How Does A Black Widow Spider Find A Mate?

Black Widow Spider

How does a black widow spider find a mate?

The male black widow spiders follow some signals that are released by the female spiders to get to the web. However, according to research, it is only about 12 percent of the suitors that manage to get to the web where the female is and ready to mate and it is not an easy thing to do because once they are there, there is always some rivals awaiting. According to several studies, the male black widow spiders take advantage of the clues that are left by their reproductive rivals to get to the mate as soon as possible.

Do the Black Widow Female Spiders Kill Their Mates?

A lot of people believe that the female black widow spider always kills and consume their mates but there is no evidence that supports that, it is just a myth. However, the courtship for the males remains perilous and the terrain to be navigated is dark and very challenging.

The web of the females releases come-hither hormones for the male spiders to follow but not many manage to get there and those who eventually do, there is always competition waiting for them. Sometimes the male black widow spiders slash the female black widow’s web to make them less enticing to their competitors. And they also deposit the mating plugs to the
body of the female spiders to block the sperm of the rivals.

Why not just avoid the
competition and find female webs that do not have other males

Well, according to the study, the male black widow spiders normally seem to thrive when there is a competition. In short, it is easier for the male black widow spiders to find potential suitors when they follow the trails of the competitors compared to searching for a suitor where there is no competition.

It makes more sense to them following trails left by other males as it helps them find suitors as soon as possible. And even if the male arrive like three
hours late, he will still have a chance to interrupt the other potential suitors and if he is really good, he can actually be the one who mates with the female. So why waste a lot of time trying to find a female with no competition while you can simply use the trails of the other males, beat them up and be the suitor? Makes sense right?

This does not mean that it is the only way of finding suitors. After all, how does the first male spider get to track down the female spider? The male spiders can follow the female pheromones back to the source and ensure that the signals are just at the right distance and it is uninterrupted by
wind and other factors.

About A Study

Ms. Scott and her colleagues conducted a study on these spiders to identify what they would do if the pheromones were limited and they did this by marking several male spiders with different colors and releasing them on
different angles and distances on a large female web.

Most of the male spiders got to the web within a few hours and even those who started the journey from a further distance arrived at the web as fast as their rivals. Why? They simply followed the silk threads that were released by the other male spiders. The spiders find it easier to follow the
silk thread than making their own way and it confirms that they are following the right direction.

Ms. Scott repeated the whole procedure again in a lab in order to confirm the results. To confirm this they gave the male spiders a chance to follow the silk thread released by the other male black widow spiders or the following the pheromones from the female spiders which were blown with a fan to different directions. In the lab, the procedure was more controlled
but 95 percent of the spiders still decided to follow the silk thread released by the other male spiders instead of following the pheromones by the female spiders or trails left by other species of spiders.

Maybe the silk thread might have more functions than what meets the eye. Maybe it provides information like if the male spider is getting late to the party and needs to speed up or won’t get the chance or depending on the
time the silk thread was released the male black spider might be able
to know that even if he speeds up he will get thereafter everything
has been completed and so he does not need to trouble himself.

How long is the courtship?

According to various studies, the courtship for the black widows normally last for a couple of hours and this is what makes it possible for the late
arrivals to have a chance of becoming suitors by battling out and becoming the ones to mate with the females. So arriving early does not guarantee a male spider a chance to mate with the female spider, that’s just a part of it.

In most cases, the spider which arrived early will have to battle out the other suitors and if he is lucky to emerge victoriously, he will move in the direction of performing a mating ritual that involves dancing, silk making and vibration transmitted vibration. It is important to note that the ratio of the male black widow spiders to female black spiders is 10 to 1 so it is understandable why the intense competition.


Male black widow spider can find suitor by tracing the pheromones signals that are released by the female spiders back to the source. However, according to several studies, it has been identified that most male black widow spiders follow the silk thread released by the other male potential suitors to get to the female’s web, fight off each other and the winner
gets to mate with the female spider.

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