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Why You Shouldn't Fear the Black Widow Spider
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Why You Shouldn't Fear the Black Widow Spider

Patrick Allan, Gawker Media

Yep, nothing to be afraid of here. Photo via Photos by Lito .

Spiders-especially famously venomous varieties like the Black Widow-are at the top of a lot of people's lists when it comes to fears. But unless you're incredibly unlucky, there's really no need to fear them.

This is part of Lifehacker's Never Fear series. The world is a scary place, but we tend to misplace our fear in things that don't really deserve our precious time and energy. Let's fight those fears together with a little knowledge.

They'd Rather Live Outside, Away From You

I'm not a fan of being around spiders- at all -but I'm trying to face my fears and leave them be. All spiders, including the menacing Black Widow, want absolutely nothing to do with you. The reason they're even around you and your home is because it's inviting to them . Why? Light attracts insects, which in turn draws in spiders.

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Also, spiders like warmth, need water, and the exterior of houses are covered with permanent nooks and crannies where spiders can make safe homes. Unless your home is regularly filled with enough insects to provide it food, a black widow will never come inside unless it's an accident.

They Rarely Ever Bite, Even When Around People

Everyone seems to be terrified of the black widow's bite. They are venomous, yes, and it's possible their venom is around 15 times as strong as a rattlesnake's , but your chances of being bitten are so very small. They're non-aggressive and will only bite in self-defense. And it's only the female widow spiders you have to worry about, which can be identified by the reddish hourglass pattern on their black abdomen.

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In most cases, not even touching one is enough to get it to bite you. One study, published in the journal Animal Behaviour , found that black widows usually only bite if they're pinched along the entire length of its body (as in being crushed). In the study, repeated poking the spider with a finger did not warrant a bite from the spiders, but instead led to them running away.

Don't believe me? Here's some video evidence:

In the video above, professional insane person Coyote Peterson from Brave Wilderness free handles one with his bare hands. It crawls around his hands for several minutes without any issues. It doesn't feel in danger, so it doesn't sink its fangs into his skin. As you don't pinch, grab, sit on, or attempt to smash one of these with your bare skin, black widows will leave you alone.

If They Do Bite You, It's Very Unlikely You'll Die or Even Suffer

You may have heard horror stories about black widow bites causing nausea, muscle aches, and even mild paralysis, but that's a rare occurrence even if you somehow do get bit. Black widows don't always envenom their bites, and even if they do, they can regulate how much they use per bite. According to the same black widow bite study previously mentioned, the creatures only tend to inject venom when they feel their life is being threatened. Otherwise, they often give a dry bite.

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But what if they do use their venom? As Catherine Scott , an arachnologist at Simon Fraser University, explains at LiveScience , a majority of bites that do occur are not serious. People either recover from the bites with no intervention at all, or go to the hospital to be treated for their symptoms before being released. Scott notes that out of all 1,866 black widow bite cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2013 , only 14 of them resulted in any severe symptoms. Oh, and nobody died.

Remember, a black widow's venom is meant for their insect meals, not for you. It's not designed to kill you, or even meant to be used on you in self-defense. Black widow bite fatalities are very rare. They can be far more dangerous for small children, the elderly, and those who are already ill, but for regular folks in good health, they're hardly a nuisance at all. Just don't go looking for them or trying to crush them.

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