Violin spider

This section will help you get first aid treatment protocols incase of an envenomation. This includes indigenous and exotic reptiles. Please do not use this forum for photo sharing, etc.

Violin spider

Postby damiensharjah » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:21 am

Tanya, my fiance' sent these pics of a violin spider bite. It came with the usual message of doom and gloom and how dangerous they are etc.

It's hard to see what has been done to the thumb, but it definately a solid envenomation.

I looks like it's been opened along the length of the thumb. Are those sutures that have popped open?? :shock: (not the retaining sutures on the sides, but the inside 'split' area)

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Postby steve » Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:00 am

I got this in an email some time stated that people in the Joburg area should keep an eye open for these spiders as they are now hopping continents and some have been found in and around the Joburg area...
Scary stuff. :shock:
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Postby Alan Hyde » Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:02 am

I've never even heard of a violin spider , is this the norm with a VS bite?
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Postby phish » Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:30 am

steve wrote:I got this in an email some time stated that people in the Joburg area should keep an eye open for these spiders as they are now hopping continents and some have been found in and around the Joburg area...
Scary stuff. :shock:

no need for them to hop continents of course ... Loxosceles sp are indigenous so SA (including the greater jhb area).
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Postby arcadies » Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:17 am

this email has been circulated a few times now, here are some comments from when it hit the cape reptile club mailing list:

Hi Marcel,

Here is some more info on the spider story which has been circulated.

Amongst the Honorary Rangers exactly the same pictures have been circulated as well. However our member Tony Rebelo did some mailing around and got hold of Ansie Dippenaar who is the coordinator of the spider atlas. Below you can find her answer on the subject and some of Tony’s comments…….


Ruedi Siegenthaler

"Ansie Dippenaar" <> 2008/01/21 09:46 >>>

Hi Tony

I have prepared something and we have distributed to some papers and discussed it over the radio.

We do have violin spiders but they are rare and not commonly found in houses. The species causing this nasty wound do not occur in South Africa. Few bites from the violin spiders found in SA are know as they are really not very common and in 40 years working with spiders I have never seen a violin spider bite. They are also not very aggressive spiders. Secondary infection can cause nasty wounds in any type of open wound.

I would be much more concern going on the road in a motorcar than been bitten by a violin spider in SA.

Kind regards



This picture is so bad and the details so inadequate (no diagnostics, no scale, no description) that thousands of Rain Spiders, Hunting Spiders and anything with 8 legs will be killed unnecessarily. The damage done will far exceed any good that may occur. The danger of chairs (both mortality or injury) is thousands of times greater.

For instance, I know of at least 2 Black and 8 Brown Button Spiders in my garden. When last was someone seriously bitten by Button Spiders in Cape Town? Should we send out alerts about these as well?

Yes, the pictures of the bites look bad. But no need to spread them.

After all, how many of us do parachute training before booking an aircraft flight? Based on the statistics we should all be doing refresher courses every year (after all the consequences of an aircraft crash are horrific).



Dear Marcel

Please find the following information regarding violin spider and photos:

The spider and photos was taken in the USA almost 20 years ago. I often get this e-mail and through the years the spider has “appeared” in various parts of our country, the e-mail making its way to the Western Cape since late last year. Norman Larsen, the Cape spider fundi, has received this e-mail almost 200 times in the last six months – some even from the Department of Health, so it is not a error on anybody’s part to take this seriously. The American violin spider is quite venomous and the cytotoxic effects are severe. The photos of the bite shows secondary bacterial infection, as in the case with most cytotoxic venom bites.

The South African violin spider species are very, very shy and rare spiders, hence the name: recluse. Also, our violin spiders do not show the distinct “violin” mark on the carapace. The bite of our South African violin spiders can be terrible, but nowhere as bad as in the photos from the USA.

The SA violin spider nests under a solid and unyielding obstacle. That means that they are mostly found in undisturbed areas and also, rarely seen. Where humans do come in contact with violon spiders, is when veld or old shed/garages are being cleared, or when hikers / campers roll away logs or rocks to make sleeping arrangements. The spider will also only bite when seriously provoked, such as being squashed. That is why most bites occur on pressure areas – thighs, calves & buttocks when sitting down, shoulders, hips & arms when lying down.

In Gauteng, the cave-living violin spider has settled in some dwellings of the mining towns close to where they were disturbed. In the Western Cape the chances of seeing one is virtually nil.

The difference between a daddy-long-legs and the violin spider is very noticable:

1. daddy-long-leg-spider lives in an untidy web, the violin spider under an obstacle in a nest of silk with some trap lines running from it.
2. daddy-long-leg-spider has white “knees”

I had some violin spiders in my collection of live spiders at Butterfly World a year or two ago, being brought to me by a chap from Touwsrivier. I am always on the lookout for spiders and have seen this spider only twice – in Limpopo! There was a spider in the Peninsula wrongly identified as a violin spider, but is has since been ID’ed as a harmless species from an entirely different family.

