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Black widows in Minnesota

Several live black widow spiders were sent to the Department of Entomology in October and November. What is the risk of black widows in Minnesota? Where do they come from? Are there special steps that should be taken to protect ourselves from these dangerous spiders?

Fortunately, black widows (Latrodectus spp.) are rarely found here. Of the five species known in the U.S., only one, the northern black widow, is native to Minnesota. Even though it is native, people normally do not encounter this spider.

Non-native black widows are sometimes accidentally transported into our state. Fortunately, they do not establish themselves here. While having three black widows reported this fall is considered an above average number of cases, overall, they are still rarely found in Minnesota.
This black widow came from Texas.  Note the red
hourglass on the underside of its abdomen which
identifies it as a black widow. 
Photo: Jeff Hahn, UMN Extension

In one case, a black widow was found in grapes. It is not unusual for them to construct their webs in this fruit.  The clusters of grapes is conducive for black widow webs. Because of that, they occasionally can get moved with the grapes out of the vineyards.

In another case, a black widow was accidentally transported into southern Minnesota on a car
chassis that originated from Texas. A third black widow was found in northern Minnesota on a pallet although it was not clear where that came from.

So while it is not impossible for you to find a black widow in Minnesota, the likelihood is very small and you do not need to do anything specific to safeguard against them. Fortunately, black widows, like all spiders, are not interested in people and avoid us whenever possible. While they can bite if they feel threatened, this is not common. Happily, black widow bites in Minnesota is essentially unheard of.

Author: Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist
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