It’s the beginning of the spooky season… and tonight the black widows were out in force. I spotted hundreds of tiny males, but only a single bulbous female with about ten times the girth. Widows are reclusive theridiids, preferring to build their webs in cavities or in concealed locations near the edges of rocks and logs. I wouldn’t have even noticed this individual, but a grasshopper had jumped into her web, enticing the spider by its kicking and flailing. Black widows are very timid; after allowing me to prod her for a view of the classic hourglass pattern, she eventually retreated to the corner of the web and tucked herself away into a large rolled leaf. Many widow spiders such as this northern widow (Latrodectus variolus) have gorgeous markings on the dorsal side of the abdomen that are often overlooked. The female pictured above was very young and still retained paintbrush-like stripes and white/red concentric circles. As she continues to mature, she will lose the white coloration completely and the red spots will bleed out, making the sexual dimorphism even more pronounced.