Australia is home to a vast array of spiders that come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, many of which are the most venomous in the world – but Australia’s spider reputation is bigger than its bite. Records show no deaths from spider bites in Australia since 1981. While there are approximately 2,900 species of spiders in Australia, a majority of these are harmless and will only cause minor symptoms such as itching and minor rashes. Dr Aaron Harmer, Arachnid (type of spider) researcher at Macquarie University says “while many spiders can give you a nip, in most cases it is less troublesome than a bee sting”. However, some spider bites can cause more serious effects and will need first aid and in some cases emergency hospital treatment and observation.

The following informational blog, researched and created by Australia Wide First Aid, is not to be perceived as medical advice. If you have been bitten by a spider, please contact your closest medical professional for the correct and most suitable treatment.

If you wish to be educated on how to treat a spider bite while waiting for emergency services, we encourage you to book a Provide First Aid course, which includes CPR to confirm all correct precautions are taken to ensure you make a full and safe recovery after being bitten by a spider.

TOP 10 MOST DANGEROUS SPIDERS IN AUSTRALIA

1. Sydney Funnel Web Spider
2. Other Funnel Web Spiders
3. Redback Spider
4. Mouse Spider
5. Trap Door Spider
6. White Tailed Spider
7. Australian Tarantula Spider
8. Recluse Spider
9. Hunstman Spider
10. Common Garden Orb Spider

 

1. Sydney Funnel-Web

Danger Level: High

The Sydney Funnel-Web Spider is without a doubt the most dangerous spider in Australia, and even the world. Although one in six bites cause a severe reaction, there is anti-venom available when you seek emergency medical treatment from your local general practitioner or hospital.

Distribution: New South Wales, particularly in forests and urban areas. Sydney-Funnel Web Spiders have been found in backyards and swimming pools and can be quiet aggressive when threatened.

Identification:

  • 1.5-3.5cm in size
  • Black to blue-black colour
  • Shiny appearance
  • Large, powerful fangs
  • Hairless, shiny head

Behaviour: Aggressive when threatened

Appearance:

sydney-funnel-web-spider

Image sourced from https://www.willkillpestcontrol.com.au/spiders-pest-control.php


2. Other Funnel-Webs

Danger: High

With 40 species in Australia, only six species of funnel-webs can cause severe envenomation. Most active between the warmer months of November through til March.

Distribution: Most common in Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales.

Identification:

  • 1-5cm in size
  • Colour ranges from black to blue-black to plum to brown
  • Hairless shiny head

Behaviour: Aggressive when threatened

Appearance:

other_funnel_web_spider

Image sourced from www.meusemvictoria.com.au


3. Redback Spider

Danger Level: High

May be life-threatening to a child, but is rarely serious for an adult. There are approximately 2000 recorded redback spider bites each year, and about 250 receive anti-venom. No deaths have been recorded since anti-venom was introduced in the 1950s. The main symptom of a redback spider bite is severe and persistent pain.

Distribution: Many habitats throughout Australia, including urban areas. They often try to hide in dry, sheltered places such as garden sheds, mailboxes and under toilet seats.

Identification:

  • Female approximately 1 cm (more dangerous than a male) with a distinct red stripe on its abdomen.
  • Male red back approximately 3–4 mm and light brown in colour. The males have white markings on the upper side of the abdomen and a pale hourglass marking underneath.

Behaviour: Redback spiders are nocturnal and only the female bite is dangerous.

Appearance:

size_redback


4. Mouse Spider  

Danger Level: Medium

There are 8 species of the Mouse spider all found in and around Australia. Only one case of severe envenomation has been reported in Australia. Funnel-Web Spider anti-venom is found to be effective on a Mouse Spider bite as the two bites are similar and are treated with the same pre-caution.

Distribution: Throughout Australia. Found normally in burrows, near rivers and waterways and occasionally in suburban areas

Identification:

  • Bulbous head and jaw
  • Smooth and shiny head and legs
  • Males sometimes have colour markings on the head

Behaviour: Typically lethargic, rarely aggressive spiders that prefer to be active during the day.

Appearance:

mouse_spider_maleWeb
Male vs. Female Mouse Spider. Image sourced from www.australiameusem.net.au


5. Trap Door Spiders

Danger Level: Medium

Only causes minor symptoms such as localised pain, but sometimes nauseas, lethargy and malaise. Trap Door Spider bites are similar to a funnel-web spider bite and is therefore treated with the same precaution.

Distribution: Throughout Australia in natural and urban environments.

Identification:

  • 1.5 to 3 cm long
  • Females are significant larger than males
  • Males are more aggressive when threatened than females.
  • Live in tunnels, often with circular shaped doors
  • Lifespan between 5-20 years

Behaviour: Aggressive when threatened.

Appearance:

trap_door_spider

 


6. White-Tailed Spiders

Danger level: Medium

Recent studies show the venom of the White-tailed spider causes no major danger to humans and is limited to mild local pain.

Distribution: Natural and urban areas across Southern Australia, from Southern Queensland to Tasmania and from east to west coast of Australia.

