This story was first published on April 8, 2008
This series of unusual photographs depicting a small snake caught in a spider’s web has been circulating via social media and email since 2008.
According to the description that accompanies the images, the spider’s capture of the hapless reptile was first observed by receptionist Tania Robertson near a desk in her office.
Although some have questioned the authenticity of the photographs, they are in fact genuine. The description of the incident in the message is an abridged version of an article first published by South African online news outlet, News24 in February 2004. The article notes:
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.
According to a follow-up article on News24, the spider and what remained of the snake were later relocated to the National Museum:
Bloemfontein – The spider that had the country talking after it caught and devoured a snake, found a new home on Friday.
Tania Robertson, a Bloemfontein secretary, was very relieved to get rid of her unwanted office mate.
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.
The version of the story that is currently circulating omits location information along with identification details about the creatures shown in the photographs and these omissions have caused some confusion. Africa’s Brown Button spider is related to Australia’s Redback spider and America’s Black Widow spider. All three have distinctive red markings on their bodies and are similar in shape. Thus, some commentators have misidentified the spider in the photographs as a Redback and therefore falsely assumed that the snake’s demise occurred in Australia. Others wrongly believe the spider is a Black Widow and relocate the action to the United States.
Deadly interactions between spiders and snakes are not unprecedented. Another 2004 news article describes how a 12-inch snake was trapped in the web of a Chinese house spider and subsequently killed by the spider’s bite. And, along with the photographs of the Brown Button snake and Aurora snake shown above, an article on the Spiderzrule website includes photographs of other types of snakes that have apparently been caught and bitten by Redback spiders.
Spiders of this family, which includes Button spiders, Redback spiders and Black Widow spiders, are certainly venomous enough to kill smaller reptiles, other animals and, occasionally, humans.
FW: Spider catches snake:
An office receptionist got the shock of her life earlier this week when she found a 14cm long snake entangled in the web of a deadly spider. Tania Robertson, a receptionist at an electrical firm , 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 said it was only the second time that he had heard of a snake getting caught in a spider’s web. 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…….
Photos credited to Charles Smith, Volksblad)