Mediterranean Black Widow, Latrodectus tredecimguttatus

The Mediterranean Black Widow (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus), known also as the Steppe Spider, is a species of widow spiders within the genus Latrodectus. It is commonly found throughout the Mediterranean region, ranging from Portugal to southwest and central Asia. Specimens from central Asia are also known by the binomial name Latrodectus lugubris; that name, however, is considered out of date, though it is still commonly found in the literature. Many consider this spider a Latrodectus mactans subspecies.

This spider bears different names in different regions. For example, in Southern France it is called l’araignee malmignatte and in Italy it is called malmignatta. Throughout the Central Asia and Eastern Slavic region, the name qaraqurt is most often used. The words qara, meaning “black”, and qurt, meaning “insect” or “bug”, comes from the Mongolian language.

L. tredecimguttatus is black in coloration, much like most other widow species, and is identified by the thirteen spots which are located on its dorsal abdomen. These spots are normally red, but also be yellow or orange. It is otherwise similar to other species within the genus Latrodectus. The Mediterranean Widow mainly lives in steppes and other grasslands, and can be a major issue in areas where grain is harvested by hand.

The female individual of this species has a leg span of about 10 to 20 millimeters, while the male individual is smaller and reaches 4 to 7 millimeters at best. Only the female spider’s bite is hazardous as the male cannot pierce the rather thick epidermis.

Like all Latrodectus species, L. tredecimguttatus gives a painful bite that is fatal is rare cases. There are many reports of Ukrainian farm workers receiving bites while working in fields.

In Kazakhstan, there are reports of this species biting and killing camels. It is believed that this species is the cause of tarantism, frequently falsely credited to the Wolf Spider (Lycosa tarantula).

Image Caption: Black widow spider, young female, Europe, Croatia. Credit: K. Korlevic/Wikipedia