The black widow spider, one of the world’s most feared arachnids, has crept north into Quebec, according to new research.
The northern black widow, one of several species of the ominously named arachnid, was previously thought only to reach as far north as Belleville, Ont. But the results of a new study conducted by researcher Maxime Larrivée of the Montréal Space for Life Insectarium, shows that the spider’s “ecological niche” includes southern Quebec up to Lake Saint-Pierre.
Though the spider has a reputation for being dangerous, Larrivée told CTV Montreal that there’s little to worry about.
Larrivée says its venom is “potent” and stronger than other spiders, but a healthy human body would likely experience a fever and muscle cramps after a bite. He also says of all the black widows, the northern black widow’s venom is the weakest.
The chances of even coming across the arachnid is low, said Larrivée.
“Finding a black widow in southern Quebec is worse than looking for a needle in a haystack,” he said. “I have never found one and I’m an expert. You probably have as good a chance at winning the lottery as finding a black widow.”
Even if you did stumble upon a black widow -- which tend to live under rocks and logs on the ground in shady corners -- you’re unlikely to get a bite.
“These are small spiders about the size of a quarter. They run away as soon as they encounter a large mammal,” he said. “If ever there was a person to be bitten or an animal to be bitten, often it will be just a warning bite with no venom that’s injected, because it’s a big waste of energy to bite a ‘non-prey item.”
The research, which was conducted along with members of the public, was done to better inform conservation action in the future and reveal the “northward evolution” of the species. The research revealed that a number of other insects also expanded their range into southern Quebec, including certain butterflies and moths.