Name: The violin shaped marking on the carapace give these spiders their common name. In southern African species, this violin marking is not obvious.
Description: 8mm to 19mm in length. 6 eyes. Long legs. Cylindrical oval abdomen with a flattish carapace. These spiders can be yellowish, reddish brown or brown in colouration. The abdomen has dark chevron like markings. Unlike their name the violin shaped marking on the carapace is not always obvious in southern African species. The American Brown Recluse Spider, a relative of southern Africa species has an easily identifiable violin marking. Hence the name Violin Spider.
Distribution: Distributed throughout the subregion. May be common in some areas where they can be found under rocks, logs and just about any surface debris. In places like the Karroo, these spiders may be found behind pictures on walls inside farm houses.
One species occurs within the urban environment in Johannesburg, however the common Daddy Long Legs Spiders is often misidentified as a Violin Spider. They can be easily separated because Daddy Long Legs Spiders live almost exclusively in their webs. Violin spiders to not make webs.
Web: Most Violin Spiders construct a retreat using a characteristic bluish silk. Some cave living species construct a sheet web.
Venom: Highly cytotoxic venom. Initially, the bite is small and superficial looking. After a couple of hours swelling develops and the bite site becomes discoloured. Blistering occurs in the next few days after which the skin may peel away leaving a ulcerating wound. It’s important to stop secondary infection of setting in. If left untreated, tissue damage may be extensive. Bites from these spiders usually result in a permanent scarring. Bites usually occur at night when the victim is sleeping. There fangs are not large, hence the bite marks are close together.
Victims bitten by this spider should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Notes: Nocturnal hunters, these spiders wander about actively seeking prey items. When resting, the often draw their legs up over their abdomen. When disturbed these spiders first lie still. If disturbed further they may run away in a jerky kind of way. Often found in pairs.
These spiders are shy in nature and bites in humans are very rare. Most spider bites in southern African are mistakenly attributed to Violin Spiders. These spiders do not bite many people and their bites are not as serious as internet email claim.
Rumors: There are emails doing the rounds that claim that because of the warm weather and good rains, Violin Spiders are reproducing by the thousands and entering houses. During the night these spiders creepy down and feed off humans biting them in the process. The email tells us to warn all children to watch out for these spiders.
Of course it’s all a load of hogwash. Violin spiders do occur in houses but not in great numbers. They are very venomous but very rarely bite people. You need to pull their legs off or stand on them before they will bite.
There is a reference to Cape Town in the emails which is strange since violin spiders are very rare in Cape Town. Once again the email contains no factual information whatsoever.