- Only two Australian spiders, the Redback spider and the Sydney Funnelweb, have ever killed people with a bite in the last two centuries, and antivenoms are available for both types of bites.
- Diversity: Australia is home to a vast variety of spiders, with over 3,000 known species. This diversity includes both venomous and non-venomous spiders.
- Most Australian spiders have venom, but very few of them are particularly harmful to humans. They are reluctant biters and usually bite as a last resort when feeling threatened.
- Spiders are less dangerous than bees. In a specific period, 12 people died from bee and wasp stings, while there were no deaths from spider bites.
- The Sydney Funnelweb spider is one of the most dangerous spiders in Australia, with highly deadly venom and a tendency to be aggressive when threatened. Immediate medical attention should be sought in case of a Funnelweb bite.
Australian spiders have quite a reputation around the world. As a nation, we’re pretty light on for bears and wolves and large creatures that can eat you. But we are pretty well known for deadly creatures that live in toilet seats and under bin handles.
But how dangerous ARE Australian spiders? What Australian spiders can kill you, which ones will poison you, and are there spiders we don’t need to worry about? Let’s look at some of the most common Australian spiders and just how dangerous they are.
A Few Facts About Australian Spiders
First, let’s get a few basic facts straight about Australian spiders.
- Only Two Australian Spiders Can Kill Humans – It’s true. In the last two centuries, only two Australian spiders have ever killed people with a bite – the famous Redback spider, and the Sydney Funnelweb. And we now have antivenoms for both types of bite.
- Almost No One Dies From Spider Bites – As weird as this may sound, it’s pretty well documented. In the last forty years (since the development of a Funnelweb antivenom), there has only been one death from a spider bite in Australia.
- Most Are Poisonous, Few Are Dangerous – Almost every Australian spider has some type of venom, but very few of them are particularly harmful to humans. Also, most spiders are very reluctant biters, doing so only as a last resort (such as when a human jams their fingers into their hiding spot). Even the aggressive spiders that chase humans only do so when they feel threatened.
- Spiders Are Less Dangerous Than Bees – This might seem bizarre, but the numbers are hard to argue with. In 2017-2018, 12 people died to bee and wasp stings, versus no deaths for spiders. While it’s true that some spiders have far more toxic venom, the fact that bee stings are a very common trigger for anaphylaxis gives them the clear lead here.
With some of those facts under our belt, let’s have a look at some common Australian spiders and see just how dangerous they are.
Australian House Spiders
A distressing fact of life in Australia for many tourists and arachnophobes is that most Australian houses have a fair supply of spiders around the place. Fortunately, most of them are just there for the bugs, and the majority aren’t that dangerous. Here are a few that you might come across in your travels.
Daddy long legs are one of the most common spiders you’re likely to meet in the house. They often like to hide under furniture or up high near the roof. They’re also hard to see (their bodies are tiny, and their legs are super thin), and because they’re generally regarded as harmless, many people don’t bother dislodging them until they start to look untidy.
There’s an old story that Daddy long legs have the world’s most deadly venom, but don’t kill humans because their fangs aren’t long enough to get through human skin. Neither is accurate, and Daddy long legs actually have venom that’s almost entirely harmless to humans. Although, ironically enough, these tiny spiders are surprisingly good at catching and eating other spiders – including Redbacks!
These rather large hairy spiders are pretty common in Australian households. Arachnophobes particularly hate them due to their size (they can be as big as your palm), speed, and their tendency to lurk in plain sight on walls and ceilings. In reality, Huntsmen are relatively harmless to humans. If threatened, they can be aggressive, and their bites can be painful (they have pretty big fangs). But generally, the worst effects of a Huntsman bite is pain at the bite site and other side effects like nausea and headaches.
They can occasionally cause road accidents by appearing in cars at unexpected moments. But given they’re reasonably harmless and quite large, some people choose to leave alone – to keep insects under control. Some even give them names.
This is possibly the most famous Australian spider, it can be found in most Australian houses, and it’s one of the two that can kill – Redback bites can be fatal to humans. They’re generally about the size of a 10c coin and shiny black with a brilliant red stripe on the back. Redbacks have become far more common with white settlement, as the dark corners of our buildings are perfect for them. Redbacks tend to stay in the same spot most of their adult lives.
