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February 23, 1946

Black Widow: America's Most Poisonous Spider

JAMA. 1946;130(8):544. doi:10.1001/jama.1946.02870080078031

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.

Abstract

Most spiders are inoffensive and indeed useful creatures which contribute to the control of flies and other disease carrying insects and offer artistic and moral exemplars by their clever and indefatigable weaving. The particular species which forms the subject for this book, however, stands convicted by the evidence here marshaled against her as a vicious biter whose potent poison has brought suffering to thousands and death to hundreds of our fellow Americans.

The book opens with a review of the popular folk lore and literary references to spiders, an account of the "tarantula" and other reputedly dangerous spiders, leading to the conclusion that "the most universally distributed `dangerous' spiders are those of the genus Latrodectus, and it is they, more than all others, which are responsible for serious cases of spider bite."

The black widow spider has been observed in each of the forty-eight states, and similar species are found

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