Seeing Red

on November 1, 2018
Audio Version
Black Widow

Something about a spider just makes us want to run away—especially when it’s shiny and black with a big red hourglass on its belly (so congratulations for sticking around to read this). That bright red mark is a warning: “Watch out. I’m deadly.”

Biologist Dr. Nicholas Brandley tested this warning strategy. He placed plastic black widows, some with red markings and some without, on bird feeders. Birds avoided the marked spiders three times more often than the unmarked ones.

But wait—doesn’t a bright red warning sign mean the poor thing will starve? After all, brilliant red on black isn’t the best camouflage for a hunter.

When Brandley looked into that question, he found that the red warning is almost invisible to insects. So the black widow clearly broadcasts a warning to its predators, but its prey doesn’t get the message. God provides for all his creatures—even the scary ones in a fallen and cursed world. Okay, that’s enough bravery for one day.

This article was taken from Answers magazine, May–June, 2018, 26.