They’re reluctant biters but will do so if threatened. Unfortunately, their tendency to hide in wheely bin handles and (notoriously) under toilet seats means this happens reasonably often when humans unknowingly invade their space. Their bites are slow spreading, but inflamed and painful, often with many other significant side effects – such as sweating and muscle spasms. Bites don’t always require hospitalisation, but it’s definitely worth getting medical advice if someone’s been bitten.
Only the female redback is dangerous. The male redback is around a quarter the size, isn’t dangerous to humans, and generally gets eaten by the female after (or sometimes during) mating.
Black House Spiders
These are squat little black spiders about the size of a 5c piece. They’re relatively fond of human houses and make unusual webs with a curved, funnel-like shape. Like Redbacks, they tend to pick one area as their home / hunting ground and stay there most of their lives – repairing their webs when needed. Their bites are painful and can cause swelling, nausea, and sweating, but they’re not actually dangerous. They’re also reluctant to bite if they can escape instead.
Cupboard Spider (aka Brown House Spider)
Cupboard spiders are small dark spiders – the female can sometimes be mistaken for a redback spider, although they lack the trademark red stripe. Their bites can be painful and cause swelling and sometimes nausea and sweating, but they’re not lethal like a redback is.
White-tails are small, dark, elongated spiders with a distinctive white patch on the end of their abdomen. They have an awful reputation nowadays, which is almost entirely undeserved. The internet myth is that the bites of white-tailed spiders cause necrosis – making the flesh around the bite rot and die. As it turns out, it’s pretty much made up. White-tailed spider bites cause some pain and irritation around the bite and possibly some nausea and headaches, most of which should resolve within 24 hours. Although in some cases, the bite may be irritated for a week or so afterwards.
White tails don’t make webs, and they’re known for eating far more harmful spiders – including Black House Spiders and Redbacks. They do have a fondness for hiding in the folds of clothing, though – so if there are white-tails around, then it might be a good idea to shake out any shirts you leave on the floor.
Many Australian spiders don’t love human settlements, preferring to stay in bushland – or out in the garden.
Garden Orb Weaving Spiders
Australian Orb spiders (such as the orb weaver) are large, brown or grey spiders around the size of a 20c coin with stocky, heart-shaped abdomens. They can often inadvertently cause problems for humans due to their tendency to build large webs – making a new one each day. These are often built through an open part of the garden and anchored to nearby trees and bushes. Which sometimes means the web is right over a path or walkway, and humans can walk directly into the web – occasionally with the spider sitting in the middle, at around face height.
Other than this alarming habit, they’re very little threat to humans – they’re reluctant biters, they’re not aggressive, and their bites generally only cause mild pain and swelling and sometimes mild discomfort or nausea.
Australian Wolf Spiders
Wolf spiders are large, furry spiders not totally dissimilar to a Huntsman, which are found all over Australia and are common to much of the world. The Australian Wolf Spider (like most of its kind) is a ground feeder that doesn’t make webs. They hunt and eat insects and even some larger animals on the ground, but they make burrows to hide and rest.
Although they can look rather intimidating, wolf spider bites have only mild effects on humans – localised pain or itching, swelling, and potentially some dizziness or nausea.
Saint Andrew’s Cross Spider
This is probably a contender for the most artistic spider on the list. Like Orb Weavers, Saint Andrew’s Cross Spiders make large webs spanning open areas between trees and bushes. Unlike the Orb Weaver, the Saint Andrew’s Cross constructs it’s web with a large, highly distinctive strip of lace-like web in an “X” pattern at the centre. The spider itself tends to sit at the middle of this x shape, generally with it’s eight legs also held in a cross shape. These two elements create the distinctive cross image that gives the spider its name. The spiders also have visually striking patterns on their bodies, which reflect UV light – to attract insects.
Like orb weavers, they’re reluctant biters, and their bite isn’t dangerous – similar in pain and discomfort to a bee-sting.
Big Black Spiders
Large black spiders are treated with special care by medical professionals. Not because they’re ALL dangerous (they’re not) but because many big black spiders look similar to the Sydney Funnelweb – which is one of the two lethal Australian spiders. So most medical personnel will treat ANY large black spider bite as a potential Funnelweb bite.
