Canada's most beautiful, deadly spider calls the Okanagan Valley home

If you come across one of these venomous spiders, it is best you do not confront or agitate them, maybe though, we should learn to love them.

When I moved to the Okanagan Valley in the B.C. Interior, I expected to see breathtaking vineyards, majestic landscapes and pristine lakes… the furthest thing from my mind were the critters that also call this picturesque part of the country home.

It was last year when I learned this the hard–and startling–way. My husband ran inside to tell me that we had a black widow in our garage. Being new to this part of the country (we moved from Ontario), I was initially skeptical at what he had claimed to have discovered.

Could it be? An actual black widow in B.C.? This was definitely worth a closer look and further investigation.



PhD candidate Andreas Fischer with Simon Fraser University in Vancouver confirmed that what we had found was indeed a black widow.

"It's the only spider in Canada that can harm us to the point that we should go to the hospital and seek medical attention,” he told me after showing him a video of the spider. “But they don't like to bite. They’re very, very, timid."

According to Fischer, the one we found is known as a Latrodectus hesperus, the scientific name for the western black widow spider.

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Their identifying features include:

  • A distinct sheen: A glossy, black outer coat like an arachnid leather jacket of sorts.

  • Shape and size: These types of spiders have an hourglass-like body with the head proportionally smaller than the rear end, which this one had. This little (or not so little) critter measured approximately 3-4 cm long (1.5 inches from leg to leg), which is right around the average, according to Fraser.

  • Red, shiny hourglass sign marking on the belly.


According to Fischer, black widow spiders tend to thrive in hot and humid conditions.

“We have them a lot in the Okanagan, specifically… They like it very hot, which we have in Okanagan.”

Other places these intimidating bugs can be found in are Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta, according to Fischer.

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Photo: Andreas Fishcer.

Fischer added that they seek out moisture sources and are often found lingering near garden hoses, like in my case, or on irrigation systems, as well as dark corners or closets indoors when they like to come inside during the fall season.

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If you happen to come across one of these venomous spiders, it is best you do not confront or agitate them. After all, she did just lose her husband...see what I did there? Female black widows have potent venom containing a neurotoxin that can be harmful to pets and humans. Though they are truly not out to get us. They are shy and timid and if left alone, they will not bite. Fischer says it's best to stay calm, and let them crawl off you. Do not panic or squeeze the spider, that's when they may bite you.

Some known symptoms from this venom include pain, nausea, goosebumps and localized sweating. The venom is exuded from the spider's fangs and injected into the enemy, and you should see a doctor immediately if you have been bit. Most of the time though they do not bite, but females may be tempted to bite to protect their eggs.

"Death is very unlikely based on a black widow bite, but I would definitely recommend that you stay calm, and then seek medical attention," advises Fischer.

Pets can be severely impacted by black widow spider bites. They may show signs of severe muscle pain, cramping, tremors, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death. Much like humans, they are given antivenom medications. If you suspect your dog or cat was bitten by a black widow spider, call your veterinarian immediately.

To learn more about black widow spiders, please watch my interview with Andreas Fischer in the video that leads this article.

Thumbnail courtesy of Andreas Fischer.