Identification:

  • Whit-ish tip at end of abdomen
  • 1.2-1.8cm in length, legs can span up to 2.8cm across slender
  • Typically dark reddish to grey in colour with dark orange-brown banded legs

Behaviour: Active hunters and wander about at night, hunting other spiders.

Appearance:

spider


7. Australian Tarantulas

Danger Level: Medium

Non-fatal to humans. They can render painful bites because of their large fangs but severe effects such a vomiting and fever is very rare. They can however, be fatal to dogs.

Distribution: Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, some species can also be found as far down as Victoria.


Identification:

  • 6cm body and up to 16 cm leg span
  • Large fangs (1 cm long)
  • Hairy
  • Dark or light brown often with a silvery sheen

Behaviour: Their prey usually consists of insects, lizards and frogs and occasionally preys on bird hatchlings. Australian Tarantulas are also known as whistling or barking spiders because some species are able to make sounds by rubbing their front limbs against their jaws.

Appearance:

trancula


8. Recluse Spider

Danger Level: Medium

Recluse Spiders have potentially dangerous venom that can be haemotoxic and can damage the blood and skin. There have been no recluse spider bites envenomation reported in Australia.

Distribution: Southern Australia.

Identification:

  • 6–20 mm
  • Range in colour from cream-coloured to dark brown or blackish grey

Behaviour: Not inclined to bite.

Appearance:

huntsman


9. Huntsman Spiders

Danger: Low

Huntsman spiders are reluctant to bite and will more likely run away when approached. Their venom isn’t considered dangerous for humans. Their danger is comes from the accidents they cause rather than their bite.

Distribution: Widespread throughout Australia.

Identification:

  • Up to 15cm leg-span
  • Bristly
  • Dark to light brown, sometimes grey

Behaviour: Huntsman are unlikely to bite and prefer to run away.

Appearance:

spider_bite_firstaid


10. Common Garden Orb Weaver Spider

Danger Level: Low

The bite from a Common Garden Orb Weaver Spider causes minor effects such as local pain. However, they are aggressive, being the most common species of spider to bite.

Distribution: Common throughout Australia.

Identification:

  • 1.5cm and 3cm
  • Stout
  • Reddish brown or grey
  • Roughly triangular Abdomens, sometimes with a white or brown stripe
  • Two noticeable bumps towards front of abdomen

Behaviour: Highly aggressive, most common spider species to bite. They are active at night and find a sheltered place to hide during the day (such as under leaves or in clothes on the washing line).

Appearance:

garden_orb_spider

Real Life Story:

Australia Wide First Aid Student – “It’s actually a funny story. A couple nights ago my partner and I were in bed and he shot up and said he’d seen a spider (safe to say we didn’t sleep in our own bed for nights). He then developed Bronchitis within what appears to be 28 – 36 hours. He didn’t know what type of spider it was, he didn’t alert the GP when he saw her. Today however when I was getting ready for work I found the 8 legged rascal in my clothes! It was the brown big-butted [Garden] Orb Weaver [Spider]. The symptoms were nausea and dizziness which he’s had since the bite he found the morning after, but the doctor (I think) has misdiagnosed the severity because of the unknown spider bite and prescribed heavy duty antibiotics, puffers and even steroids to my partner.”

“Two days after the [spider bit my partner], the spider bite now looks like a purple smudge, a but like a bruise. [The morning after the spider bite occurred, it looked like] a purple nipple due to swelling and because [my partner] scratched it.”


FIRST AID

 
This information should not be taken as medical advice. If you have been bitten by a spider, please seek your closest emergency medical practitioner or hospital as soon as possible. 

 


About Australia Wide First Aid

Australia Wide First Aid offers first aid courses in convenient locations around the country. Find out more:


First Aid for Funnel Web Spider Bite:

Any bite from a large (greater than 2 cm) darker-coloured spider in parts of NSW or South-Eastern Queensland. If bitten, the bite should be considered as a dangerous bite and immediate emergency treatment should be given.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Pain at the bite site
  • Tingling around the mouth
  • Profuse sweating
  • Copious secretions of saliva
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscular twitching
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Confusion leading to unconsciousness

Treatment:

  • Keep the casualty at rest, reassured and under observation
  • Call 000/112
  • Follow the basic life support guidelines (DRSABCD)
  • Apply Pressure Immobilisation Technique
  • The purpose of the pressure immobilisation technique is to restrain the movement of venom from the bite site into the circulation, thus “buying time” for the patient to reach medical care. Apply a bandage over the bitten area as tightly as you would for a sprained ankle and immobilise the limb. Extend the bandage up the limb. Only use the pressure immobilisation technique for funnel web spider and snake bites.
  • Do not; use a tourniquet OR cut, suck or wash the bite site

First Aid For Redback Spider Bite:

A redback spider bite may be life-threatening to a child, but is rarely serious for an adult. However, you should take precaution with all redback spider bites.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Onset pain delayed for five minutes than increases in intensity
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Abdominal or generalised pain
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Palpitations
  • Weakness or Muscle spasm
  • Fever

Treatment:

  • Keep casualty under constant observation
  • Apply an ice pack or a cold compress to lessen the pain
  • If the casualty is a young child, if collapse occurs or pain is severe follow the basic life support flow chart, call 000/112 or transport the casualty to medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Do not use a pressure immobilisation bandage

First Aid For Other Spiders Bites:

For other spider bites, that aren’t from large spiders (smaller than 2 cm) and are from a light-coloured spider, you should apply the same treatment as a Redback Spider Bite.

