Katipo means ‘night stinger’ in Maori. Only the female bites. The size of a pea, she is black with a red stripe on her back. Katipo are shy and few New Zealanders see them, let alone get bitten.
- Even though bites are rare, it is not without reason that these spiders have earned the name katipo, a Maori name that translates as ‘night-stinger’.
- These spiders belong to the worldwide genus Latrodectus, more commonly known as the widow spiders. Members of this group include the Australian redback (Latrodectus hasselti) and the black widow (L. mactans) of North America.
- All members of this genus share a similar reputation for inflicting unpleasant and sometimes fatal bites on humans. It is worth noting that only the female is capable of biting a person, as the male’s fangs are too small.
- Katipo bites are very uncommon, and while likely to be unpleasant, are not likely to prove lethal. The very few fatal cases reported are based on rather dubious records from the 1800s.
- Typical symptoms include pain at the site of the bite, which may spread to other areas, becoming more intense over the hours that follow. Sweating, malaise, fever, shaking, and many other symptoms may occur, but abdominal cramping is particularly common. An icepack may relieve pain and delay the onset of further symptoms. An antivenom is available at hospitals.