Scared of Australian Snakes and Spiders?

Many people would love to live in Australia and dream of moving here at some point. But also for many the fear of snakes and spiders in Australia may just be enough to put them off the idea.

So what’s it really like when you do live in Australia?

Acclimatisation – getting used to Australian creepy crawlies.

It seems to me that everybody goes through a period of acclimatisation, although everyone will be different because each of us has our own starting point. From my point of view, if you were to measure the fear of snakes and spiders on a scale of one to 10, with one being “not bothered” and 10 being “OMG there’s a snake/spider! Run!” I reckon I am only a two.

Spiders just don’t bother me, I’ll put a glass over them, slide a postcard underneath and throw them out off the door. I have only ever seen two snakes in the wild, both pointed out to me otherwise I would have missed them, and I was comfortable enough to get real close to each.

No rush of adrenaline, no fast heartbeat, no sweaty palms and no feelings of anxiety. Now that you have a greater understanding of my “starting point”, let me tell you about my acclimatisation to life in Australia.

Stage one.

In many ways we had a baptism of fire, moving in to a house that had been empty for around five months. Empty of humans that is! Creepy crawlies had taken over or that’s how it seemed to us. Spiders were almost a daily occurrence.

During this period I was convinced I’d crossed swords with both a funnel web spider and a Redback spider here in my home. I still think the Redback could have been one, but my funnel web……


….was more likely to have been a female mouse spider which is as toxic as the funnel web, but rarely delivers that venom in a bite. So on that basis, not so dangerous, but it will hurt you. This sentence was updated January 2014, see Bills comment below for details. As for the funnel web, I’ll show you what one of those looks like soon.

During this stage one period, you will find yourself automatically checking around the skirting boards and the walls and ceilings for spiders every time you enter a new room. I would be especially vigilant when putting my daughter to bed.

Getting up in the middle of the night to visit the small room would mean walking barefoot in the dark. During this stage one, it was impossible to do that without thinking of the “what if there is a spider” scenario. Climbing back into a dark bed would raise the same question.

I’m not sure how long this stage one period lasted for me, but I do remember realising all of a sudden that I was no longer doing the above. That was after we’d been here for five months, so I would imagine I spent around four months in stage one.

Stage two.

During this stage you feel much more comfortable indoors and around the home, but you might still be checking inside your shoes before you put them on. Going out into the garage or the garden you would still find yourself checking and scanning the ground and the walls around you checking for bad things. You would take a deep breath before moving any outside storage boxes or going into the garden shed.

I reckon stage two lasted a further six to nine months, so by the time you enter the next stage you have been living in Australia for, give or take, around a year.

Stage three.

Now you are starting to feel just as comfortable out in the garage as you did indoors. I found myself popping into the garage without putting any shoes on and if I did, checking inside them for spiders was now a thing of the past.

By and large, at this stage you are living a pretty normal life unhindered by the worries of spiders and snakes. You are still aware they exist and the dangers they can pose, but you no longer think about them every day. I thought this would be the final stage.

But I was wrong!

Stage four.

You start going camping.

I am going to admit here and now that even though I only classed myself as a number two in the above one to 10 fear factor test, before arriving here to live in Australia I would have said that the chances of me going camping were probably zero.

Yes, even I thought camping would have been too risky. Too close to nature for my liking out here. All those “what ifs” about snakes and spiders would lead me to the next question of “how much is it to rent an apartment”.

So, up until really recently, all of our holidays and weekend breaks we spent staying in apartments. But we also stopped at a camping site chain called Big 4 when we went on our Australian road trip, and that meant staying in cabins on a campsite.

That was probably a good stepping stone and now we are very comfortable going camping and sleeping in tents in the middle of nowhere. Not just me, but my wife and my daughter too.

So it seems our acclimatisation to our Australian lifestyle is complete. All accomplished within two years. I wonder if there is a “stage five”. Perhaps I’ll go swimming with sharks, or I will wear a live snake as a belt, or I might go stonefish hunting or maybe I’ll start picking up spiders to take a closer look.

Like this bloke….

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Hanka April 5, 2016, 11:08 am |

    Hi Bob,

    thanks for your blog, now I feel much better. 😉
    I moved to Sydney cca 1 month ago and am still in stage one. I’m from Czech republic and my family and friends always ask about spiders and snakes, because after our media and newspapers you can meet this creatures in Australia every day…
    I hope, that it will be o.k. and after some time I will find myself in last stage. But I have one more question. In July should come my dogs and they should stay outside the house, in garden in dog’s house. Have you any experiences with any repellents or something like that? I love my dogs and don’t want them to get hurt or something worse.

    Thanks and kind regards 😀

    • BobinOz April 5, 2016, 9:15 pm |

      I’m afraid repellent’s simply don’t work, they are a waste of money. It is very common though for dogs to live outside here in Australia, and mostly snakes will do everything they can to avoid dogs. The problem is usually the other way around, a dog will see a snake and attack it.

      Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose.

      If your dogs are cowards, and my dog certainly is, you probably don’t have a problem. If your dogs are likely to attack a snake, then your best approach would be to try and train your dogs to stay away from them.

      Snakes killing dogs or cats here isn’t a massive problem, it’s reasonably rare, but it does happen. That’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but I hope it helps anyway.

