The redback ranks among Australia's ten most dangerous spiders – and not just to humans. Snakes should beware, too.
This snake-snaring spectacle was caught on camera in the garage of a home in Kurrajong Heights, New South Wales recently – and homeowner Sabrina Besselsen wasn't exactly thrilled with the spider's chosen spot.
"The two main things I hate in life are together right now," Besselsen said in the video she captured. "That's really scary, actually."
To be fair, snakes are not usually a target for redback spiders (Latrodectus hasselti). Close relatives of the black widow, the arachnids are relatively small and prefer to prey on insects, other spiders, and occasionally mice, lizards or other small vertebrates. But according to the Australian Museum, newborn or juvenile red-bellied black snakes (Pseudechis porphyriacus) – like the one Besselsen identifies in the video – do sometimes land up on a redback's meal plan.
"It's likely the snake got stuck there and the redback went in to investigate," Australian Reptile Park ranger Michael Tate told the Daily Mail. "It's pretty hard to get its fangs between the scales, but he would [have] been trying to dislodge the intruder from its web through any means."
And this isn't the first time we've seen a redback with a reptilian victim. Back in 2015, a farmer in the state of Victoria caught a similar encounter on film while cleaning his shed. The ensnared animal, most likely a Dwyer's snake, was found suspended under the engine of his car.
The Australian Reptile Park's venom programme supervisor, Billy Collett, described the sighting as incredibly rare, noting that snakes usually fall prey only to bigger spider species, like the orb-weavers. "[T]o see a redback taking down [a snake] is quite extraordinary," he said at the time, adding that exactly how much of a snake such spiders could eat remains a bit of a mystery.
This being Australia, however, the local wildlife soon responded with yet another snake in a redback's clutches (this time the highly venomous dugite), suggesting such behaviour might not be as rare as we think.
As for Besselsen, you might not share her snake-and-spider phobia, but her caution was warranted: redback spiders are responsible for more than 250 bites to humans that require antivenom every year (Australia sees around 5,000 to 10,000 bites annually, though many of them are not serious). Red-bellied black snakes are also venomous, though only mildly so. As with most wildlife encounters, the hands-off approach is best.
"If you were lucky enough to observe this, don't intervene," Tate said. "Baby snakes are just as toxic as adult ones, so just stand back and let nature take its course."
Top header image: sunphlo, Flickr