Good News about Spiders #1
I have never yet met a spider who didn’t think that it became invisible by standing still. Yes it’s true! Try it for yourself. Although I have to say, this didn’t seem to work for me all the time in England but it does here.
Every Australian spider will stop running when you stare at it. The same happens with geckos. This makes capturing them in a glass (or flattening/spraying them depending on your tactic) very easy. Problems only occur when you need to leave the room to fetch a glass, some spray or a shoe. This can easily be overcome if someone else is in the house by shouting out “can you fetch a glass, some spray or a shoe!” without breaking eye contact with the spider.
Good News about Spiders #2
The deadliest spider in Australia is the funnel web…..
…… followed by the Redback Spider. These are the only two spiders that have caused human deaths in Australia.
Update October 2020; when I originally published this article in 2009, I wrote that “Other spiders that may cause problems include wolf spiders and white-tailed spiders. These two and a few other unidentified spiders can cause skin necrosis, that’s when your flesh gets eaten away.”
There were anecdotal stories around in the media at the time, but here we are over 10 years later, and no one has produced any firm evidence that either of these spiders have caused necrosis. That’s not to say they cannot give you a nasty bite though, so don’t attempt to pick them up. I still favour gently removing spiders from my home, either in an upside down jar or by gently using a dustpan brush. End of update.
So what’s the good news? Antivenom for Redback Spiders was introduced in 1956 and for funnel webs in 1979. Nobody in Australia has died from a spider bite since. People do get bitten, about 2000 times a year by Redback Spiders according to statistics. For most people it just hurts. But for some people, probably around 10%, there is a reaction which requires the antivenom.
It’s a similar story with the funnel web. People do get bitten, but the majority of bites are what they call blanks, no venom is released by the spider. After all, the purpose of the venom is to kill the spider’s prey and prepare it for eating by making it more digestible. I think even these little spiders realise they can’t possibly eat a whole human. So why waste the venom?
Good News about Spiders #3
With a regular pest control programme costing around $250 per year, your house will pretty much be spider free.
Look, I think I’ve done pretty well to come up with three good things about spiders. I know that spiders are a big issue for many people, but the truth is here in Australia, spiders really aren’t an issue at all. Let’s put it this way: 1700 people a year die from road accidents and you are more likely to be hit by lightening or die from a bee sting, than cop it at the jaws of a spider.
So don’t let spiders put you off of coming to Australia. In fact, you might like to think about this as you enjoy the current heatwave if you live in England. According to the British Arachnological Society, the false widow spider has now established itself in the UK, Plymouth and the south coast to be precise, thanks to free boat rides from southern Europe and the milder weather. It bites and can really hurt, but no deaths have been caused.
Welcome to our world.