Florida has 18-foot-long snakes, 10-foot alligators and great white sharks off the shore. But don’t overlook some of the smallest animals that can be just as dangerous or worse! Spiders are in every county of Florida and some are the most venomous spiders in America. Let’s look at the five venomous spiders in Florida.
1. Southern Black Widow
Southern black widows are one of the most common venomous spiders in Florida. They are also the largest of the widows. The female spiders have shiny black backs with a red hourglass marking and the males are much smaller and brown. They have eight long black legs and are about 1 cm long. They make large webs where they like to hang out in the corner and wait for prey. Humans are not prey but will sometimes be bitten if they accidentally startle one. Southern black widows are very venomous. They can be found throughout Florida and can be found by humans in backyard sheds, garages, woodpiles, under old lawn chairs and unused equipment like an old grill. Use caution when working in an area that has been undisturbed for a while and look for the spider webs.
2. Northern Black Widow
Northern black widows look a lot like the southern ones but the hourglass is more like two triangles and there are a row of red dots on their back as well. Most of them can be found in their preferred habitat of the edge of forests where they like to build their webs near the ground. In Florida they can be found west of Tallahassee in the panhandle of the state. They can be found in residential areas as well, and the most common way people get bitten by widow spiders is by putting on a piece of clothing that hasn’t been used in a while. So if you are pulling a pair of boots out from the back of your coat closet, be sure to check before sliding your foot in.
3. Red Widow
You can easily tell a black widow from a red widow by their body color. Spiders have segmented bodies with two segments, while insects have three. They have the abdomen called the opisthosoma and the head-thorax combo called the cephalothorax. If you look at an insect like an ant they have three distinct segments: a head, thorax, and abdomen. For the Red Widow, the abdomen looks similar to the black widow, it is shiny black with red markings but the markings are not an hourglass shape. It is more of a series of large red spots that have a yellow border. The head-thorax of the red widow is all red, including the long skinny legs. These spiders can be found in central and southeast Florida.
4. Brown Widow
The brown widow also had a distinct look with its abdomen and head-thorax being brown with striped legs. The banding on the legs alternates between dark brown and light brown. It does have an hourglass shape on its back but the hourglass is yellow or golden in color. They are about the same size as a black widow with the females being around 1 cm long. In Florida you will find these in well-lit areas in the southeast.
5. Brown Recluse Spider
Brown recluse spiders are different than widow spiders. They are one of the most venomous spiders in Florida and can leave a large scar after they bite. Brown recluse are a little smaller than black widows but have the same body shape with an oval abdomen and smaller head-thorax. They are uniform light brown in color without any markings on their back or with a faint violin shaped marking. Brown recluse get their name recluse from hiding most of the time. They prefer to stay out of sight and will only bite if startled. They are only found in a few counties in Florida including Jefferson, Alachua, Duval, Leon, and Bay counties.
What Can You Do to Avoid Being Bitten by a Venomous Spider?
To avoid being bitten by a spider always be cautious when working outside in the garden, moving firewood or doing yard work. Wearing thick work gloves can help provide a layer of protection. These spiders like to make their home in warm areas like old clothing, old shoes/boots or behind boxes. Always be cautious when grabbing or getting something that hasn’t been used in a while. Check boots or shoes before putting them on.
What Should You Do If You Are Bitten by a Black Widow?
The bite of a black widow may only feel like a pin prick, until the venom settles it. You will have just a small bite mark with two tiny holes, but you may start to feel muscle pain, nausea, fever, and anxiety or restlessness. The venom of a black widow is a neurotoxin. Pain and itching at the bite site will also get worse. The CDC recommends that you should, “Immediately seek professional medical attention.” Most black widow bites are not fatal. Children, the elderly and those with medical conditions are at the most risk of significant reactions. There are only 4-8 black widow related spider bite deaths a year in the United States.
What Should You Do If You Are Bitten by a Brown Recluse?
If you get bitten by a brown recluse it will take a long time for the wound to heal. The venom of the brown recluse essentially eats away at skin tissue. For its prey, like a cricket, the venom breaks down the soft tissue of the cricket so the spider can suck up the nutrients for lunch. The venom has a similar effect on human skin and will cause a large black blister which is painful and can swell up. In severe cases the bite site can lead to a necrotic skin lesion which is similar to a wound that doesn’t heal. Seeking immediate medical attention is advised if you think you have been bitten by a brown recluse.
Do Black Widows Really Kill Their Mate After Mating?
Yes, they do. Not every time, but it is frequent for the female to kill and eat the male black widow after mating. Some believe it is to eliminate one more competitor for food while others believe the nutrients from the male provide nutrients for the upcoming spider eggs. Male black widows are not venomous and pose no threat the humans, but because they do often get eaten during mating it is not likely you will come across one.
Summary of 5 Venomous Spiders in Florida
Here’s a recap of five venomous spiders found in Florida that we took a look at.
|1||Southern Black Widow||Found throughout Florida|
|2||Northern Black Widow||West of Tallahassee in the panhandle of the state|
|3||Red Widow||Central and southeast Florida|
|4||Brown Widow||Well-lit areas in the southeast|
|5||Brown Recluse Spider||Counties in Florida including Jefferson, Alachua, Duval, Leon, and Bay|
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