The question of whether or not black widow spiders can be found in Massachusetts is surprisingly controversial. If you attempt to research the topic online you will find that many reputable websites claim that the spiders can, in fact, be found in the state, but only in small numbers. Other reputable websites claim that black widows are not native to the state, but they may sometimes wind up in Massachusetts after hitching a ride within shipments of fruit or plant matter. This seemed to be the case after a 2015 incident saw a Massachusetts woman sustain a bite from a black widow after the spider emerged from her store-bought grapes. It was determined that the black widow species that inflicted the painful bite had originated from a California grape crop.
The claim that black widows are not native to Massachusetts was relieving to arachnophobes all over the state, that is, until, a 5 year-old girl sustained a bite outside of her home in Mendon. The girl suffered pronounced systemic effects as a result of the bite and had to be hospitalized. The spider that bit the girl in this case probably did not hitch a ride to Massachusetts from California, so this incident proves that not only are black widows found in Massachusetts, but they have no problem biting humans. It should be mentioned, however, that black widow spiders, though highly venomous, are quite shy around humans, and it was reported that the girl likely sustained the bite after unwittingly leaning on the specimen.
While black widows may not often be spotted on the mainland, the spiders are apparently abundant on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and especially Tuckernuck islands. According to the Vineyard Gazette, black widows are often spotted outdoors on the above named islands, and they can be spotted throughout the state as well. Of the three black widow species in North America, the northern and southern black widow species have been found on the islands. The northern variety is sparsely populated on Cape Cod, and the southern variety has been found in buildings, homes and wood piles on all three islands, but the northern black widow is believed to be more abundant than its southern counterpart in New England. One particular study turned up a staggering 38 active black widow webs within a 150 square foot area on Tuckernuck Island.
Were you under the assumption that black widows could not be found in Massachusetts?