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Spider vs Snake

My name is Lisa Parsonage and i am from England. I have recently got back after travelling around SE Asia and Australia for 2 years and have just been uploading all my pics onto my computer. I have a picture of what looks like a red back spider attacking a small snake that i took in a bush toilet at Henbury Meteorite Craters in the Northern Territory, Australia in January this year. Everyone has told me its a fab pic and i was looking on the google image search engine to see if i could find a similar one and low and behold i came across this page on your website. I found it very interesting and thought that you may be interested in seeing the picture i took. We only have the one picture as we didn't hang around long enough to see what happened but im pretty sure the spider won! My boyfriend saw me running from the bush toilet (thinking there was something in there that freaked me out) to be surprised when i grabbed my camera and ran full speed back to the toilet telling him to come with me! Im not a spider fan but this was incredible to witness. The snake started to coil up and I'm gutted I didn't take more pictures but I love the one I've got.

Taken by Lisa Parsonage on 17/1/06 in a bush toilet at Henbury Meteorite Craters, NT

Received this email 3/3/06. This spider is probably a redback, they are related to the brown button and I have no doubt they could kill a snake:
Hi there Glen, Nice Spider related website you have there. A lot of interesting stuff. I'm emailing because I received the email below with the attached picture and I doubt the authenticity of the story. I don't doubt that this happened, what I doubt is this occurred here in Queensland. I did a little research and found a story about a Brown button Spider in South Africa doing exactly the same thing to a snake and saw the pictures that were taken of that incident and this spider looks familiar to the Brown Button rather than being what is being obviously palmed off as a redback.  Can you shed any light on what this spider may be? Cheers Scott

Click for a larger view
Source of photo unknown. All
copyright is acknowledged.


Spider snacks on snake
11/02/2004 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 Smith, Volksblad)

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  -


These remarkable photos were emailed to me. Copyright is acknowledged.


Here's a follow up on that story once again from

The spider that had the country talking after it caught and devoured a snake, found a new home on Friday.

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 office.

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 in cheek.

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

Here's some information on Brown Button spiders, which are in the same family as  Redbacks and Black Widows:
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 Western Cape.

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, slender legs.

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 the abdomen. 

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.

Latrodectus geometricus

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 or 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 and monitored.

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