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Topic: Black cobweb or false katipo spider

Is part of topic What spider is that?

Scientific name: Steatoda capensis

What do they look like?

Shiny black or dark brown, similar in size and shape to katipo spider. Some individuals may have a faint red stripe. This combination of characteristics may lead to their misidentification as katipo. However, they can be distinguished by the arrangement of white markings on the abdomen, the faintness and smaller size of any red stripe, and the absence of the red hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen.

Where are they found?

This spider is thought to be South African in origin and is now present in Australia and throughout New Zealand. It is common around homes but may also be found in similar habitats to those occupied by katipo.

What are their habits?

Like katipo, this species is a member of the family Theridiidae (comb-footed spiders). Similar in size and general appearance, it is no surprise these species share many similar habits to katipo, such as a similar style of web construction. However, Steatoda differs in a number of ways. Unlike katipo, Steatoda produces egg sacs all year round and while it will colonize beach habitats like katipo, it is certainly not confined to them. It is  common in human-modifed environments, including inside houses.

In some parts of the country (for example, around Wellington), Steatoda appears to have displaced katipo from beach habitats. It is not known if this is due to direct competition between the two species or the result of human modification of the environment in a manner that strongly favours Steatoda.

What is their bite like?

While resembling katipo in many ways, Steatoda does not share its reputation for inflicting severe bites. However, anecdotal case histories suggest that in some instances bites may be quite painful and can induce a general malaise for a day or so.

On display at Te Papa?


Image: Black cobweb or false katipo spider. Photograph by Richard Sharell.

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