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Spiders in Victoria

Spiders in Victoria

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Published by draculavanhelsing
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Published by: draculavanhelsing on Dec 17, 2011
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Pest ControlTechnical Note
 
No. 12, October 2006
Spiders
Department of Human Services
piders belong to Class Arachnida, whichalso includes scorpions, harvestmen, ticksand mites. They have two main bodyparts, eight legs, simple eyes, piercing jaws(fangs), and silk spinning organs. Like insects,spiders have an exoskeleton which is shedperiodically to allow the spider to grow, aprocess known as moulting. Spiders arearachnids not insects. Insects have three mainbody parts, six legs, compound eyes, antennae,and chewing jaws (mandibles).Spiders play an important part in ourenvironment as they are essential to naturalecosystems. Some spider populations arethreatened because of habitat destruction butmany spiders have adapted to live alongsidehumans in houses, sheds and gardens. As theyusually feed on insects they are quite beneficialto humans and very few are harmful.In Australia there are about 2000 describedspider species. Even though most spiders arenot aggressive, they may bite in self defence if frightened, threatened or accidentally touched.Spiders use venom to subdue their prey.Occasionally this venom is used against a humanin defence. Spider fangs are often unable topenetrate the human skin. However, some of those that can may inflict painful and, in rarecases, dangerous bites.Venoms consist of a complex mixture of chemicals of biological origin. For humans thevenom effects may include interference withblood clotting, breakdown of muscle and tissue,paralysis and effects on the cardiorespiratorysystem but most commonly consist of onlylocalised pain and swelling.Redback spiders and Sydney funnelweb spidersare the only two spiders that have caused deathsin Australia in the past. Sydney funnelwebs arenot found in Victoria. An effective antivenom forRedback spiders was introduced in 1956, andone for funnelweb spiders in 1980. There havebeen no deaths in Australia from a confirmedspider bite since then.
First aid
Those at greatest risk from a spider bite are thevery young or elderly and those with pre-existingcardiovascular disease.If a funnelweb spider bite is suspected it shouldalways be treated quickly by applying a pressurebandage and immobilising the victim. Applyingpressure is not recommended for redback bitesand often worsens the pain. For other spiderbites the area should be washed with soap andwater and a cold pack applied if the bite ispainful. For most spider bites, no other first aidis necessary.
 
Medical attention should be soughtfor any suspected funnelweb or redback spiderbite and for any other bite if symptoms developor persist. If possible the spider should be caughtfor positive identification.
Spider control
Simple measures can be used to limit thenumber of spiders entering the house.Flyscreens can be fitted to windows, and weatherstrips or draft excluders will block their entryunder doors. If trees and bushes are plantedaway from the house this will discourage spidersfrom making burrows close to, and wanderinginto the house.It is important to check clothes, which have beenleft on the floor for spiders. Whilst in thegarden, shoes should be worn and whengardening, long trousers and thick gloves arerecommended. Insecticide spraying is notrecommended for ground-dwelling spiders as it
S
 
 
may make them more active and they maywander into the house. Boiling water may bepoured down individual burrows. Spiders are alsoknown to fall into swimming pools and maysurvive submerged for a number of hours.People should be taught to respect spiders andnot to touch them rather than be frightened of them as many of them are harmless.If chemicals are used for the control of spiders itshould be ensured that they are suitable fordomestic situation and appropriate for spiders.This information is on the label of the product.Otherwise a professional pest control operatormay be employed if a large number of harmfulspiders are present.
Common spiders
 
