Known as “Knopiespinnekoppe” in Afrikaans, Button Spiders are found from Cape Town along the south coast to the eastern and central parts of the region.
Their egg sacs have distinctive shapes, textures, and colours according to the subspecies: those belonging to Black Button Spiders (Latrodectus cinctus, a.k.a. Black Widow Spiders) are smooth, cream-colored, and about the size of a pea, whereas those belonging to Brown Button Spiders (Latrodectus geometricus) are covered in small spikes.
Button Spiders weave irregularly-spaced webs with strong, elastic silk and usually include a retreat of thick, opaque silk and debris on one side.
They have a neurotoxic venom that’s medically significant, but they are not aggressive at all – when threatened they either hide in their silk retreats or fall to the ground with their legs curled, feigning death.
Mortality from the bites of Button Spiders is less than one percent worldwide. Untreated, symptoms from bites last for about five days and are very unpleasant.
Initially the site of the note is painful, then after 10-60 minutes the pain spreads to lymph nodes closest to the bite site, and from there to the muscles and joints. Strong, painful muscle cramps develop and the abdominal muscles become rigid. The bite victim’s face becomes contorted, flushed, and sweaty, the eyelids swollen, the lips inflamed, and the jaw muscles contracted.
A toxin in the venom can pass the blood / brain barrier and attack the central nervous system, resulting in severe psychological symptoms ranging from anxiety to absolute terror.