A couple of days ago I was standing on our deck in the late afternoon, watching the sun go down. I saw something fluttering near the garden wall. Hoping that it was the sunbirds I’d been trying to get photos of, I rushed inside to get a camera. It wasn’t the sunbirds after all, but what I saw was quite intriguing. Two Cape White-eyes were clinging to the bricks of the garden wall. I only managed to get this quick shot of them before they flew away again. If you want more information and better photos go to the Wikipedia article here, or for some really spectacular photos of Cape White-eyes click here.
So I started wondering about this odd behaviour, and went to go and have a look at the wall the next morning. I found that there were a lot of cracks and crevices in the wall. Some where the cement holding the bricks together had obviously been washed out by rain, but some looked hollowed out by some insect or animal. White-eyes mainly eat insects.
After looking further along the wall I came across this interesting sight. Inside a deep crevice was a spider web, with two egg sacs towards the outside of the crevice. Looking in I could just make out a spider shape (which can’t be clearly seen on the photo). Thinking those egg sacs look awfully like the ones the Brown Button or Widow spiders produce, I emailed the photograph to somebody from The Spider Club, for a positive identification.
And the answer is YES, it is a Brown Button or Widow spider! I was so hoping that I was wrong about this . . . I really don’t really feel comfortable having poisonous spiders so close to our house. Where there is one of these, there is bound to be more!
In her email reply to me, Astri Leroy from The Spider Club says:
Those egg sacs are of the common and widespread Brown Button Spider or alternatively Brown Widow Spider, Latrodectus geometricus, one of the few spiders with venom that can hurt people. But they pose little danger because they stay in their webs unless seriously disturbed. You very seldom see the spider itself and like all spiders, they will only bite if squashed against the skin (in clothing, say) or otherwise mis-handled and then only as a very last resort, usually when they are about to die. They are in and around most homes in South Africa but there are very few records of bites.
So don’t be alarmed, just warned not to squish her in your fingers or pull her legs off! I know you won’t!
Well Astri, you can be assured that I’m not going to get that close to these spiders!
I have previously written a post about poisonous spiders called A Note on Venom (click here to read it).