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A Widow's Warning

We're deep into #spookyseason so what better time to talk about one of BC's most infamous creepy-crawlies - the Western Black Widow Spider!

Most people are familiar with instantly-recognizable black and red hourglass motif of the female black widows, but did you know that males look completely different? Male Black Widows are mostly greyish brown with a bit of striping on their abdomen and more resemble a run-of-the-mill garden spider than their striking female counterparts. So why do they look so different?

It's because female black widows are more venomous than the males! Many highly venomous animals have distinct colours or patterns that let potential predators know that hunting them is a bad idea. This is called "warning colouration", or if you want to get really technical, "aposematic colouration". The red hourglass standing out against a jet black background on a female Black Widow is enough to let most predators know that she would make a terrible snack. Male black widows almost never bite and they also have significantly less venom than a female so they have not evolved that distinct warning pattern.


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