The black widow and the redback spider are two very similar spider species. In fact, they both belong to the black widow category of spiders (Latrodectus, which is Latin for black widow).
The redback spider is also called the Australian black widow thanks to its distribution mainly in Australia. The black widow, on the other hand, is distributed mainly throughout North America, which is also one of the main differences between the two.
Both spiders have that typical hourglass pattern on their abdomens, as well as a red stripe on their backs. However, North American black widows also have a dorsal red stripe, which allows us to easily distinguish between the two.
VIDEO: THE BLACK WIDOW SPIDER (Credit)
The black widow and the redback spider have a lot in common.
1. They’re from the Same Family of Spiders
Both spiders belong to the genus of Latrodectus, which is Latin for black widow.
However, the redback spider belongs to the species of Latrodectus hasselti, which is different from the main black widow spider, which only belongs to the Latrodectus species of spiders.
Thus, both spiders are essentially the same species with just a few differences between the two. One of the main differences between the two is their habitat, which leads to different names. You’ll also find European black widow spiders, for instance, but they still belong to the genus of Latrodectus.
In essence, though, they belong to the genus of black widows, which is a very broad category of spiders. These are found all over the world under different names – for Australian black widows, the name is redback spider.
2. Their Venom is Similar
Both spiders have potent venom. Their venom is comparable because they both cause similar symptoms. They’re ranked among the most venomous spider species in the world, although bites from black widows and redbacks are rarely fatal.
These bites can be deadly to the elderly, small children, and those who are otherwise compromised in terms of health. However, for adults, especially healthy adults, these bites are seldom deadly. They can, however, cause some serious side effects which might take hours or even days to disappear.
Some of the most common symptoms of a black widow and redback spider include nausea, cramps, dizziness, headaches, sweating, fainting, and potentially more severe problems, which are rarely deadly and may be resolved on their own.
Even though they’re not deadly, it is an unpleasant experience to be bitten by one of these two spiders.
3. They are Black with Red Patterns
Redbacks and black widows are easily confused thanks to the fact that they both have black bodies and red patterns on their bodies. This makes it almost impossible to distinguish between the two, especially for those who are not well-versed in spiders and how they look.
Both the redback spider and the black widow have the hourglass red shape on their abdomen, which is visible if the spider finds itself in its net, looking to capture the prey with the net. Both also have a red stripe on their backs, which is quite clearly visible from a distance.
However, one of the main differences is the fact that black widows have a dorsal red stripe, while the redback spider doesn’t have this stripe. You can easily find this stripe by taking a closer look at the spider, which can help you distinguish between the two.
4. They have Similar Behaviors
Both black widow spiders and redback spiders are found in dry and hot areas where they can find some shelter. This is especially true for the redback spider, who likes to hide under rocks, between logs, and in holes in the terrain where it can find some recluse from the heat and the sun.
These spiders also exert a very similar type of behavior. They can use webs of an irregular shape to attract and catch their prey, upon which they inject their venom into the prey. This venom aims to paralyze the target and is often fatal to smaller targets.
Thanks to a more potent venom, both redbacks and black widows are capable of preying on animals that are larger than themselves.
What are the differences between the two?
1. Habitat and Distribution
The main difference between a redback spider and a black widow is their distribution worldwide. Black widows are mainly found in North America but also all over the world, while the redback spiders are only found in Australia and parts of Asia.
Even though they’re almost the same species (apart from a few minor differences), the main difference and distinguishing factor are that redbacks tend to live in Australia. This is why they’ve been classified as a separate species primarily, although there are also some other differences between the two.
Other black widow species are found around the world. For example, there’s also a European Black Widow spider, which also has all the main traits of a true black widow, but is still slightly different and has a different habitat and distribution to the main species of black widow.
2. Body Patterns
Even though the bodily patterns of these two spiders might seem similar, there are some crucial differences that you’ll find.
Firstly, there’s the dorsal red stripe, which is only found in black widow spiders, but not in redback spiders. This stripe is one of the crucial ways that will help you distinguish between these two species.
Otherwise, the rest of the patterns on their bodies will be quite similar. Both spiders have that hourglass-like shape that is painted on their abdomens in red. They both have a red stripe on their back, which makes them hard to distinguish. For example, European black widows have red dots on their backs, which makes them hard to miss.
There are 42 Species of Black Widows
When taking a look at the differences between these two spiders, you should know that there are some major differences between spider species that belong to the group of spiders called black widows.
There are 42 officially recognized black widow species, so you’ll find great variety in this group of animals alone. The redback spider is only one of those species, and it’s the one that lives in Australia and Asia.
Other black widow species are different from one another based on their habitats and their distribution. While the name black widow is accepted worldwide, there are slight varieties in these spiders that are found around the world.
European black widows have red dots on their backs; redback spiders, on the other hand, have no dorsal red stripe. This is only a minor difference, but noticeable enough to make a difference.
Other Spider Comparisons:
To conclude, the black widow and the redback spider both belong to the group of spiders called black widows. However, the redback spider is a subspecies that is only found in Australia and Asia.
The main difference is thus their distribution, but there are also some other minor differences between the two, primarily in their appearance. They’re still quite similar, though.