WILDLIFE Australian spiders: the 10 most dangerous
Spiders tend to incite more fear than favour and even provoke phobias for some. And many a visitor to our shores has been more than a little worried about our eight-legged friends.
Spider venom contains a cocktail of chemicals, some of which can be harmful to humans – but humans are not really the intended victims. Spider venom is designed for small prey and delivered in small quantities.
Sydney funnel-web Atrax robustus
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The Sydney funnel-web is without a doubt Australia's deadliest. Though just 1.5–3.5cm big, it has fangs larger than a brown snake’s and so powerful they can pierce nails and toenails.
There are about 40 species of funnel-web spiders in Australia, including the northern tree funnel-web spider, Hadronyche formidabilis and the southern tree funnel-web spider, H. cerberea. Half their bites result in severe envenoming.
Redback spider Latrodectus hasselti
Redback spiders are found throughout Australia, in many habitats, including urban areas. They often hide in dry, sheltered places such as garden sheds, mailboxes and under toilet seats.
Mouse spider Missulena sp.
Mouse spiders are rather lethargic and rarely aggressive. The females generally remain in their burrow, while the males wander looking for them. Their venom is similar to funnel-webs, although no one has died from a bite.
Trap door spiders Idiopidae family
Just like mouse spiders, trap doors are often mistaken for funnel-webs, especially since the early effects of their bites are similar. Trap doors can live between 5 and 20 years.
White-tailed spiders (Lampona cylindrata and L. murina
White-tailed spiders have a reputation for releasing necrotising (flesh-eating) venom, but scientific evidence doesn’t support this assertion.
Despite their intimidating size (6cm body and up to 16cm legspan). tarantulas aren’t fatal to humans, but can render painful bites because of their large fangs (1cm long). Severe effects (vomiting, fever) are rare.
Recluse spider Loxosceles reclusa
Also known as a fiddleback spider, the recluse spider has potentially dangerous venom that can be haemotoxic, damaging the blood and skin as well.
Huntsman spiders (Sparassidae family)
Huntsmen are famous for being the big (up to 15cm legspan) scary, hairy spiders bolting out from behind the curtains. In reality, they're reluctant to bite and more likely to run away when approached. Their venom isn’t considered dangerous for humans.
Common garden orb weaver Eriophora sp
While their bites inflict only local pain, these spiders are aggressive: they’re the most common spider species to bite. They measure between 1.5cm and 3cm and live in all the gardens.