Katipo Spider of New Zealand
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Katipo Spider of New Zealand

The Katipo spider is the only native poisonous creature in New Zealand

The katipo spider is probably one of the best known spiders in New Zealand, not because it is common, but because it's the only native poisonous creature in the country. It is a member of the widow spider family, related to the Australian red-back and the American black widow spiders. Katipo is a Maori word meaning 'night stinger'.


The adult female katipo is black with an orange or red stripe on her back which is sometimes bordered by white. She also sometimes has a red patch under her abdomen. Males and young spiders have more black than the females. The females abdomen is rounded and quite large, about the size of a pea. The katipo measures approximately 25 mm from leg tip to leg tip. Mating takes place in August and September, with the female producing five or six egg sacs in November and December. Baby spiders hatch during January and February.


The katipo is a coastal creature, making its home on sand dunes throughout the North Island and as far south as Dunedin on the east coast of the South Island. They're not found further south, as they need a temperature of at least 17C during the egg development stage. Its most common distribution area is on the west coast beaches of the lower North Island. It can be found on beaches under stones, in driftwood and sheltered in plants. They make their webs at the base of beach grasses such as marram grass, or under logs and driftwood, close enough to the sand to catch ground-crawling insects for food.

Symptoms of katipo bite

The katipo is a shy non-aggressive spider and will only bite as a last resort. Only the female can bite as the adult fangs are too small. Although it is not common, deaths from katipo spiders were recorded in the nineteenth century. The bite symptoms are unpleasant, causing an agonizing pain initially in the vicinity of the bite, then spreading to other parts of the body. A victim may also experience respiratory difficulties, vomiting and abdominal cramping. An ice pack can be used to initially relieve the pain, followed by an antivenom that is available at hospitals.

Endangered species

The chances of being bitten these days are remote however, as there are estimated to be only a few thousand katipo spiders left. They are now considered an endangered species. The main reason for the reduction of katipo spider numbers is the disappearance of suitable natural habitat. Since European settlement, humans have invaded the beach areas, altering the natural landscape. Coastal dunes have been modified and there has been an increase in beach recreational activities such as beach buggies and other off road vehicles. Horse riding and activities as innocent as collecting driftwood also affect the spider's habitat. Another reason for the decline in numbers is the arrival of foreign species of spiders, such as the South African steatoda capensis, which has invaded the katipo natural habitat.

While the west coast beaches of the lower North Island where I spent my childhood are now considered relatively free from the threat of katipo bites, it is a shame this well known but rarely seen spider is considered to be threatened with extinction.

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Comments (5)

Great article, I am one of those people who come running out of room for someone else to deal with a spider!

Creepy, but the design on its back is kind of cool. Thanks for the interesting read, Val!

Nice write Val. cheers, Ron


A nice entry Val. Spiders are not everyone's favorite and there extinction or not does not raise eyebrows.


These spiders are so bloody dangerous and it can kill you instantly

Wow Hey spider lay of

Or else