10 Amazing, Beautiful, TERRIFYING Spiders

Black Widow
The black widow spider is so-called because the female tends to kill its partner after mating. © Michael Redmer/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

We couldn't very well do an article on scary spiders and leave out the black widow, could we? Latrodectus Hesperus, which is found in temperate regions throughout the world, has a bulbous body and a distinctive, hourglass-shaped mark on its abdomen. It is just 1.5 inches (38 millimeters) in length, but its size is deceptive. The spider's venom reportedly is 15 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake, and if the creature bites you, the result is achy muscles, nausea and a paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult.

Fortunately, most people who are bitten by black widows don't suffer any serious or permanent injury, though the venom can be fatal to small children, the elderly or people in poor health. Black widows are most infamous for their violent macabre mating behavior, in which females sometimes kill and eat their mates after copulation. And you thought "Love Hurts" was just an old heavy metal song [source: National Geographic].

Author's Note: 10 Amazing, Beautiful, TERRIFYING Spiders

I've always been interested in spiders, dating back to my childhood, when I noticed a spider build a web in the opening of our bathroom window. If I stood on the side of the bathtub, I could watch the spider maneuvering around on the silken strands. One day I noticed another insect -- it looked like some sort of beetle -- venturing into the web, and becoming entangled. After that, I watched in equal parts fear and fascination as the spider leisurely dissected and devoured its prey, in the equivalent of a miniature monster film that only I got to see. Unfortunately, soon afterward my mother apparently noticed the web and swept it away in the interests of neatness, and I had to find another source of entertainment.

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