Department of Human Services
Redback spiders
 
Redbacks are found allover Australia but areless common in thecolder regions. Theyare often found in our backyards. The femalesbuild loose, untidy webs in dry, sheltered sites.The top of the web is funnel-shaped and this iswhere the spider hides. In the lower part thereare sticky threads used for catching prey. Theremay also be up to ten round egg sacs suspendedwithin the web.Redback spiders are black and shiny, with red ororange hourglass marking under the abdomen.Most also have a longitudinal stripe on the uppersurface of the abdomen. They have long legsand a large, bulbous abdomen. Females (body:about 10 mm) are significantly larger than males(body: about 4 mm). Females live for two tothree years and may produce several thousandoffspring during that time. The males live forabout six or seven months as they are usuallykilled during mating by the female.Due to their proximity to humans hundreds of bites are reported each year. Only the female’sbite is dangerous and may require antivenom. Asthey are quite small many of their bites areineffective. Early symptoms include escalatingpain, localised sweating, nausea and vomiting.
Whitetailed spider
 Whitetailed spiders arefound all over Australia.They usually live under barkand logs and in leaf litter,but they often enter our houses. These spidersare most active at night when they wander abouthunting for other spiders including black housespiders. Whitetailed spiders do not make websbut do make temporary silk retreats for moultingand egg laying. They have disc-shaped egg sacs.Whitetailed spiders are grey to black with acigar-shaped body and a distinct white mark onthe tip of the abdomen. The female is about 18mm long whereas the size of the male is smaller(about 12 mm).These spiders are not aggressive, but inflict apoisonous bite that is painful. Occasionally, localblistering or ulceration occurs, which could bedue to a secondary bacterial infection. There islittle supporting evidence to link whitetailedspider bites with skin necrosis.
Funnelweb spiders
Funnelweb spiders arefound around the eastcoast and the highlandsof Australia (fromQueensland to Tasmania)and small regions of South Australia. Most arefound on the groundwhere they build burrows in moist, cool,sheltered areas but some are tree-dwelling. Theyare regarded to be the most notorious of theAustralian spiders due to their highly toxic andfast-acting venom. However, out of at least 40species only the male Sydney funnelweb spiders(
Atrax robustus
) have been responsible forrecorded deaths.Sydney funnelweb spiders are not found inVictoria. The Victorian funnelweb spiders(
Hadronyche modesta
and
Hadronychemeridiana
) are relatives of the SydneyFunnelWeb spider. However, their venom hasbeen reported to cause only general symptomssuch as headaches and nausea.Spiders commonly mistaken for funnelwebsinclude trapdoor spiders, mouse spiders andblack house spiders.The entrance to the burrow of a funnelweb spiderhas a funnel-like structure with one or twoopenings. Typically, the vibrations from silk trip-lines which extend across the ground alert thespider to possible danger or prey. Femalefunnelweb spiders spend most of their life intheir burrows, but adult males wander in search
 
of females, particularly during summer andautumn.
Department of Human Services
maturity.ground.Funnelweb spiders have a shiny black head andlegs and black to brown abdomen covered in finehairs. The females are slightly larger (35 mm)than the males (30 mm).The female produces a pillow-shaped silk eggsac, which she defends vigorously if disturbed.The spiderlings hatch about three weeks later,and stay with the mother for a few months.Funnelwebs reach maturity in about two to fouryears. The females live for ten or more years,whereas the males die six to nine months after
Mouse spiders
 Mouse spiders are widelydistributed throughoutAustralia. The mousespider lives in burrows inthe ground, often nearcreeks and rivers but issometimes found in suburban gardens. Theburrows are built with double trapdoors, whichare set almost at right angles to each other. Thefemales tend to remain in or near their burrowsthroughout their life whereas the males wanderduring early winter, especially after rain. Theyare only rarely aggressive.These spiders are squat animals 1-3 cm longwith the females being generally larger than themales. Their head area is high and broad withvery large, bulbous jaws. Female redheadedmouse spiders are dark brown to black, and the jaws are sometimes red-tinged. The males havea red head and jaws, and a blue abdomen. Theeastern mouse spiders males are black with abluish white patch on the front of the abdomen.The female lays eggs within an egg sac that sheplaces into a brood chamber in her burrow.Males reach sexual maturity at about four yearsand then leave their burrows to find a mate.Their wandering behaviour occurs during theday.Some reports suggest that mouse spider venommay be very toxic. Fortunately, the bites usuallycause only minor effects but one seriousenvenomation has been recorded. Until moretoxicity data is available the bite should betreated as for a funnelweb spider bite.
 
Black house spider
 
Black house spiders arewidely distributed in southernand eastern Australia. Thesespiders are naturally found inthe bark of trees, but arecommon to urban areas andare often called window spiders. Their webs formuntidy, lacy silk sheets with a funnel in which thespider sits. The female constructs several whiteegg sacs, which are secured within the web. Inthe house, they feed upon insects such as fliesand mosquitoes.Black house spiders are robust with black legsand a large abdomen. Their fangs are notobvious. They are dark brown/black in colour.The females (up to 18 mm) are larger than themales (about 9 mm). The female spider neverleaves her web unless forced to. Males, whenready to mate, go in search of females in theirwebs. The spiders mature during summertimeand live for about two years.Black house spiders are not aggressive and biteinfrequently. Their bites can be quite painfulwith local swelling. Symptoms such as pain,nausea, vomiting, sweating and skin lesions havebeen recorded in a few cases.They are sometimes mistaken for funnelwebsbecause of the funnel in their web. Howevertheir webs are commonly found above groundlevel. True funnelwebs live in burrows in the
Huntsman spider
 
Huntsman spiders arefound living under rocksand loose bark, in crevices,on the ground, and onfoliage. They sometimesenter houses or cars. They do not build webs.Huntsman spiders are very large measuring upto 15 cm across the legs. The females arebigger than the males. They are usually brown orgrey in colour and may have banded legs. Thetwo front pairs of their legs are significantlylonger than the back two.The females produce a flat, oval white egg sac.They place it under cover and defend it for aboutthree weeks. Even after the spiderlings emergefrom the egg sac their mother stays with themfor several weeks. The lifespan of mostHuntsman species is about two years or more.

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