Problematic Widow

wicked

Arachnobaron
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Apr 15, 2005
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A couple of friend's of mine found a Western Black Widow, Latrodectus hesperus, and caught her in a deli cup sized container. They wanted to keep her, but being that she is indeed a widow, they didn't want to risk coming in contact with her.

Of course she made her web on the lid of the container. So every time they tried to open the lid to feed her it would disturb her and she would run toward the opening. This made feeding a little nerve wracking to say the least.

They asked me if I could fix the lid so they could just pull up a tab and drop food in. What they wanted was pretty simple, but no one was willing to transfer the widow so they could modify the lid to her container.

I thought about it all the way home and decided a pull tab was way too unreliable, as well as unsafe. The stressed plastic would eventually crack and break, and tape to close it wasn't very sound either. There was only one viable solution - Creating a secure door.

Once I was home I found an ice cream bucket lid and set about making a pattern and testing it out. All I needed was two brass fasteners and a guitar pick-shaped piece of plastic from the bucket lid. Instant sliding door. And it's tight enough it won't pop open on accident.


I also tried to encourage the widow to build her web lower than the lid. A little hot glue and cut up popsicle sticks made a simple false ceiling lattice work. At first I thought it was going to work, because she was hanging out under it when I put her back in the cup. Unfortunately overnight she decided she liked the lid better and was back at the top. But the door works, and she didn't seem to mind when I opened it to spritz in a little water.

I enjoy problem solving, and now I can feel better about them taking care of her without getting in harm's way.
 

kevin91172

Arachnobaron
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Great job there.I just started keeping widows and learned best to keep the lid side used for the bottom.
 

catfishrod69

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thats a great idea...i need to do something like that with my widows deli cup because she has the lid all webbed down, even after i placed her tee peed sticks lower like you did....but the brass fastener thats holding the lid shut, how is that hooked on? cant really tell...thanks
 

wicked

Arachnobaron
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Great job there.I just started keeping widows and learned best to keep the lid side used for the bottom.
Thank you. :)
I've seen a few of the setups with the lid on the bottom, but I was never comfortable with them. With my luck the lid would stick, or I'd sneeze, and I'd end up with a handful of spider.

thats a great idea...i need to do something like that with my widows deli cup because she has the lid all webbed down, even after i placed her tee peed sticks lower like you did....but the brass fastener thats holding the lid shut, how is that hooked on? cant really tell...thanks
Thanks. :)
The brass fastener at the point of the plastic door stays in place. I just cut a small triangle in the lid so that fastener can pivot.
The second one is the "handle", and is upside down. I cut a very thin arc in the plastic, above the square opening, so the second fastener can slide.
 

Irene B. Smithi

Arachnobaron
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IDK, but mine can't climb clean glass. Maybe make a glass cage... also, transferring them isn't all that hard, get them out of the web(just destroy the web) and they are slow and clumsy, thus easy to deal with.
 

wicked

Arachnobaron
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I suggested a gallon glass jar, but they wanted me to just alter the container the spider was in.

They were keeping her in a bathroom, so I think there might be some storage issues that made the deli cup more desirable.
 

Salamanderhead

Arachnobaron
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IDK, but mine can't climb clean glass. Maybe make a glass cage... also, transferring them isn't all that hard, get them out of the web(just destroy the web) and they are slow and clumsy, thus easy to deal with.
From my observations, they can't climb glass but they will place web on it. Eventually they have enough web all over the jar to climb wherever they please.
 

Moltar

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I've always been a proponent of the "upside down jar" setup with the lid on the bottom. However... I've recently learned a bit about Latrodectus' hunting technique that has me rethinking this. The reason for using the lid-on-the-bottom technique is that it is generally the safest against possible bites. A widow's instinct when disturbed is to run for her hide, which is typically in a crevice near the top of her web. She'll practically never come down to the floor (the lid).

The probem is that those triplines that extend to the floor are part of her ambush setup. When you open the lid (located on the bottom) you're breaking those lines and disrupting her feeding response. This results in the keeper never being able to observe a naturalistic predation/feeding process. :(

That's why when I catch another widow or two in the spring I'll be setting them up differently.

As for your setup, I think she needs more height. Put basically the same thing in a deli cup 2x as tall and you'll be good to go. Leave more room between the floor and that grid you built. Also you may want to run a couple of sticks vertically so she can climb up and down while she's making her web. If you put something near the top like a thimble or whatever she may take to that as the hide instead of hiding right at the lid.
 

KnightinGale

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I kept mine in a small kritter keeper and it worked great. She made a funnel-retreat in the corner by the lip and webbed up pretty much the whole thing, but never crawled around the top where the ventilation grid is. I never had a single thread attached to the door in the middle. Maybe I was just lucky. :)
Anyway, clever little door you made there. I like finding interesting solutions to things too. Nice job!
 

wicked

Arachnobaron
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Thanks, Moltar. I like that thimble idea. :)

Anyway, clever little door you made there. I like finding interesting solutions to things too. Nice job!
Thank you. :)

Salamander- Yeah, I was thinking that too. Sooner or later she would find her way to the top.
 

buthus

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The probem is that those triplines that extend to the floor are part of her ambush setup. When you open the lid (located on the bottom) you're breaking those lines and disrupting her feeding response. This results in the keeper never being able to observe a naturalistic predation/feeding process.
Adding some criscross structure above the lid (flipped-jar setup) with a bit or two close to the lid allows for feeders to trip her alarms on their own. Keepers just need to understand that their isnt really very many reasons for access and that access is doable via long tweezers or small paintbrush etc.

THe best enclosure actually is a long horizontal if ya really desire to observe cool hunting performances.
 

cacoseraph

ArachnoGod
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moltar is right about natural hunting... but if you don't care about that then lid on bottom is the way to go. all their poo and boli will collect on the bottom/lid allowing for real easy clean up


remember, some widows can live 2-3 years as an adult and that is time for a decent amount of garbage to accumulate
 
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