- maleLactrodectus mactans
This fascinating spider was photographed at the Rarity Ridge development in western Oak Ridge. My first reaction was that it was a Black Widow, but I realized it was not completely black on top and on the legs, and the red marks were on top of the abdomen instead of the lower side. Thanks to Dr. Riechert, an arachnologist (spider specialist) at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, I learned that my assumption was half correct, she informed me that it is a male Black Widow (Lactrodectus mactans)! The bite of the male, unlike that of his "spouse", is harmless.
Male spiders have large pedipalps which are used for mating (I won't go into the details since this is a family-friendly site! If you are interested, check out a biology book.). I tell my students if a spider has what looks like boxing gloves near the head, it is a male. Kids love being able to tell the difference between a female and male animals. (But the boys are disappointed when they find out that male bees, wasps, ants, and hornets can't sting!)