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What is Spider Identification?
Spider identification is the process of recognising and classifying different species of spiders based on their distinctive physical characteristics.
It involves observing and analysing various features such as body shape, size, coloration, eye arrangement, leg structure, and other unique attributes.
This information is crucial for accurately identifying spiders, as there are thousands of spider species worldwide, each with its own specific traits and habits.
Spider identification is often undertaken by trained arachnologists or enthusiasts who possess a deep understanding of spider taxonomy and classification.
Through careful examination and comparison with established identification guides or scientific resources, experts can determine the specific species of a spider, enabling a better understanding of its behavior, habitat, and potential risks or benefits it may pose to humans or the environment. Check out our blog on Common House Spiders in Australia here.
How Many Spiders are in Australia?
Approximately 10,000 spider species inhabit Australia, but only 2,700 of them have been formally described. Among Australia’s spider species, some are highly venomous, such as the Redback spider and the Funnel-web spider, both of which have caused human fatalities in the past. Other spiders, like the Mouse spider and the White tail spider, though less venomous, can still cause painful bites accompanied by symptoms like nausea and malaise.
Understanding Australia’s most prevalent spider species and knowing how to treat their bites is crucial. To aid in this, the following chart presents details on identifying nine of Australia’s most commonly encountered spider species.
Spiders are distinguished from other insects by typically having eight legs rather than six, and their bodies are divided into two parts instead of three. Additionally, they often possess organs capable of producing and spinning silk to create webs.
Sydney Funnel-Web Spider
Threat Level: High
The Sydney Funnel-web spider is widely recognised as the most dangerous spider in Australia, and it holds a reputation as one of the world’s most hazardous spiders. Roughly one in every six bites from a Sydney Funnel-web spider results in a severe reaction. In case of a bite, obtaining anti-venom requires immediate medical attention from either your general practitioner or a hospital.
Distribution: Sydney Funnel-web spiders primarily inhabit the regions of New South Wales. They are commonly found in forests and urban areas, and they have been known to frequent backyards and swimming pools.
Behaviour: Sydney Funnel-web spiders exhibit aggressiveness when they perceive a threat.
- Size ranges from 3.5 to 5 cm.
- Their coloration is predominantly blue-black to black.Their appearance is characterised by a glossy texture, including a hairless, shiny head.
- They possess large and formidable fangs.
Funnel Web Spider
Threat Level: High
A bite from a Redback spider can pose a life-threatening risk to a child, although it is generally not severe for an adult. For example, there are approximately 2000 recorded Redback spider bites each year, but only around 250 cases require antivenom treatment. Since the introduction of anti-venom in the 1950s, no deaths resulting from Redback spider bites have been reported. The primary symptom of a Redback spider bite is intense and persistent pain.
Distribution: Redback spiders can be found in various habitats throughout Australia, including urban areas. They tend to seek refuge in dry and sheltered locations such as garden sheds, mailboxes, and beneath toilet seats.
Redback spiders are nocturnal, and only bites from females pose a danger.
- Female Redback spiders are more hazardous compared to males.
- They measure approximately 1 cm in size and possess a distinct red stripe on their abdomen.
- Male Redbacks are approximately 3 to 4 mm in size and exhibit a light brown coloration.
- Males also display white markings on the upper side of their abdomen, along with a pale hourglass marking on the underside.
Threat Level: Moderate
There exist eight species of Mouse spiders, all of which are native to Australia and its surrounding regions. Interestingly, the anti-venom used for Funnel-web spider bites has proven effective for Mouse spider bites as well, given the similarities between the two types of bites, warranting similar cautionary measures.
Distribution: Mouse spiders can be found throughout Australia. They typically inhabit burrows located near waterways and occasionally in suburban areas. Their burrows are characterised by two surface trapdoors that are nearly perpendicular to each other. These trapdoors, constructed from a combination of silk and soil, are expertly camouflaged, making for a clever trap.
Behaviour: Mouse spiders tend to be sluggish and seldom display aggression. They are more active during the daytime.
- Prominent bulbous head and jaw
- Smooth and shiny head and legs
- Males may exhibit colour markings on their head
Threat Level: Moderate.
