If you’ve ever seen a black widow, you probably wanted to get far away from it as quickly as possible. But was it really a black widow you saw, or could it have been a lookalike? As it turns out, there are many spiders in the world that have red and black markings, similar body shapes, and other characteristics that could leave the casual observer confused. Keep reading to find out more about some of these spiders that look like black widows.
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Spiders That Look Like Black Widows
1. Wolf Spiders
There are many species of wolf spider found throughout the world. Some of them are fairly dark in color, making it possible to confuse them with black widows.
That said, there are several ways to tell them apart.
For one thing, wolf spiders tend to be hairy while black widows are not. What’s more, black widows have bulb-shaped bodies and skinny legs, while wolf spiders are more well-proportioned and have somewhat thicker, hairier legs.
Finally, wolf spiders do not make webs as black widows do.
Male black widows tend to be smaller and lighter in color than females, so it is easier to confuse them with wolf spiders than it is to confuse the females. That said, if the spider in question is not near a web, there’s a good chance it’s a wolf spider instead of a black widow.
2. Red-Spotted Ant Mimic Spiders
These types of spiders are found widespread throughout North America and prefer habitats such as shrubbery and wooded areas.
They look similar to black widows in that they have black bodies with red markings on their abdomens; they are also hairless like black widows.
Ant mimic spiders, however, have a different body shape than black widows do; their abdomens are not as bulbous.
These spiders also don’t build webs; instead, they hunt for ants on the ground, mimicking their prey by raising their front two legs like antennae. They are also smaller than black widows, only growing to about half an inch long.
3. Widow Spiders
Black widows aren’t the only spiders with “widow” in their name; there are a variety of other spiders in the world that bear this distinction. In particular, brown widows and red widows are sometimes mistaken for black widows.
Brown widows look very similar to black widows, except for the fact that they are brown. They even have the distinctive hourglass-shaped mark on the underside of their abdomen–though this is paler in color, sometimes appearing more orange or yellow than red.
The red widow is shaped very much like the black widow, with skinny legs and a large, bulb-shaped body. That said, it is more reddish in color; the hourglass mark on its abdomen is more triangular in shape; and the spider has additional markings on the top of its abdomen that black widows don’t have.
Like black widows, both of these spiders are venomous; though they rarely bite people.
4. False Widow Spiders
There is also a family of spiders known as false widows. Many of these can be confused with black widows–especially the noble false widow, false black widow, white-spotted false widow, and rabbit hutch spider.
The noble false widow can be found in parts of Europe and North America, and it is shaped very much like a black widow. That said, it is more brown in color with lighter markings on the back, and it does not have the hourglass on the underside of its abdomen.
The false black widow looks very much like a black widow, but it doesn’t have the red hourglass and is more chocolate-brown than shiny black in color. Though it can bite, it does not generally cause dangerous symptoms.
The white-spotted false widow is very similar in shape to the black widow, and it can come in various colors, including black and other dark shades. The most noticeable characteristic that sets it apart from black widows is the white-spotted pattern on its back.
The rabbit hutch spider is a type of false widow. Though it can appear black and have a similar body shape with black widows, it is noticeably smaller and does not have the red hourglass marking.
5. Redback Spiders
Redback spiders are found in Australia and parts of Asia. They are known as Australian black widows, and they share striking similarities with the North American black widow.
Their body shapes are similar, and they are close to the same size as well. Both are primarily black, though they can also be dark brown, and both species have the red hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen.
The main difference between redbacks and black widows is that redbacks, as the name suggests, have an additional red marking on the back.
6. Katipō Spiders
These spiders are found in New Zealand, and they are considered an endangered species.
Katipō spiders are bright black and red, much like black widows. However, katipō spiders have a more velvety appearance, and they have distinctive red markings and lines on the back of their abdomen.
Though both types of spiders have large, bulbous abdomens, the abdomens of katipō spiders are a bit flatter.
7. Black House Spiders
The black house spider is found in Australia and parts of Asia. It looks more like a wolf spider than a black widow, but its dark coloring and web habits make it easy to confuse at first glance.
Black house spiders are larger than black widows, and their bodies are covered in hair. Though they have large abdomens, they are more well-proportioned than black widows are.
Their hairy legs are thicker than those of black widows, and black house spiders lack the distinctive hourglass marking that black widows are known for.
8. South American Black Widow
The South American black widow is a strange looking spider native, as the name suggests, to parts of South America.
This spider has a large abdomen with alternating bright red and black stripes across the back. Its legs are thin and black.
South American black widows have more red markings than regular black widows do, which makes them relatively easy to tell apart. That said, they are still venomous and should be avoided.
9. European Black Widow
European black widows are mostly found in regions around the Mediterranean Sea.
These spiders are roughly the same size as black widows, or slightly larger. Their bodies are highly bulb-shaped, giving them the general appearance of black widows.
They are mostly black with bright red, orange, or yellow spots on their large abdomens. They are highly venomous, and their bites have been known to cause death in isolated cases.
To learn more about these and other widow spiders, check out this video:
10. Boreal Combfoot
The boreal combfoot spider is sometimes confused with the black widow due to the shape of its body–it has thin legs and a bulbous abdomen.
These spiders are also dark in color and hairless. They tend to be a dark reddish brown to plum colored.
That said, they are noticeably smaller than black widows, and they don’t have the red hourglass on the underside of the abdomen.
There are many different spiders in the world that look similar to the black widows found in North America. Some of these include false widow spiders, red and brown widows, redback spiders, and black house spiders.