arachnophobia, Australia, black katipo, dangerous wildlife, endangered species, endemic New Zealand wildlife, katipo, Maori language, New Zealand, New Zealand redback, New Zealand redback spider, poisonous spider, red katipo, Shaky Isles, spider, widow spider
I made a friend this morning. A little arachnid called the katipo spider had made itself at home in my shoe. Since their diet mainly consists of bugs that commonly (and annoyingly) wind up in your house (moths, flies, other spider) and they’re only found by the shore, I’m not surprised this fella cozied up in my digs.
The katipo is an endangered widow spider endemic to New Zealand. They’re the Shaky Isles’ only poisoner (NZ lacking in the everything-that-moves-can-kill-you department in which Australia seems to excel).
Katipo is a Maori word meaning “night-stinger.” They sometimes go by New Zealand redback. These little guys tend to be shy, avoiding places with a lot of human traffic.
The katipo make their home along the coast in sand dunes. Due to land development, the katipo is on the verge of extinction. In fact, in 2005, their numbers had dropped below that of the rare Kiwi bird. You can read that story here.
The female katipo has distinctive markings on its back. Once you’ve seen them, you probably won’t confuse her for a garden-variety spider.
The males exhibit quite different markings and are much smaller. Unlike other widow spiders, the males are not eaten by the female after mating (no, that’s not a myth, either).
The katipo’s bite is poisonous, but is rarely deadly, and treatment is widely available throughout New Zealand.
For more information, Te Papa Tongarewa’s website is concise and informative.
Picture from Wikipedia.