Funnel Web Spider
This is possibly the most dangerous spider in Australia, both due to its highly deadly venom and also its tendency to go on the offensive when threatened – not to mention having fangs large enough to bite through shoe leather. Funnelweb bites are painful, and their venom is potent and fast-acting. It can often cause unusual effects, such as drooling, goosebumps, tears, muscular spasms, and elevated pulse and disorientation. Call 000 immediately for a Funnelweb bite – don’t muck around!
Fortunately, the development of Funnelweb antivenom has meant there have been no actual Funnelweb deaths since 1981.
Funnelwebs are large, stocky, furry black spiders that can be as big as your palm. They live mainly on the east coast of Australia but have been occasionally found in other states. They’re named for the distinctive funnel shape of their webs. Females generally stay inside their webs, while males tend to wander in warmer months, looking for females to mate with – which is generally when they encounter humans.
Trapdoor spiders are large furry black spiders similar in appearance to a Funnelweb. They’re named for the way they often build their tube-shaped burrows with a “hatch” at the entrance, allowing them to ambush prey. Despite looking like one of our planet’s deadliest spiders, Trapdoor spiders are actually relatively harmless – their bites generally only cause local pain and swelling. But unless the spider has been verified as a Trapdoor spider by an expert, you should treat the bite like it’s a Funnelweb bite – call 000 as soon as possible.
Mouse spiders are another big black spider, similar to a Funnelweb but with a shinier carapace and a more bulbous head and jaw. They’re common to most urban areas – including the south and west coast. Their bite is quite harmful, causing serious pain and severe poisoning – but fortunately, they’re wary of biting, and they’re believed to use less venom than a Funnelweb, and sometimes “Dry bite” (digging fangs in, but not injecting venom). Funnelweb antivenom is also effective against Mouse Spider venom, and because of their similarity to Funnelwebs and the potency of their venom, they should be treated just like a Funnelweb bite.
Spider Identification Chart
The spider identification chart is a helpful tool for anyone who wants to learn more about the different types of spiders they might encounter in their home or backyard. The chart typically includes images of the most common spiders, and is ranked from dangerous to low risk.
By using the chart, people can become more familiar with the spiders they come across and learn how to identify them accurately, which can help to reduce fears and prevent unnecessary harm to both humans and spiders.
Australia is home to some of the world’s most poisonous and dangerous spiders. The Sydney funnel-web spider, for example, is a highly venomous species that is found in and around Sydney, and its venom can be lethal to humans if left untreated.
Another dangerous species is the redback spider, which is found throughout Australia and is known for its distinctive red marking on its abdomen. The venom of the redback spider can cause severe pain, muscle weakness, and even paralysis in humans. Other poisonous spiders in Australia include the white-tailed spider and the mouse spider. While encountering these spiders can be frightening, it’s important to remember that they generally only bite in self-defence, and bites can often be avoided by taking precautions such as wearing protective clothing and checking bedding and shoes before use.
Spider First Aid
Ultimately, the best way to be prepared for spider bites is to get the best first aid training – which, in addition to preparing you for a wide variety of other medical emergencies, will provide a solid grounding in how to recognise and respond to stings and bites such as spider bites
Medical personnel tend to break spider bites down into three categories for treatment – basically based on whether the bite might be a Funnelweb or Redback bite.
- Big Black Spider Bites – Immediately call 000. Use pressure – such as a pressure bandage – to slow down blood flow around the bite and restrict blood flow. Where possible, keep the person still and calm.
- Redback Bites – Use an icepack to reduce swelling and pain around the bite. Pressure isn’t needed, as Redback venom doesn’t spread quickly, and you’ll just cause unnecessary pain. Call 000 if symptoms worsen over time.
- Other Spider Bites – Generally, the only intervention needed is an icepack to lessen pain and swelling and potentially painkillers such as paracetamol to ease symptoms. The victim should only require Medical assistance if symptoms get significantly worse.
The exception to these guidelines is if the bite victim shows any sign of an anaphylactic reaction, such as swelling or tightness in the throat, a swollen tongue, or difficulty breathing. In these cases, it’s time to call 000 immediately – and possibly administer adrenaline if the person has an EpiPen or AnaPen with them.
