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Spiders are not insects they are arachnids, a group that also includes scorpions, mites and ticks.
Although Australia has some of the most venomous spiders in the world, of the 10,000 or so species present, only a few are a threat to humans. Spider that are capable of causing pain or nerve damage in humans include; brown recluse, red back, white–tail, funnel-web, mouse and black house spiders.
Web-spinning spiders tend to build their webs close to areas where they can also hide from predators that might see them as food, such as birds; while predatory spiders harbour in places where they can take their prey by surprise. Common places to find spiders around the home include: behind downpipes, under fence capping, tree bark and foliage, roof eaves, curtains, behind paints and photo frames, and the where ceilings and walls meet. It is also common to bring spiders inside via clothes washing hanging outside so you might find spiders in linen cupboards and wardrobes too.
Favoured locations of venomous spidersTo assess your family’s risk of spider bites, familiarise yourself with the kinds of spider that tend to
live around your home and garden. Each species of spider has a preferred home or hunting ground.
Signs you should look for include:
• Funnel-web – found along the East Coast from Queensland to Tasmania and in some
areas of South Australia. It likes to live in holes in moist soil, such as in mulched garden
beds. Erratic (rather than symmetrical) web lines may fan out from the hole. Males tend to
roam for females in autumn and summer. The funnel web is nocturnal (comes out at
night). The male Sydney funnel-web is considered to be Australia’s most dangerous spider,
and is the only type of funnel-web responsible for recorded human deaths. The Sydney
funnel-web is not found in Victoria.
• Mouse – found all over Australia. It likes to live near water in ground holes that feature
right-angled ‘trap doors’. Males are coloured either red on the jaw or bluish-white on the
abdomen. Females are larger than the males.
• Red-back – found across Australia, but is less common in cooler climates. It looks shiny
black with a red or orange marking on the abdomen. Only the female bite is venomous.
The red-back does not live in the ground; instead, it chooses ‘man-made’ sheltered areas
such as inside sheds or beneath stairs. The web is usually made in the shade. The top of
the web contains a thickly spun ‘cone’, where the spider sits. Red-backs are not aggressive.
Most bites occur when people accidentally put their hand in the web and the spider feels
• White-tailed – found across Australia. It is coloured grey to black with a white patch on
the abdomen. It does not build a web. The white-tailed spider is commonly found in cool
and tiled areas such as bathrooms and laundries, and may hide inside shoes, clothes and
other items left on the floor. Outdoors, it lives under bark and logs and in leaf litter. It is
Common but relatively harmless spiders
Some spiders may look scary, but are not dangerous to most people. Common examples include:
• Black house – found in eastern and southern Australia. It may be found under tree bark
and around windowsills. The webs are formed in messy ‘sheets’.
• Huntsman – likes to live under bark, rocks and crevices. The two front pairs of legs are
much longer than the back two pairs of legs. Despite its size, a huntsman is usually
harmless. A bite, however, may cause some swelling and pain.
• Wolf – found across Australia. It is coloured brown to grey. The wolf spider has a
distinctive set of six ‘eyes’ at the fore of its body. Typical symptoms of a wolf spider bite
include some itching and pain.
Spider-proof your home
It may be impossible to eradicate spiders from your garden, but you can stop most spiders from
living in your house. Suggestions include:
• Clear away trees, shrubs and bushes from around doors or windows.
• Avoid the use of insecticides in the garden, as spiders may be encouraged to flee into the
• Fit draught-strips to all doors. Spiders may crawl in under doors.
• Install flyscreens to windows and any vents, such as wall ventilation slots.
• Don’t leave equipment or clothing (such as shoes) outside. If you do, shake out before you
wear them or bring them inside the house.
• Keep the windows of your parked car wound up to avoid being surprised by a spider while
• Pour boiling water (from a kettle) into any spider holes you find near doorways and
windows. This will kill the spider.
• Consult with a licensed pest control operator for professional advice.