I hope this will clear up some of the confusion regarding these spiders. I am concerned that harmless spiders (most of them) will get the short end of the stick here. If you need more information regarding stories on spiders (or many other things) see the website: – it will give you very interesting hours of gory entertainment, but will also show you that many stories we believe as true, actually isn’t.

I want to thank Lynn, however, for bringing this under the attention of the Reptile Club, thereby giving me the chance to respond to a group of people I would not thought to reach regarding this topic. Please do not hesitate to forward stories or questions regarding spiders – I get a lot of questions virtually daily and have an idea what the fears and stories are that’s doing the rounds. I am passionate regarding the education of spiders and will never think that any comment or question is frivolous or dumb.

Yours sincerely

Esther van der Westhuizen


Butterfly World

Route 44, Klapmuts, 7625

P.O. Box 41, Klapmuts, 7625

Tel (27) 21-8755628 Fax (27) 0866709464
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Postby MacAdder » Thu Jun 12, 2008 5:57 pm

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Re: Violin spider

Postby jeanrieder » Tue Aug 26, 2008 10:46 am

My brother's stepson died early yesterday morning (25th Aug 08) from a supposed violin spider bite. He did not see the spider but the bite was diagnosed as being that of a violin spider. He was only 34 years old and working as a Fireman at the time and was bitten whilst on duty. He seems to have died from multiple organ failure. He was initially in hospital for about 5 months and was discharged on permanent cortisone and a cocktail of other medication. Because of the cortisone he became very bloated and was never the same. My sister-in-law who works in a division of the Dept of Pharmacology at UCT said it seems as though the medical profession just don't know how to treat this bite. Not enough seems to be know about this spider. A very sad outcome.
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Re: Violin spider

Postby Bushviper » Tue Aug 26, 2008 11:02 am

That is really sad.

The secondary effects seem to eventually be so bad that the body stops defending itself. The venom was broken down long ago but the effects linger for ever it seems.

Please pass our condolences on to your brother and his family.
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Re: Violin spider

Postby Loslappie » Tue Aug 26, 2008 4:05 pm

Condolences to you and your family.

When you are ready to chat about this, it would really help us if you could state here, details of the incident, like where he was bitten (location) did they see the spider etc.

Thanks and eveything of the best!
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Re: Violin spider

Postby jeanrieder » Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:48 am

As I said, he did not see the spider - he was bitten on the lower left leg which came up in a big blister with a black dot. He pricked the blister unfortunately and that is when the infection really started. My sister-in-law has a photo of the wound which apparently ended up being enormous. When she has got over the next few weeks I will ask her for the picture so that I can download it onto this site.
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Re: Violin spider

Postby rogueblue » Mon Jun 14, 2010 3:58 am

My neighbour has been apparently bitten by a violin spider. We stay in rural part of Plettenberg Bay (Garden Route).
I've just been told about these emails going round ... I'm surprised to see this thread is from 2008.
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Re: Violin spider

Postby swazi » Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:13 am

My uncle nearly died from a violin spider bite. He was living close to the Gamtoos river just past PE. He lost a big chunk of his flesh and the wound took 2 years to heal. His pancreas stopped working and he suffered from epileptic fits for years.
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Re: Violin spider

Postby WW » Sun Jun 20, 2010 12:38 pm

How certain is it that these were really violin spider bites? Were any spiders seen biting, and were they professionally identified?

There are a large number of possible causes of the kinds of syndromes described here. Sadly, "spider bite" is often the first conclusion that gets jumped to (INCLUDING BY DOCTORS WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER), when in fact it is a very rare and thus unlikely cause of skin lesions.

See and other pages on the same site.
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Re: Violin spider

Postby nvlooi » Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:29 pm

Many years ago myself and my dad was bitten by a "Violen Spider"(we collected the dead specimen and took it with and was Id by -?-)
We both suffered through several stages of infection, and pain.
In the end my dad ended up with a hole on his buttocks the size of a R5 and about a cm deep.
Whereas I have a small hole on my calf the size of a 1c.

We were bitten on a trip in northern Mozambique, I reckon it could have been anything that bit us.
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Re: Violin spider

Postby Bushbaby » Mon Jun 21, 2010 10:20 am

It was most probably a sac spider. I've been bitten 3 times (yeah... don't ask) by sac spiders. They cause necrosis and I also ended up with a hole which was about 1 cm in diameter and about a cm deep. I still have a scar. The first time I got bitten, was in my sleep and I got bitten on my thumb. When I woke up that morning my thumb was throbbing, I was dizzy and nauseous and had such a fever. Luckily my one employers husband was a doctor and he managed to give me antibiotics, etc. I seriously thought I was going to die. He also cut away a small piece of necrotic skin on my thumb after a few days of treatment.

After a talk Astri Leroy gave at the THA, we learnt that there is a virus some of the spiders carry and this is what caused me to get so sick. Not all of them carry it, and I was just the "lucky" recipient.
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