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Of course, Australia has spiders, but the place isn't overrun with them. If it's your first time visiting Australia, don't panic. While we may have some of the world's most venomous species, most of the time you will hardly notice they're there and are only really seen if you a) go looking for them or b) they happen to pop up under or inside something. They are more scared of us than we are of them.
Here's what you need to know about the species of spider in Australia, what to look out for, and what to do if you are bitten by a spider.
There are over 2000 species of spider in Australia but thankfully only a small number of those are actually dangerous to humans. All spiders have venom glands, but only some species have fangs large enough to puncture the skin and cause a reaction.
The first death in Australia caused by spider bite was recorded in 2016, the first since 1981. However, approximately 2000 people are bitten each year by redback spiders (an effective anti-venom for redback spiders was introduced in 1956), and funnel-web spider anti-venom has been given to at least 100 patients since 1980 when it was first developed.
The most common species people tend to interact with are:
Related to the North American widow spiders, these black and red beauties (sometimes orange too) like to hide away from the world in dark secluded spots such as letterboxes, under ledges, outdoor furniture, around bbqs and other hidey spots; often decorated with sticky haphazard webs.
Funnel webs and redbacks are probably the most iconic eight legged beasties in Australia. They aren't big fans of daylight so will hide away, with shoes and clothing being a known favourite hang out spot or in a small web lined burrow if outdoors. They can become aggressive if disturbed, often forming that characteristic strike pose with their front legs in the air and large fangs on show. Funnel web spider habitat extends primarily along the east coast of Australia, with summer being peak activity season for funnel webs. Sometimes these spiders are found in swimming pools.
Like other species, white tailed spiders like to hide out and are mainly seen at night as they look for food. You will often see them around rainy weather as they crawl out of their hidey spots into homes seeking shelter from the moisture. They are grey to black in color with a white tip on their abdomen hence the "white tailed" and are found across Australia.
Found all over Australia, these guys aren't dangerous to humans however they are just super fast movers and sometimes have a tendency to jump. They look scary because they can grow large, have long legs and are somewhat hairy. But.. they are the best pest control so if you have one hanging around your accommodation or wherever you may be, leave it there to munch on bugs. They like to hide out under tree bark, logs and rocks. Unfortunately, they do have a reputation of hiding out under the sun visor in cars, scuttling across the dashboard or windscreen, so make sure you wind your windows up and close that sunroof overnight.
If safe to do, collect the spider for identification in a sealable container or take a photo of it. If not possible, do your best to describe the spider once you arrive at hospital focusing on features such as size, color, patterning, where you were when bitten etc.
The main job of first-aid for a funnel-web spider bite is to prevent the venom from passing through to the lymphatic system and eventually into the bloodstream. The pressure/ immobilization technique (as for snake bite) does this by compressing surface tissues and reducing muscle movement, slowing the lymphatic flow.
The treatment for a redback spider bite is much different to that of a funnel web.
For other types of spider bite e.g white tailed, wolf, trapdoor
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