Male Black Widow Spiders Are Homewreckers — Literally

posted: 07/14/15
by: Danny Clemens
Black widow spider
Mark Kostich/iStock

According to a new study from Canada's Simon Fraser University, male black widow spiders aren't afraid to play dirty when a female piques their interest. Researchers observed male spiders destroying sections of females' webs and replacing them with their own silk, competitive behavior that effectively deters other would-be suitors.

Females, however, don't seem to be too perturbed by their boyfriends' destructive tendencies: with their mangled webs, females were left free from harassment and able to focus on parenting. (Maybe the overly aggressive male fruit files should take a hint.)

A black widow's web is important -- each web is laced with unique pheromones that communicate important information about the web's builder.

"The silk pheromones that female black widows produce are like scent-based personal ads," explains study lead author Catherine Scott. "One whiff of the pheromone can tell a male about the age, mating history and even hunger level of the female. These complex chemical messages are just one part of the spiders' communication system, and web reduction is a fascinating behavior that allows a male to interfere with a female's message.

Scott and her team believe that the male strategically lays his silk to mask a female's pheromones -- without the presence of her pheromones, males will have no clue that she's single and ready to mingle.

Click here to read the full study in the journal Animal Behavior

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