This episode of Deep Look is brought to you by Curiosity Stream.
You know what people say about her?
She’s the black widow.
She mates, and then she kills, right?
Here comes her victim now.
He’s smaller, less venomous.
Sweet little guy.
But before he gets eaten alive…
Let’s talk about this poor sucker for a minute.
And how much of a “victim” he really is.
This western black widow lives in California.
She works pretty hard to make a living.
Unlike many spiders that build a new web each night,
she toils continuously on the same
one her whole life.
This web may look messy, but don’t be fooled.
It’s laid out on a grid of draglines
that she attaches to the ground.
It’s a multi-story sticky trap that
stands up to some pretty tough game.
When she bites, the venom takes hold,
bringing a slow paralysis,
这致命的编织者缠绕 缠绕 不断地缠绕
As this lethal knitter wraps, and wraps, and wraps.
But that’s not the only thing hanging around the web…
There’s this guy.
Adult male widow spiders don’t build webs of their own.
He moves right into hers.
Basically, he’s a squatter.
He’s staking his claim to her,
because he knows every sticky thread of the web is covered
in her pheromones.
And that spreads her mating scent far and wide,
potentially attracting a nice selection of other males for her to choose from
Which is not on his agenda.
So, he trashes the place.
He goes around snipping strands of her web,
undoing all her hard work.
He winds up the loose threads in his own silk,
masking her scent from other males in the area.
It’s called web reduction.
When he finally tries to mate with her.
See that vibrating?
That’s him signaling his interest.
He wraps her limbs in his own delicate silk.
It probably serves to surround her in his pheromones.
Scientists call it the bridal veil.
It seems subdues her.
Makes her more approachable.
When they mate, he leaves behind a piece
of this curlicue-shaped organ, called an embolus in her body.
It blocks other males from fathering her offspring later.
So let’s see…
Now let’s watch him get eaten.
Actually, in most widow spider species, and there are 31,
the males don’t get eaten.
They escape scott free.
The Australian redback is one of only two
where cannibalism almost always occurs when they mate.
He literally somersaults himself towards her mouth
so she can take the first bite,
which keeps her interested.
They’ll mate a few times like this before he finally dies.
Scientists describe it as a self-sacrifice.
And she’ll take her time, devouring his insides later.
Least he can do, right?
This episode is brought to you by Curiosity Stream,
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So what if a black widow spider bit you?
Well, it probably wouldn’t kill you…
in fact, we couldn’t find a documented case
of human death from a black widow spider.
But it’s definitely no joke.
So look, but don’t touch her.
Another poison myth?
How bout that Halloween candy that was supposed to kill you?
Watch this episode of the Origin of Everything
from PBS Digital Studios
to find out the answer to that and other everyday mysteries.
And thanks for watching Deep Look!