Watch: Black widow males follow rivals to female mates

Male black widows follow the paths of other males to find females. ©Sean McCann

The silk trails of fellow males lead black widow spiders to potential female mates, according to new research. “We found male black widows follow rather than avoid rival males, using their silk trails as highways that rapidly lead them to a female’s web, even if they can’t smell the female themselves,” said Catherine Scott, a PhD candidate in Professor Maydianne Andrade’s lab at the University of Toronto Scarborough and lead author of the study, in a press release. The study, which was conducted on Vancouver Island in Western Canada, found that males were better at detecting the pheromones of other males than females. Since courtship often lasts for hours, arriving late to the scene isn’t necessarily bad for some male western black widow spiders (Latrodectus hesperus) since they might be able to steal the female mate. A general shortage of females means that males may have little choice to compete for females, the researchers said.

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