Black Widow Spider

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Arachnids were plentiful along the embankments in Yosemite. A gorgeous and plump female western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus) lay upside down in the center of her web — a haphazardly-made mass of strong and sticky silk threads. The classic red hourglass was easily visible from her position, popping out from the jet black body coloration. I had seen black widows growing up, but I had never encountered one so large and beautiful. If you look closely you can see her holding the end of a single thread with her left second foreleg, and follow it along to three threads originating from the spinnerets. Despite their reputation, black widows are extremely reluctant to bite, and most bites do not even require medical treatment. Outside of their webs they act like a typical clumsy orb weaver; a person would have to practically grasp the abdomen to elicit a bite. If disturbed black widows flee to a nearby crevice, remaining attached to the web by a thread so they can return when the danger has passed. While photographing this one I occasionally bumped against some threads and the spider would take several minutes to resume its central position on the web.

Photographed in situ [1]

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