Scientists have been exploring the behavior of males who destroy their partner’s homes, however, this isn’t territory being marked in human haibitats, but the Black Widow spider. It has been discovered that the males in these relationships destroy large parts of the female web during courting in order to make them less appealing to others.
Interestingly, the female in the relationship doesn’t appear to object to the havoc and destruction being caused around it. The authors of the report from Simon Fraser University in Canada suggest that this offers the female some peace and gives her the chance to get on with being a parent.
The Black Widow spider that thrives in western North America is actually called Latrodectus Hesperus. The female’s are normally around 1.5cm long and a black colour with a red hourglass marking on the abdomen. Male black widows are much smaller and have a lighter tan colouring with a striped marking around its abdomen. These spiders have a tendency to build untidy webs, which they use to communicate through. This is done using both pheromones and vibrations.
The female spiders produce silk pheromones that have an integrated scent to attract mates and it also communicates deeper detail about the female. One smell of this scent by the male will allow it to judge the age of the female, whether she has been around the block a bit and also the kind of appetite she has for food. These are highly complex chemical messages put out by the female and the destruction of this communication system by the male demonstrates absolute intent to stop the female messages.
Females are in great demand and up to 40 black widow males may arrive at a female web for courtship in a single night. This fierce competition is one of the reasons that males have developed ‘coping strategies’ to fend off the huge demand for their chosen female.
The study put female western black widow spiders in a cage to build a web over a week and then took the enclosure to a beach in Vancouver Island where the spiders naturally thrive. The females were removed from their webs and the team then compared the male arrivals at three different kinds of web; webs from which half the silk was cut with scissors and removed, intact webs, and webs with about half of the silk cut out and bundled up by males.
The objective of this was to assess if taking half of the pheromone infused silk is what made webs less appealing, or if enclosing the destroyed web in the male web was also influential.
The result demonstrated that the female web was hugely attractive. The intact webs that were placed on Vancouver Island attracted 10 males in the first 6 hours. The webs that had been reduced by male spiders attracted just one third of the male visitors whilst the ones reduced by the research team were just as appealing as the untouched versions.
The view from the team is that the females have learnt to be passive about the destruction of their web because they know it will bring them the peace and time to raise their offspring.