      Thanks, Bob

  • Tina February 27, 2015, 9:36 pm |

    I was in Sydney a year ago for a month. Staying with my sister and her hubby who is an Ozzy. So my fear is 9. It was 10, but as I got my children, screaming and running was no longer an option. I can even see it in a pic but I get anxious.
    While I was in their house I would regularly check and go through stage 1. My brother in law of course leaves his shoes outside!? and I would always put them in so no creepy crawly would make his move.
    Their house was really empty of the creatures but one time there was a tiny one in my bedroom. I recon he could grow larger. And wanted him removed from the premises. I tried to do it myself but he was in a corner high and I couldn’t do it. So I popped downstairs and asked for help. Of course that little anegdote made intire family laugh. I’m sure that’s gonna stay with me forever 🙂

    I’m so looking forward to come and live and for a year or two be in stage 3 or 4 ;-).

    For anyone with fears like myself I can say they are not so much trouble. It’s not like they are all over the place all the time. After three weeks I stopped checking so much all the time.

    • BobinOz March 1, 2015, 9:06 pm |

      Absolutely right Tina, they are not as bad as people think they are here. Australia has a reputation for these creepy crawlies which goes before it, but once you are here and living here, you realise it’s just not that bad.

      In a few months time, you’ll be walking around in bare feet and leaving your shoes outside just like your brother-in-law 🙂

  • Bill January 6, 2014, 4:20 am |

    Sorry, I rambled on a bit there. I started studying them some years ago to overcome a crippling fear of them – now I’m hooked and can’t get enough of the little guys!! Interestingly enough, many of the world’s foremost experts on spiders got their start the same way!

    • BobinOz January 6, 2014, 9:13 pm |

      Good plan, did it work? Are you no longer fearful of spiders? Don’t worry about the rambling, I do it too, just look at this website 🙂

      • Bill January 7, 2014, 12:47 pm |

        Yes, it worked so much better than I could have hoped for. Absolutely hooked on them now. Love having them around the house – in fact, I get quite disappointed when they move on!

        “In fact I have read page 48 of my book “Wildlife of Greater Brisbane” in full!”

        Lol, love that bit! I too, read my own stuff. Just read my post again actually – super piece of writing that…

        • BobinOz January 7, 2014, 8:32 pm |

          Ha ha. From fear of spiders to pet spiders. Nice 🙂

  • Bill January 6, 2014, 4:14 am |

    Hi Bob,

    Love the site, really enjoy reading through it! I study spiders, and while far from being an expert on the matter (nor have I even finished my studies), but respectfully, I do believe you are in error here slightly.

    Bites from Mouse Spiders, while usually only causing mild local symptoms, are potentially fatal and immediate medical attention should be sought. The reason for this is not due to a lack of toxicity, but rather, a reluctance of the spider to inject venom, as Mouse Spiders have limited venom stocks. Without venom, a spider is not only vulnerable to predators, but is also unable to eat. This is why most bites from this spider tend to be ‘dry bites’, however if it does choose to inject venom, the effects are very similar to that of the Funnel-Web and the same course of action should be applied.

    Males are usually the culprit, as the much larger females don’t leave the burrow unless disturbed. The females rarely show much aggression and also tend to be lethargic; however the venom of the female Red-Headed Mouse Spider (Missulena Occatoria) is potentially as toxic as that of the Sydney Funnel-Web (Atrax Robustus).

    As I mentioned earlier, they are usually harmless – only one serious envenomation has ever been reported (a child at Gatton in 1985, courtesy of a bite from the White-Backed Mouse Spider [Missulena Bradleyi] – Fuennel-Web anti-venom was used and child made a full recovery).

    My favourite story of this spider is of the 7 year old boy that was bitten by one – the spider didn’t just bite him, but it latched on and wouldn’t let go. The boy turned up in the emergency room with the spider still firmly attached – the doctor had to crush the spider to get the fangs out! Afterward, the only pain the boy complained of was hunger due to missing lunch in all the excitement!

    Once again Bob, I really love this site and I especially enjoy the way that you stick up for our misunderstood creepy-crawlies. Media beat-up is a big problem, that not only causes grief for these awesome little creatures and promotes unhealthy crippling fear of them, but worse yet, wrongly attributes skin necrosis and such to spider bite (usually to the White-Tailed Spider) – in doing so, the actual cause of the patients symptoms are missed.

    • BobinOz January 6, 2014, 9:04 pm |

      Hi Bill

      I have studied spiders and in particular the mouse spider quite extensively as well. In fact I have read page 48 of my book “Wildlife of Greater Brisbane” in full! 🙂

      You are though, of course, absolutely right. I should have been more careful with my wording, because it clearly does say on that page that “Venom is as toxic as that of a funnel web, but is rarely used so only minor local pain has been recorded in many authenticated bites.”

      So I stand corrected, I should have studied that page 48 more closely, but there are a lot of words on it 🙂 I clearly did read it but concentrated more on the “so only minor local pain has been recorded” part.

      I have now made an amendment to the above article as I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone, although anyone who can tell the difference between a funnel web and a mouse spider would probably know anyway.

      Cheers, and again, thanks for picking me up on this.


  • Tom Sneath December 14, 2013, 8:59 am |

    Hi again Bob.
    Just a quick email to wish you and the family a Very Merry Xmas ,and a Happy Healthy New Year. Ive enjoyed all of your letters and look forward to getting more great informationals from you in the future. Once again have a great holiday,and new year. As always, Tom.

    • BobinOz December 16, 2013, 2:19 pm |

      Hi Tom

      Thank you, and a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you and all your family as well, I hope you have a great time too. Bob

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