A female cupboard Spider Click to enlarge image
A female cupboard spider, Steatoda sp. Image: Heather McLennan
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    sp.
    Genus
    Steatoda
    Family
    Theridiidae
    Order
    Araneae
    Class
    Arachnida
    Phylum
    Arthropoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    Females 1.2 cm, males slightly smaller
  • Habitats
    peridomestic
  • Life history mode
    sedentary, terrestrial
  • Feeding Habits
    arthropod-feeder, carnivorous, insectivorous

Introduction

At a casual glance the female Cupboard Spider could easily be mistaken for a Redback Spider, without that distinctive red stripe on the back.

Identification

Like the majority of members in the Theridiid family, Steatoda species have shiny, slender legs, with a small cephalothorax and a larger abdomen, which is somewhat egg-shaped in Steatoda. The colour can range from a brown or reddish plum to satiny black. The abdomen often has white or beige spots, a frontal crescent, and sometimes, small red spots or a thin red line (but never a stripe like a Redback Spider).

The female Cupboard Spider could easily be mistaken for a Redback Spider, but lacks the distinctive red stripe on the back. Both spiders are from the same family, Theridiidae (also known as comb-footed spiders), so they are closely related. However, the Cupboard Spider is not considered as dangerous as its Redback relative.


Cupboard Spider Male
A male cupboard spider, steatoda sp. Image: Heather McLennan
© Australian Museum

Habitat

Steatoda spiders build a tangled-looking web with sticky lines (a gum-footed web) under rocks, timber and bark in the bush, so long as a source of prey is available. However, their common name comes from a fondness for building their snare in any dark, sheltered, undisturbed place around the house or garden - among old furniture and junk stored in sheds and garages, under garden benches, around compost bins, in upturned flower pots and the like. Sometimes, the first signs of the Cupboard Spider are the appearance of tiny white spots of spider droppings, like small splashes of paint, on the floor underneath the web.

Distribution

Spiders of the Steatoda genus are found throughout the world in temperate and tropical climates.



Life history cycle

The females produce several white to cream egg sacs, suspending them within her tangled web. The female can live for about two years, whereas the male will only live for a few months.

Breeding behaviours

The male spider is small, and inhabits the outer parts of the female's web, awaiting a chance to mate. He will generally be eaten after mating has been completed.

Danger to humans

Bites from Steatoda species occur infrequently. In the past they have not been considered particularly dangerous to humans, however in a few recent cases of Steatoda bites where the spider has been identified, more serious symptoms have been recorded. In two cases, Redback antivenom has been used successfully to treat these symptoms. Minor skin lesions have been occasionally associated with the bite.

Usually none required. A cold pack can be applied to help reduce any pain or swelling at the site of the bite.

References

  • York Main, B. 1976.Spiders. William Collins Publishers Pty Ltd, Sydney.
  • Simon-Brunet, B. 1994.The Silken Web. Reed Books, NSW.
  • South, M., Wirth, P. & Winkel, K.D. 1998. Redback Spider antivenom used to treat envenomation by a juvenile Steatoda spider. MJA 169: 642.
  • Winkel, K.D., Harvey, M. & Wirth, P. 2000. Steatodism treated with Redback Spider antivenom. Abstracts from Joint ACITHN & ACTM 2000 Conference, 23rd - 26th JUNE 2000, Sessions 1 to 11, The University of QLD.