Black Widow Spider

The black widow spider is a spider with a shiny black body, thin legs, and an hourglass shaped red/white mark on its abdomen. The female is much larger than the male and is one of the largest spiders in the United States.

The black widow is not aggressive. Males generally do not bite and females bite only when hungry, agitated, or protecting the egg sac.

They are usually found in dry, secluded, dimly lit areas. More than 80% of all victims are adult men.

The Bite

  • Black widow spider bites are the leading cause of death from spider bites in the United States.
  • The venom is 14 times more toxic than rattlesnake venom.
  • It is a neurotoxin that causes little local reaction, but does cause pain and spasms in the larger muscle groups of the body within 30 minutes to 3 hours.
  • Severe bites can cause respiratory failure, coma, and death.

Higher Risk Groups

  • Children under the age of 16 (highest risk)
  • The elderly
  • People with chronic illness
  • People with high blood pressure

Signs & Symptoms

  • A pinprick sensation at the bite site, becoming a dull ache within 30 to 40 minutes
  • Pain and spasms in the shoulders, back, chest, and abdominal muscles within 30 minutes to 3 hours
  • Rigid, board-like abdomen
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Grimacing

The symptoms usually last 24 to 48 hours.


  • Treat for shock.
  • Apply a cold compress, but do not apply ice.
  • Transport to hospital as quickly as possible.

Brown Spiders

There are two types of brown spiders or brown recluse spiders in Texas. They often are called violin spiders because of the characteristic violin-shaped marking on the upper back.

They are generally brown, but can range in color from yellow to dark brown.

They are timid and place webs in dry, undisturbed areas. The Texas species is not the same as the brown recluse spider in the midwest.

The Bite

  • The bite of the brown spider is a serious medical condition.
  • The bite is non-healing and causes tissue death.
  • Sometimes surgery is necessary.
  • The bite causes only a mild stinging sensation, if any at all. Victims often are unaware they have been bitten.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Several hours after the bite, a small white area appears surrounded by a margin of redness that may produce a mild itching pain.
  • A blister appears surrounded by mild swelling and redness
  • A bullseye or “target” lesion develops.

There may be fever, chills, rashes, hives, nausea, and pain in the joints over the next few days. The target lesion will enlarge over the next few days and can produce extensive tissue death.


  • There is no anti-venom.
  • The lesion will have to be soaked in antiseptic and possibly antibiotics.
  • Surgery may be necessary to cut out the dead tissue.