Thank you for the lovely image. This spider is Nephila senegalensis, a type of golden-silk orbweaver common in many parts of Africa. It is definitely *not* dangerously venomous to people or pets. So, no worries! Hope this helps ease your mind :-)
Thank you very much for the quick reply! I think my girlfriend would be much more relieved than me!
Ive done some research on these spiders, and came across this: (thought you'd be interested)
The venom of the golden silk orb-weaver is potent but not lethal to humans. It has a neurotoxic effect similar to that of the black widow spider; however, its venom is not nearly as powerful. The bite causes local pain, redness, and blisters that normally disappear within a 24-hour interval. In rare cases, it might trigger allergic reactions and result in respiratory troubles (in asthmatics) or fast-acting involuntary muscle cramps. As the genus possesses relatively strong chelicerae, the bite could leave a scar on hard tissue (such as fingers).
H-m-m-m....Can you cite where you found this information, please?
(Forgive me, I'm going to talk a lot, I think! haha) Yes, this kind of thing is often said for all kinds of spiders, even ones that have never even been reported to have bitten a human before. Often times, experiments are done on rodents (rabbits, mice, etc) and some people extrapolate that the same results would happen in a human. This is not the case, though. Venom does not effect humans the same way as it does rodents and other small animals.
For example, the notorious "Hobo spider" (Tegenaria agrestis) in North America is rumored to have a necrotic bite... there are hundreds of websites that even describe the bite symptoms in amazing DETAIL, yet there has never been one single verified case of that species even biting a human. In its native Europe, it is regarded as completely harmless, too.
The habits of Nephila spiders make them a very unlikely spider to even be in the position to bite a human. It doesn't live in homes and is not prone to hiding in things that humans reach into. It just isn't a biting-type spider, isn't aggressive, and has very poor eyesight.
Martin Filmer's book, "Filmer's Spiders: An Identification Guide for Southern Africa," features the genus Nephila and it is specifically listed as harmless.
ALL spider venom is neurotoxic, by the way. That's how spiders anesthetize their insect prey. And, yes, anything that bites or punctures skin is going to cause some mild localized pain and redness. That's about all you'll get from a Nephila spider, but everyone's immune system is different, so there might be rare cases of other symptoms, who knows. I don't think it's even bitten enough people (if any) for this to even be an issue, though.
I'd also be interested in the source of that bite information and whether it is based on any verified records of this spider actually biting a human. Well, just googled it. It seems to be from a wikipedia article for the genus Nephila. It has no reference cited, which means someone might have written it without actually having research to back that up. Wikipedia is written by anyone who has the time, which is not usually spider experts.
Sorry for the long comment! I go overboard on this kind of thing. Too many spiders are misunderstood and it's because of this kind of thing; simple things are so sensationalized that it's ridiculous. It's too hard for the average person to find accurate information. No one can know who to believe as there are so many different stories circulating around. There was no need for someone to say that their venom is similar to that of a black widow (and the fact that they did is obvious evidence that they are not an authority on spiders)... that is nothing but fear-mongering and scientifically means nothing, as ALL spiders use some form of neurotoxic venom to subdue their prey (except for a few small families that are non-venomous). Plus, in recent years, after learning from some allergy doctors, I found out that you can't even have an allergic reaction to a spider bite unless you've already been bitten by the spider once before! The chance of being bitten in the first place is slim to none, so I don't know how someone would get bitten twice in their lifetime and even be able to have an allergic reaction. A local arachnologist here in Seattle (Rod Crawford) has only heard of one mild case of allergic reaction from a spider bite in all the decades that he's been studying spiders.
The genus Nephila is used a lot in spider silk research. They've also been sent to space to study web-making in zero gravity. They are handled by researchers in this youtube video (http://youtu.be/ktgACq4zcAU). Their silk was used to make a giant tapestry, among other things. People in many countries use their huge orb webs as fishing nets, and as bandages to stop a wound from bleeding or becoming infected (silk is naturally anti-bacterial). Not sure folks would play around so much with a spider if the bite was all that bad....