Enormous Venomous Spider Found Crouching Over Light Switch

Even snake catchers can be caught off guard by nature every now and then.

When snake catcher Steve Meighan went to turn the lights off in his snake room on February 24 he was met with a "hand-sized" rain spider that was crouched over his light switch. The incident took place at Meighan's home in Simon's Town in the Western Cape of South Africa.

"[I] went to switch the light off in my snake room and almost pressed this guy by accident," Meighan, of Deep South Reptile Rescue, said in a Facebook post.

Spider on light switch
Photos of the "hand-sized" rain spider on Meighan's light switch. Deep South Reptile Rescue/Facebook

"We see them often here so I'm used to them," Meighan told Newsweek.

Rather than attempting to trap the spider, Meighan let it stay put on the light switch. "Although big, [rain spiders] are very placid," he said. "I just moved its back leg a bit so that I could switch the light off. It was accommodating and moved the leg for me but didn't run away or anything."

Rain spiders are the second-largest spider species in South Africa, surpassed only by the baboon spider, which can grow up to 6 inches long, as reported by the African Snakebite Institute. Rain spiders themselves tend to grow to about 4 inches.

They are most active during the summer months, especially after heavy summer showers. "We get summer rains that bring out the bugs and things they hunt," Meighan said.

Although these spiders are mildly venomous, Meighan said that they are not particularly dangerous to humans. "They are harmless but nip pretty hard because they are big. It is painful but not a train smash, I have been nipped a few times and nothing happens. Feels like a quick jab of two sharp needles—it was itchy for around 30 minutes then I forgot about it."

There are three spider species in South Africa with medically significant venom: sac spiders, violin spiders and button spiders. "[Button spiders] are a widow spider closely related to the black widow," Meighan said. "We get two species in South Africa: the black button spider which has a more potent venom, although it is the smaller of the two; and the brown button spider which is the larger of the two and more commonly found. They have a neurotoxic venom like that of their cousin the black widow."

While Meighan was largely unphased by his encounter, the thought of such a venomous visitor would send a shiver down most people's spines. However, for the 3 to 15 percent of the population with arachnophobia according to the nonprofit Cleveland Clinic, this is truly the stuff of nightmares.

Meighan said that the spider had most likely come into his snake room to hunt for lizards.

Meighan shared the incident in a post on Facebook, which has encouraged others to share their own experiences with these spiders.

"I had a similar experience once, but I actually squeezed the poor girl," said one user. "She never bit me, she just ran away. Very placid spiders."