Black widows generally are famous as the most venomous spiders in North America, one of very few arthropods on the continent that is capable of killing a human being. Being small spiders, they can inject only a tiny quantity of venom. But the venom is incredibly potent...
Better still, I began to get a sense for the entire family: what conditions its members like, what characteristics mark the family itself or help you sort out its members. In short, I learned something! I find this fun.
It is now widely established — so widely, in fact, that it may be out-competing many of our native ladybugs, such as the two-spotted ladybug that is the official state insect of Massachusetts. (I bet you didn’t even know we had a state insect!)
To be sure, there are a few species of each that are irritable enough to make awkward neighbors. The so-called social bees and wasps, that is, the species that live in large colonies and build elaborate nests, certainly will sting in defense of their homes. (Wouldn’t you?)
Which is pretty remarkable when you think about it: to form a gall, an insect species must develop the ability to hijack the biochemical processes that govern tissue production in a plant, producing a structure that perfectly suits the insect’s needs.