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Male and Female Black Widow Spiders: What's the Difference?

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While both are arachnids and stingers, there are many differences between male and female black widow spiders. You might not know how many differences there are, and these two types of spiders may have less in common than you think!

In this article, we will discuss all the similarities and differences between male black widows and female black widows. You'll learn about their different behaviors, their lifespan, and what they look like. Knowing how to tell the difference between male and female black widow spiders is essential, especially when you consider their dangerous bite! Now let's start talking about these spiders.

Comparing Male and Female Black Widow Spiders

Male to Female Black Widow Spiders
Female black widow spiders are almost twice as long as male spiders.

© AZ-Animals.com

male black widow spider female black widow spider
size ½ inch – 1 inch 1 ½ inches – 2 inches
appearance Brown or gray with small red spots and sometimes white stripes on the belly; legs are longer than body Shiny black body with a red hourglass under the abdomen; short legs compared to body size
life 3-5 months 10-18 months
Behavior Does not bite, must avoid female black widows to avoid being eaten; starts breeding based on pheromones Egg aggressive and protective; will bite and eat male black widows when hungry. One mating can produce 200-900 eggs
Hourglass? no hourglass Yes; an hourglass under the belly

Key Differences Between Male and Female Black Widow Spiders

Male vs Female Black Widow Spiders
Male black widow spiders are brown or gray in appearance, while female black widow spiders are jet black and shiny.

© lightTTrace Studio/Shutterstock.com

There are a number of key differences between male and female black widow spiders. Female black widow spiders are almost twice as long as male spiders. Male black widow spiders are brown or gray in appearance, while female black widow spiders are jet black and shiny. Male black widow spiders have a much shorter lifespan than female black widow spiders. But that's just the beginning of their differences. Let us now discuss them in more detail.

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Male and Female Black Widow Spiders: Size

Male vs Female Black Widow Spiders
You can easily tell male and female black widow spiders apart just by the markings.

©Mark_Kostich/Shutterstock.com

Although it may surprise you, female black widow spiders are considerably larger than male black widow spiders. It is not uncommon for female spiders to be nearly twice the size of male spiders, possibly due to the fact that female black widows lay eggs while male black widows apparently do not.

The average length of a female black widow ranges from 1.5 inches to 2 inches, while the average length of a male black widow is half an inch to just under an inch. That doesn't include their legs, but either way, female black widows are larger than males.

Male and Female Black Widow Spiders: Hourglasses and Other Marks

Male vs Female Black Widow Spiders
Male black widow spiders may also have white stripes on their abdomen and legs, whereas black widow spiders are black all over.

© Vinicius R. Souza/Shutterstock.com

You can easily tell male and female black widow spiders apart just by the markings. This helps to identify them in the wild or in your own home. Now let's talk about their markings in more detail.

Female black widow spiders are known for having a red hourglass on the underside of their abdomen, while males don't have an hourglass at all. Conversely, male black widow spiders typically have red or orange spots on the top of their abdomens, while female black widow spiders do not.

In addition, male black widow spiders may also have white stripes on their abdomen and legs, whereas black widow spiders are black all over. However, many male black widows do not acquire this pattern as they age. As you'll soon learn, male black widows don't live particularly long!

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Male and Female Black Widow Spiders: Appearance

Male vs Female Black Widow Spiders
Not only do males have more markings than females, but compared to female black widow spiders, male black widow spiders are not black at all!

©Sari ONeal/Shutterstock.com

Speaking of markings, let's talk a little more about how male and female black widow spiders look. Not only do males have more markings than females, but compared to female black widow spiders, male black widow spiders are not black at all! In fact, most male black widow spiders are brown or gray in appearance, while all female black widow spiders are shiny black.

The two spiders also have different leg lengths. For example, women have shorter legs compared to their body size, while men have longer legs compared to their body size. However, this may not be obvious unless you look at male and female black widow spiders side by side.

Male vs. Female Black Widow Spiders: Behavior

Male vs Female Black Widow Spiders
Female black widow spiders live an average of 10 to 18 months, while male black widow spiders live an average of 3 to 5 months.

© Crystal Kirk/Shutterstock.com

There are some major differences in the behavior of male and female black widow spiders. For example, males initiate reproduction based on pheromones released by female black widow spiders. Male black widow spiders can also sense that female black widow spiders are hungry, and at this point they will leave the female black widow spider to avoid being eaten!

Another major difference in their behavior is that male black widow spiders do not bite, while female black widow spiders do. In fact, being bitten by a female black widow spider is more deadly or dangerous than being bitten by a rattlesnake.

Male vs. Female Black Widow Spiders: Lifespan

One final difference between male and female black widow spiders is their lifespan. Female black widow spiders live an average of 10 to 18 months, while male black widow spiders live an average of 3 to 5 months. Of course, if a male black widow spider is eaten by a female black widow spider during mating, then the male black widow spider's life span is even shorter. However, less than 2 percent of male black widow spiders are actually eaten by female black widow spiders.

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Male vs Female Black Widow Spiders

© lightTTrace Studio/Shutterstock.com


about the author

august croft


I am a non-binary freelance writer working full time in Oregon. A graduate of Southern Oregon University with a BA in Theater and a major in Creative Writing, I have an interest in a variety of topics, especially the history of the Pacific Northwest. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping on the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my family's kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast-iron skillet.

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