Conducive Conditions: Black Widow Spider Gathering Place


August 26, 2015

Photo: Jeff McGovern

This nondescript unit is actually a hive of black widow spider activity. Photo: Jeff McGovern

This electrical transformer unit is not an unusual sight just outside the back door of a commercial kitchen. Its location makes it a popular meeting place for employees to have a quick smoke and a cup of coffee.

While this particular space is kept fairly tidy, the problem is a bit sinister: Inside each of the fins are stacks of black widow spider webs.

How can so many female black widow spiders be present in one place? The exterior building lights keep “the girls” steadily supplied with nighttime insects of all sizes and varieties.

The first order of treatment, if possible, is to aim the exterior lights away from the unit. To further remedy this situation, and lessen the possibility of human injury, the unit should be de-webbed and vacuumed regularly.

Spraying insecticide is not useful, because spiders walk high on their toes and don’t make sufficient contact with the toxin. Rather, look for a vinegar-based knockdown and repellent product that is environmentally safe and irritates their feet.

You can reach Jeff and Kate McGovern at

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