Spider snacks on snake
22:23 - (SA)
Bloemfontein - An office receptionist got the shock of her life
earlier this week when she found a 14cm long Aurora house snake
entangled in the web of a deadly spider.
Tania Robertson, a receptionist at an electrical firm in Bloemfontein,
came in to work on Tuesday and spotted the strange sight next to a desk
in her office.
The snake, which had obviously died from the spider's poisonous bite,
was off the ground and caught up in the web.
Leon Lotz of the arachnology department at the National Museum
immediately identified the spider as a female brown button spider.
The brown button spider, easily identifiable by a red hourglass marking
on its stomach, is not quite as deadly as a black widow.
He said it was only the second time in South Africa that he had heard of
a snake getting caught in a spider's web.
Rod Douglas from the herpetology department identified the snake as
being a young, non-poisonous Aurora house snake.
|A 14cm long Aurora house snake that got
entangled in the web of a deadly spider. (Charles
It is believed the snake got caught in the web on Monday night.
But it did not take the spider long to bite it.A red mark on the snake's stomach was evidence of where the
spider had started eating it.
Throughout Tuesday, the spider checked on her prey, but on Wednesday she
rolled it up and started spinning a web around it.
She also kept lifting it higher off the ground, while continually
snacking on it. Even a fly that accidentally landed on the snake was
chased off aggressively.
Story - News24.com
Here's a follow up on that
story once again from News24.com
The spider that had the
country talking after it caught and devoured a snake, found a new home
Leon Lotz of the department of arachnology at the National Museum
in the city is now the proud owner of the poisonous button spider and
what's left of the Aurora house snake.
Robertson on Thursday appealed for someone to offer a new home to
the spider that had been nesting in the airconditioning unit in her
Lotz said the spider and snake would in future be used for
educational purposes in the museum. The snake had been preserved in
alcohol, while the spider was living in a covered jar on his desk.
The spider and the remains of the snake will form part of an
exhibition in the museum for years to come.
He said these spiders lived about two years. When she dies, she would
be added to other preserved spiders in the museum's collection.
He said the spider would in future have to be satisfied with much
less exotic food, like moths and bugs. That is, unless she escaped to
the herpetological department where the snakes are kept, he added tongue
Meanwhile, Robertson was very relieved to see the spider go.
"No, I am not going to cry for her," she said. "Now I can switch
on the airconditioning again."
She said only two people responded to her appeal. Lotz was the
first. The second respondent was apparently very disappointed to hear
the spider had already found a home by the time he called. He wanted to
add it to his own private spider collection.
Edited by Tisha Steyn
|Family: Theridiidae (comb-footed spiders, button
spiders, widow spiders)
(Phylum: Arthropoda, subphylum Chelicerata, class Arachnida, order
Araneae, suborder Araneomorpha)
The Theridiidae or Comb-footed
spiders is a large and diverse family represented by 15 genera in South
Africa. They are nocturnal, web-living spiders. The family is best known
due to the notoriety of the genus Latrodectus, the Button spiders, also
called Widow spiders as females often consume the male after mating.
There are 6 species in South Africa, 5 of which occur in the
The very common species, Latrodectus geometricus, or Brown or
Geometric button spider occurs around every home, outside under window
ledges, behind drain pipes, under wood piles etc.
Although its bite can sometimes be troublesome, it is not life
threatening as is the case with of most of this group. However,
Latrodectus indistinctus, or the Black Button spider presents a serious
problem. Its venom is neurotoxic (affects the central nervous system).
This spider does not occur around the Cape Peninsula but distribution
starts from about Bellville and extends north and east.
Bites used to be very common during the manual harvesting of corn
but these days with mechanised harvesting, bites are quite rare. The
females vary from 7-16mm body length and the males 2.5-5mm. Females all
have the typical spherical-shaped abdomen and long,
The Black Button spider, Latrodectus indistinctus, is always dark
brown to black with a silky appearance. Dorsally the abdomen can be
scattered with white or red flecks or bands or can be unmarked.
Latrodectus indistinctus with her egg sac.
The Brown Button spider, Latrodectus geometricus, is very variable
in colour ranging from cream, beige, brown, olive green to black
but always with dorsal geometric markings that radiate down the sides of
Sometimes the markings on Latrodectus geometricus are not that
apparent on those that are darkly coloured or black and the latter could
be confused with Latrodectus indistinctus.
|However, the 2 species can always be differentiated
by the orange hour-glass marking on the underside of Latrodectus
geometricus while Latrodectus indistinctus has the red stripe/s on the
dorsal side at the end of the abdomen above the spinnerets.
This stripe/s radiates up the abdomen but as the spider grows, this
stripe/s reduces with each moult ultimately leaving an indistinct mark,
hence the name Latrodectus indistinctus. A further difference is the egg
sac. Latrodectus geometricus has a spiked egg sac while that of
Latrodectus indistinctus is smooth.
Button spiders are very timid, usually retreating when disturbed
or dropping to the ground and playing dead. Bites result from handling
when they are trapped and squeezed.
The main symptoms of Latrodectism (Button spider envenomation):
* sharp burning pain at the site
* pain spreads to lymph nodes within 15 minutes
* severe muscle pain and cramps within an hour, resulting in tightness
in the chest and difficulty with walking
* anxiety, sweating, fever, slurred speech, nausea and headaches.
Symptoms are less severe with the Brown button spider.
Less than 5% of untreated cases result in death, usually as a result of
respiratory failure. In fact, there have been no deaths from button
spiders in the last 4 to 5 decades. Those more severely affected are
children (smaller blood volume) and the elderly who might suffer
respiratory or heart failure. All Latrodectus bites should be treated
Another genus in the family is Steatoda or the False Button spider. Its
colour ranges from brown to black with a white to yellow crescent
marking on the anteriodorsal (front top) side of the abdomen. These
spiders are harmless to man and occur under stones and bark or hollows in walls and are sometimes found in the home.
Comb-footed spiders have comb or serrated setae (hairs) on the
hind tarsi (feet). They construct 3-dimensional webs with numerous
strands radiating from the web to the ground. The lower sections of silk
strands are coated in glue droplets. When an insect wanders into
one of these, the strand breaks off and the prey is lifted up to where
the spider will bite it, wrap it in silk and remove it to its lair and
eat at leisure. Various sized prey is caught in this manner.
Information: Copyright 2003, Iziko Museums of Cape Town