Recent research indicates that the venom of the White-tailed spider poses minimal danger to humans, with effects limited to mild localised pain.
Distribution: White-tailed spiders can be found in both natural and urban areas across Southern Australia, ranging from Southern Queensland to Tasmania, and spanning the east to west coast of the country.
Behaviour: White-tailed spiders are primarily active during the night, during which they engage in hunting other spiders.
- Distinctive whitish tip located at the end of their abdomen.
- They measure approximately 1.8 to 2 cm in length, with leg spans reaching up to 2.8 cm.
- Typically, they exhibit a dark reddish to grey coloration, accompanied by dark orange-brown banded legs.
White Tail Spider
Australian Tarantula Spider
Threat Level: Moderate
Australian Tarantulas pose no fatal threat to humans. However, their bites can be painful due to their sizable fangs. Although symptoms such as vomiting and fever are rare in humans, it’s important to note that a bite from an Australian Tarantula can be fatal to dogs. Therefore, pet owners should be cautious and seek veterinary assistance promptly if their dog is bitten by an Australian Tarantula. Despite the moderate threat level, it is still advisable to exercise caution and avoid provoking or handling these spiders to prevent potential bites.
Australian Tarantulas can be found in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia. Some species have also been documented as far south as Victoria.
Behaviour: These spiders typically prey on insects, lizards, and frogs, but they have been known to target bird hatchlings as well. Australian Tarantulas are also referred to as whistling or barking spiders due to the ability of certain species to produce sounds by rubbing their front limbs against their jaws.
- Body size of approximately 6 cm
- Leg span that can reach up to 16 cm
- Prominent fangs measuring about 1 cm in length
- Covered in dense hair
- Light or dark brown in colour, often exhibiting a silvery sheen
Threat Level: Moderate
Recluse spiders possess venom that has the potential to be harmful to the skin and blood, exhibiting haemotoxic properties. However, no instances of envenomation from Recluse spiders have been reported in Australia.
Behaviour: Recluse spiders are generally not prone to biting.
Distribution: Southern regions of Australia
- Size ranging from 6 to 20 mm
- Coloration varies from cream-coloured to dark brown or blackish-grey
Threat Level: Low
Huntsman spiders are generally hesitant to bite and are more inclined to flee when approached. Their venom is not considered dangerous to humans. However, they can cause hazardous situations when they startle individuals in homes or cars.
Distribution: Huntsman spiders are present throughout Australia.
Behaviour: Huntsman spiders are unlikely to bite and typically prefer to escape from potential threats.
- Leg span reaching up to 15 cm
- Covered in bristly hair
- Coloration ranges from dark to light brown, occasionally appearing grey
Common Garden Orb Weaver Spider
Threat Level: Low
Although the bite of a Common Garden Orb Weaver spider typically results in minor effects like localised pain, they are known for their aggressive behaviour and are the most frequently encountered species of biting spiders.
Distribution: Widespread across Australia.
Behaviour: Common Garden Orb Weaver spiders exhibit high levels of aggression and are prone to biting when disturbed. They are active during the night and seek sheltered locations during the day, such as under leaves or within clothes hanging on a washing line.
- Size ranges from 3 to 5 cm
- Stout body structure
- Coloration can vary between reddish brown and grey
- Abdomen has a triangular shape, occasionally featuring a white or brown stripe
- Notable bumps located towards the front of the abdomen.
Garden Orb Weaver
First Aid For Spider Bites
First aid for spider bites involves several important steps to minimise the potential harm and promote healing.
The first and foremost action is to remain calm and remove oneself from the spider’s vicinity to prevent further bites. The next step is to clean the affected area with mild soap and water to reduce the risk of infection.
Applying a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a cloth can help alleviate pain and reduce swelling. Elevating the affected limb can also help minimise swelling.
It is essential to avoid scratching the bite, as it can lead to secondary infections. If symptoms worsen or if the spider is suspected to be venomous, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. Providing accurate information about the spider, if possible, can aid medical professionals in determining the appropriate treatment.
If you’re worried about a spider bite, it’s best to seek medical attention, however you can read our “When To Worry About A Spider Bite” blog here.