How the katipo is poisonous
Katipo derives from the Maori words meaning ‘night stinger’. These spiders are characterised by a red stripe on the top of their round, black backs warning predators of their venom, but the Katipo is very shy so bites are very rare.
If you are unlucky enough to be bitten you would typically feel a small pin prick, followed by swelling around the area. After an hour the venom would have spread through your bloodstream and you may be sweating and shaking. Your may get stomach cramps and goose bumps.
The poison in the venom is called Latrotoxin and it is found in other species of spider such as the black widow. When you are bitten, the toxin slowly interferes with your nervous system and causes a chain reaction within your body.
Your brain cells begin producing a massive increase in calcium ions, which tell your body to make more acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that signals your muscles to contract and tighten. It’s this muscle action which causes much of the pain. Even though you’ll be feeling pretty awful you’ll be happy to know that an antivenom is available in all NZ hospitals!