Emily Riddle, excerpt from
"An Immodest Proposal: The Black Widow of Treaty 6"

Though climate change will likely soon change this, there are no black widow spiders in my territory. Childhood summers spent in Syilx Territory acquainted me with these creatures. My sister and I would share a tent at the Bear Creek Provincial Park campground, near the Westbank First Nation and she would, as younger sisters do, leave the zipper open inviting these creatures into our shared tent. I never had a serious run in with one—though I did once, to my dismay, have to crush one beside my head with a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer can. 

Interestingly, only the female black widow spiders have dangerous venom and despite their bad reputation, they are relatively harmless to most humans. However, black widows are notorious for being "sexual cannibals," known to devour their mate after breeding. Scientists have found that the survival rates of the babies of black widow spiders who have eaten their mate are better than those whose fathers remain alive. Some hypothesize that this is because a black widow spider mother gains nutrition by eating their mate, thereby passing that onto their offspring. But male black widow spiders are only about a tenth of the size of the females (further proof that our projection of human cis-hetero ideals onto the animal kingdom is strange). We do not know exactly the reason for this sexual cannibalism, but this aggressive matriarchal tactic is obviously functional.




From The Malahat Review's spring issue #214