Redback Spider Eating SnakeI was having a little bit of banter with an Australian work colleague of mine the other day.

Having found another Redback spider in the back garden a couple of weeks ago I’ve found myself becoming a little laid back with the frequency of these near-death encounters

Poking the red back with a stick, I found the thing quite unaggressive, a life saving move for this little Arthropod as I decided to move it out of harms way instead of introducing the thing to a couple of litres of Spider spray!

“You should have just squashed it” quaffed my Aussie work colleague “Redbacks have been known to eat snakes and other stuff you know?  You’d best watch out for the cat!

Two days later she sends me an email titled  “The Red Back spider of Australia” with the below text and attachments:

Don’t underestimate a Red-back.

An office receptionist got the shock of her life 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.

A 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…….

Gulp!

Thankfully, since doing a little research on this story (to prove my work colleague wrong more than anything) I’ve been able to confirm that this particular story is NOT about a redback spider.

It is in fact about a different species found in South Africa called the Brown Button spider which I recon sounds kinda cute ;)

So in an effort to help alleviate some of the fears you may have if you’ve received a similar email in your inbox, read on:

Firstly, although some have questioned the authenticity of the photographs, they are in fact genuine (sorry)!

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.

Obviously, the version of the story that I received in my email omits useful information such as the location!

Also, because of the distinctive red markings which are shared by the Africa’s Brown Button spider, Australia’s Redback spider and America’s Black Widow spider. A number of different versions of this email are kicking around.

In this instance, this specific commentator misidentified the spider in the photographs as a Redback and therefore falsely assumed that the snake’s demise occurred in Australia.

I still think it might be time to restock the spider spray though!