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Australian Spiders – Should I Worry?

Many people are worried about living in, or visiting, Australia all because of its poisonous spiders. Is there really a reason for you to be worried? Could you be killed after being bitten by a spider if you visit, or move to, Australia? Should the possibility stop you from going to Australia?

In case you did not know it, Australia has only two spiders that should be of a major concern for anyone visiting, or living there. The two spiders that you need to be most concerned with are the funnel-web spider and the red-back spider. These spiders have caused deaths in the past.

But, with a little common sense and caution these spiders are not the major concern that they used to be. There now is anti-venom for both and neither one has caused any reported deaths for many years.

Funnel-Web Spiders Where are they found?

These hazardous funnel web spiders are found most often in the Brisbane and Sydney area. There have been a few isolated funnel web spider bites in the Adelaide area. The are not usually found in Perth or Melbourne area.

How big are they? The females are usually bigger than males and they are most often found to be around 6 or 7 cm long when including their legs. If you put this into perspective you will realize that a female funnel web spider is found to be about the same width as the palm of a person’s hand.

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The funnel web spider is not like the timid red-back spider. The funnel web spiders are aggressive creatures. They will not hesitate to attack if they feel that they have been provoked at all. What’s more, their venom is very quick acting and if they are not promptly treated their bite can end in a rapid death. This can happen within an hour so that quick action is a must.

Even though the funnel-web spiders are much more aggressive than the red-back spiders, their bites are not near as common because the funnel-web spiders are much bigger and so they are easy to see. As far as how many people fall prey to the funnel-web spider? The average seems to be around 5 or 6 bites requiring anti-venom treatment each year in Australia.

Some people wonder if funnel-web spiders can jump? No, they cannot jump. What they do is they back up when disturbed then they will bite you with a fast downward stroke. When they are provoked they may rush toward you aggressively, but they are not actually able to propel themselves up off the ground.

Red-back Spiders sighted - time to reset the counter

The funnel-web spider burrows holes in the ground. They are usually found in moist, shady areas like dense shrubs, rockeries, logs and in leaf debris..

Red-Back Spiders can be found in every area of Australia and is usually around 2 to 3 cm long including their legs. The red-back spider is a relative of the familiar black-widow spider. Red back spiders are Australia’s best-known spiders. They have songs written about them and they even have a brand of beer named after them.

Red back spiders flourish in populated areas. Every year there are hundreds of bites reported but fewer than 30 percent of them require the anti-venom treatment; for the most part only the female Red-back spiders will bite as the males are usually too small to.

The venom of the red-back spider is much slower acting than the funnel web spider and the anti-venom is quite effective. The majority of victims of red-back spider bites do not turn out to be ill. The possibility of death from a red-back spider bite is possible but it is quite rare. Since the anti-venom became available in 1956 there has not been any deaths from red-back spider bites. As far as how many people fall victim to the red-back spider? The average seems to be around 250 anti-venom treatments being administered every year in Australia.

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The red-back spiders are usually shy and they will pretend to be dead rather than bite someone. They will usually only bite if they are forced into contact with someone that is putting on their gardening gloves, boots, shoes or similar clothing.

So, if you are contemplating visiting or moving to Australia do not let your worry about being bitten by a poisonous spider keep from going. With a little caution you should not need to worry about getting bit. But, if you are bitten a quick trip to the closest hospital should fix you right up.

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Australia

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Written by Mark

As the founder of Getting Down Under, Mark is passionate about demystifying the process associated with a move to Australia. Having launched Getting Down Under in early January 2006 and made the move to Australia from the UK in the same year, Mark continues to share resources and support for those looking for assistance. If you have a question for Mark, please post in our Community Forums. Please note All information provided on Getting Down Under should be considered in conjunction with our disclaimer. Please seek professional advice if you have any doubts! 

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