Spider Bites And Anaphylaxis
When bitten by a spider, some individuals may experience a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. This condition can be fatal within a short period of only 15 minutes.
Spider bites can lead to a range of symptoms, from mild irritation to serious medical emergencies. In rare cases, some people may experience anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you or someone else is experiencing anaphylaxis after a spider bite.
If the casualty displays any of these symptoms, it is important to immediately call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, consult the anaphylaxis treatment guideline of the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC), and follow the DRSABCD protocol while preparing to administer CPR.
What Is The Most Common Spider In Australia?
In Australia, the Huntsman spider from the Sparassidae family and the White Tail Spider are the most frequently encountered spiders. The Huntsman spider species includes the large brown huntsman spider (Holconia immanis) and the grey huntsman spider (Holconia insignis). They are recognised for their size and speed, and they are often found in buildings, vehicles, and houses. Despite their intimidating appearance, huntsman spiders are not hazardous to humans and can actually assist in regulating the population of other insects.
The White Tail Spider can be found all over Australia and are easily identifiable by the white tip on their abdomen. Despite their widespread presence, they are actually quite small, making them difficult to spot for those who have not seen them before.
What Are The 2 Deadliest Spiders In Australia?
In Australia, the Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) and the redback spider (Latrodectus hasseltii) are the two most lethal spiders. These venomous spiders can pose a threat to humans. The Sydney funnel-web spider is present in New South Wales and southern Queensland, while the redback spider is widespread throughout the country. Nonetheless, it should be emphasised that fatalities from spider bites in Australia are infrequent because antivenom and efficient medical treatment are readily accessible, despite the possibility of severe symptoms.
Are Australian House Spiders Poisonous?
The majority of house spiders found in Australia are not venomous and do not pose a risk to humans. In fact, some house spiders can be advantageous as they assist in managing pest populations in and around the home. Nevertheless, there are particular spider species in Australia that are venomous and may be dangerous to humans, including the funnel-web spider, redback spider, and mouse spider. It is crucial to exercise caution around spiders and to seek medical assistance if you suspect that you have been bitten by a venomous spider.
Most Common Spiders In Australia
Found throughout a range of habitats including forests, grasslands, deserts, and urban areas, the huntsman spider, orb-weaving spiders, daddy long-legs spider (cellar spider), wolf spider, and jumping spider are the most commonly occurring spiders in Australia. Although some of these spiders can appear intimidating, the majority are benign to humans and can be advantageous in regulating populations of other insects. Nonetheless, it is advisable to be vigilant around spiders and to seek medical attention if you suspect that you have been bitten by a venomous spider.
What Is The Worst Spider In Australia?
Ranked as the second most venomous spider worldwide, but claiming the top spot in Australia, is the Sydney funnel-web spider. With its remarkably fast-acting venom, this arachnid is considered the deadliest spider on the planet, capable of causing death in just 15 minutes. Unfortunately, there have been 13 recorded deaths attributed to this spider’s venom.
What Is The Rarest Spider In Australia?
The Euoplos dignitas is a recently discovered species of rare, giant trapdoor spider found exclusively in a specific region of Queensland, Australia. These spiders thrive in open woodland environments and construct burrows in the black soils of the Brigalow Belt, located in Central Queensland.
Where In Australia Has The Least Spiders?
Norfolk Island is a remarkably secure destination for travellers. This is largely due to the fact that there are no snakes present on the island. Moreover, the majority of the spiders inhabiting the island are benign in nature, including the larger species.
How Big Is A Common House Spider In Australia?
Typically, black house spiders are small in size. Female black house spiders can grow up to 12-18 mm in length, while males tend to reach a length of 9-15 mm. Their carapace often displays short, grey hairs, and their abdomen is commonly grey, adorned with varied white markings.
What Time Of Day Are Spiders Most Active?
The majority of spiders have poor eyesight, relying instead on sensing vibrations to navigate their surroundings. This sense also alerts them when prey has become ensnared in their webs. Nocturnal behaviour is prevalent among most spider species, as they are more active during the night. Interestingly, some spiders have transitioned from being nocturnal to diurnal over the course of their evolutionary development.