Horrifying Explorations by Author Gordon Grice
Beautiful indeed :> I handle them too and have yet to be "attacked" or see any kind of aggressive behavior from a black widow spider (even those with egg sacs!). I guess they are more scared of us than we should be of them...
I actually have seen them be aggressive when egg sacs are present. They seem to vary quite a bit in temperament. I agree, though, that they are hardly the monsters of terror people make them out to be.
Then maybe I'm lucky I have found only ones with docile personalities :DI'm told the Australian funnelweb, though, is a completely different kind of beast (temperament-wise)
Yes--the funnelweb is far more dangerous as far as unprovoked attacks on humans, because the males defend their territories. They actually show quite a bit of individual variation, too, as I understand it, but overall, they are far more likely to bite someone who isn't trying to harm them than widows are. For widows, there are so many variables--gender, obviously, but also age, stage in the reproductive cycle, and even how hydrated they are. There are also some behavioral differences between the different widow species. They really aren't very dangerous, and I've known researchers to go around collecting them with their bare fingers. But, within that generalization, some are more likely to stop playing dead and start biting than others are.