On August 5, I was in Lethbridge, Alberta and I came across an immature female black widow (L. hesperus I assume) in a big tangled web covering a patch of clay on the south facing slope of a hill along the Oldman River. Examining the web more closely I found 2 males as well. I was quite excited having never seen a black widow in the wild before!:eek: I captured all 3 and within 2 weeks of having them home, the female had moulted twice and approximately doubled in legspan!
This is a pic I took of her on the clay where I found her. The colouration was surreal:
When the female reached maturity, I picked the male with the most red on it and dropped him in with her. When he first walked onto her web, she lunged at him and he retreated quickly. Then he began vibrating his abdomen and taking careful steps towards her. After a while her abdomen began to vibrate as well and he continued his approach until he got close enough to reach out with his legs and stroke hers. After a while of stroking her while she didn't move, he began to mate with her. They mated on and off for about an hour and a half and eventually the male moved to the other side of the web and they ignored eachother for the next hour until I took him out. The mating took place on August 21.
I managed to get some shots of the 2 of them:
And a video:
Does anyone know what the normal gestation period is? I've been keeping her at around room temperature on average (although it does get quite warm during the day) and have been keeping her well fed on crickets. It's been over a month and she hasn't shown any sign of making an eggsack. I moved her out of the cage I had her in before, and put her in a tall glass jar that I hope to raise the babies in until they reach a manageable size. My plan is to wait until she lays her eggsack and then put her back in her normal cage. That way the babies will already have a web made by the mother and I don't have to disturb the eggsack at all. The jar has paper towel on the bottom and some sticks extending about 2/3 of the way up the jar. The spider built her web up to the top of the sticks but no higher because she can't climb the glass walls. I'm hoping the same will be true of the babies. That way they will stay in the bottom 2/3 of the jar so that when I open the lid, they don't drop out of it and scatter. I suppose being smaller, they're probably better climbers than the adults so I shouldn't get my hopes up on that. I might have to try the sewing machine oil trick I read about in another thread. For ventilation I drilled a large hole in the lid and stuffed it with a cotton ball. I'm not sure if this will be enough though and I'm considering buying an aquarium air pump to create better airflow. I would just drill a small hole in the lid for the hose and attach an airstone on the end to prevent the spiderlings from climbing into the hose.
Here's a pic of my current setup:
And a closeup of my girl in her new home:
When the babies hatch, I plan on feeding them 1 week old crickets, unless someone knows where to get wingless fruit flies here in Calgary?
So I was wondering how long it might be before she makes an eggsack? How long will it take the eggsack to hatch? Any tips that might improve my chances of success?
I'm hoping to get at least 20 females out of the batch (too ambitious?), so I guess I'll have to seperate them pretty early on or just keep them really well fed so they don't cannibalize eachother. I have been told that adult females can be communal if they're kept well fed and given enough space so I've set up an exo terra glass terrarium with some rocks and sticks, and have silicone sealed any possible escape routes.
Any tips or testimonies would be greatly appreciated.