Australia is renowned for having being home to some of the deadliest creatures on the planet. The sea is full of man-eating sharks, it has the deadliest snakes on Earth and there is even a bird capable of killing a man – granted it can’t fly, but you get the picture. However, if australia is infamous for one particular group of terror inducing beasties it is our eight-legged friends the spiders. If you are arachnaphobic, which frankly most people seem to be, then Australia, with its 10,000 species of spiders could present a few problems.
Whilst all spiders are venomous in reality very few are capable of biting a human and even fewer pose any potential risk. In fact Australian spiders are statistically so un-dangerous that there hasn’t been a death from a spider bite since 1981. That’s puts them on a par with, er, wombats!
So, now you are in possession of the facts and realise there is nothing at all to be scared of allow me to introduce you to ten of Australia’s not so deadly spiders.
10. Common Garden Orb Weaver Spider
The name “common garden orb weaver spider” pretty much sums this spider up. It’s very common in Australian gardens where it weaves an intricate orb shaped web. It is similar to the garden spiders around the world with its big, bulky abdomen and distinctive patterning. Unlike the European garden spider the orb weaver (Eriophora transmarina) is nocturnal, often building its web close to lights where insects are attracted.
Despite being nocturnal this is one of the most commonly encountered spiders in Australia. It is not generally aggressive and will retreat and/or play dead if threatened. However, it is a large spider and will bite. In fact Eriophora accounts for more spider bites than any other species. Fortunately the bite is quite mild resulting in mild local pain and possible short term swelling.
9. Huntsman Spider
The Huntsman spiders are the archetypal big, hairy, fast moving spider of arachnophobes nightmares. They can have a leg span of up to 6ins (15cm) and are generally seen racing across walls. As the name suggests the Huntsman do not have a web and hunts prey such as cockroaches using speed.
These spiders are common across Australia and as a rule don’t bother anyone – well except for scaring the crap out of people! Although capable of biting they are not usually aggressive, an exception is when the female is guarding her eggs.
The bite is painful, but not dangerous. It can cause some systemic effects such as nausea, headache and palpitations but apparently not necrosis of tissue.
Perhaps the biggest danger posed by the Huntsman is its habit of entering cars. The sudden appearance of a large spider from behind a sun visor or racing across the dashboard has allegedly been responsible for several car crashes.
8. Sydney Brown Trapdoor Spider
This trapdoor spider from the Misgolas family has the ability to strike terror into those who unwittingly disturb it. Whilst being a fairly scary looking spider in its own right, it is often mistaken for the notorious (and very dangerous) Sydney Funnel-web spider. Fortunately the Sydney Brown is nowhere near as venomous as the Funnel-web. The bite is undoubtedly painful but nothing beyond the usual swelling and mild systemic symptoms have been reported.
7. Black House Spider
The black house spider (Badumna insignis) is, as its name suggests a black spider that often lives indoors. It is common throughout Australia and reaches a maximum leg-span of around 30mm. They build a tangled web with a funnel-like retreat in which they wait for dinner to arrive. These webs can become quite messy and extensive which is often the reason they come into contact with humans – i.e. when the feather duster comes out.
Although not considered dangerous, the bite from a black house spider is a notch or two above the previous two. The bite itself has been described as excruciatingly painful with local swelling following. Systemic symptoms may follow; the usual nausea, sweating, vomiting etc. In rare cases a mild necrosis has caused skin lesions, but this has only been after several bites.
6. White-tailed Spider
You know the White-tailed spider is going to be tough when you find out it hunts some of the other spiders on this list. They don’t have a web but instead stalk their prey by night with their particular favourite being the black house spider.
White-tailed spiders are widespread and common throughout Australia. They have a habit of wandering and are often found in the folds of clothes, towels and shoes. This inevitably brings them into contact with humans and explains why they feature so highly in the spider bite statistics.
The bite itself is the subject of some discussion. Now widely discredited, it was believed the bite from these spiders caused arachnogenic necrosis – i.e. the death of surrounding tissue leading to large open sores. It seems now that the bite of the White-tail is likely to result in localised pain and swelling with possibly some mild systemic effects.