

Both female and male brown widows spiders are larger than black widows, measuring about 1.4 inches. Unlike black widows, brown widows are harder to identify. While their name says “brown,” brown widows can also be tan, grey, or almost black and have black, white, yellow, orange, or brown markings on their abdomen. Their legs, however, are always striped tan and black.

*Photo courtesy of

Protect Your Home or Business with Preventative Pest Control Services

Pest Guide

Use our pest guide to learn about some of the most common household pests. Click on a pest to learn more.

Family Owned and Operated
Best of the Best 2022
Charleston's Choice Winner 2017
Termidor Certified Professional
2020 Mom’s Choice Award Best Exterminator