Note: Even if a spider had weak venom, follow it with the same precaution as a funnel-web spider bite. A spider bite reaction can differ from person to person, potentially leading to an anaphylactic reaction which can be life threatening. Refer to ‘What is Anaphylaxis?’ for more information about this condition. In all spider bite cases, please seek medical assistance as soon as you can. 

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28 Comments

  • Karen says:

    What a waste of time the title is spider bite identification and all there is, is identification of the spider and pathetic info on some saying mild but nothing more nothing about rash or enlarging itch covering skin region etc I’ve been bitten by a spider last night, what started as a tiny insect looking bite which I shrugged off using SOOV cream to stop the itch has overnight gone to approx 12cm diameter is a perfect circle with darkened edges and the skin feels like it’s tight and burning! You need to update this provide more detail to what bites can identify the possible spider behind it. Not everyone sees a spider bite them!!

  • Zoe P says:

    Hi Karen.
    Every reaction to a spider bite differs from person to person.
    While identifying the spider bite and type of spider that has bitten you is important, your first point of action should be contacting medical assistance. This is stated under the “treatment” heading in our blog.
    For future reference, Australia Wide First Aid creates our blog posts as purely educational resources, and should not be read or interpreted as medical advice.
    We value your feedback and we hope your spider bite is healing and you are on your way to recovery.

  • Amy says:

    This page would be better named “spider identification” rather than “spider bite identification.” I’m trying to work out if the mysterious bite that I have is a spider bite or another bug. It’s help information, but the name is a misnomer.

  • Sam says:

    I agree. Trying to work out if the swelling & itching on my daughters foot could be a spider bite.

  • Lisa says:

    I was bitten by a Red Back (took actual spider to hospital so there would be no debate on such spider bite) on the top of my right foot twice. Was wrapped upside down around my thong (flip flops). Dr’s and Nurses there were fantastic. The pain radiated all the way up to my right groin / hip.

    Anyway, 2 weeks later I am still getting a bit of pain in my right groin / hip (also right thigh), more of a mild discomfort. Is there anything I can do for this? Should I go back and see my local Doctor, or will it just take time to heal?

    Also note: bites on foot are still itch at times.

  • Zoe P says:

    Hi Lisa.
    Thank you for commenting on our blog post. As we are not qualified to give medical advice, we would recommend you to check with your local doctor in regards to the pain you’re experiencing in your groin/hip from your spider bite. It is better to be safe than sorry. You’re doctor may be able to help you fasten the healing process. We hope you are doing well and recovery is fast.

    Thanks again Lisa.

    Reply from Zoe.

  • Maureen says:

    What about the Wolf spider? They can give a nasty necrotic bite. And describing a White-tailed bite as “… limited to mild local pain” somewhat downplays the severity of their bite. Pictures of different spider bites, on being bitten, to even weeks later, would be a great help in identification.

  • Ruth says:

    Everyone keeps saying this page should be called spider identification instead of spider bite identification. IT IS…It is called “Australian SPIDER IDENTIFICATION and SPIDER BITE TREATMENT” just saying.

  • Syd Collins says:

    I have a bite on my leg and am trying to discover whether it is a spider bite and if so, how serious. This is what your page could show.

  • Gen says:

    Actually it is a myth that the Wolf spider bite causes necrosis. This is a result of mis-identification.

  • Margaret Robertson says:

    I have a bite on the arch of one foot. It happened three days ago. I saw no ant, spider or wasp. The wound site is extending now. At first, it was a pinprick size. Despite application of disinfectant, ointment and sterile covering that allows air to flow through, today it is a five cent size open wound. I have taken off the dressing this afternoon.
    I did not find the information on symptoms illuminating, and, yes, when the weekend is over, I will get to my doctor.

  • mary says:

    Have a spider bite on arm.Lots of Fine Black Barbs embeded in skin?What kind of spider does this? VICTORIA AU

  • Lyndel says:

    I was bitten couple hours ago by small black spider with some white I think as only saw for second. Bite stung so put ice on it. No longer hurts. What I’m trying to find out is if no serious symptoms have a cured yet am I in the clear. But can’t seem to find anything on reaction times. And are the mild systems I’m suffering just a stress reaction.

  • Anne R Chist says:

    If your alive tomorrow you’re probably OK

  • Jamie says:

    Don’t go on web sites or internet to self diagnose, or attack a persons blog or websites, if you are genuinely concerned seek medical assistance or advice.

  • adam says:

    This website was quite helpful. For who keep posting ” i have a bite i don’t know what to do!!” Go to a bloody doctor you imbisiles…. just saying. Good info here don’t disregard

  • Carolyn says:

    My husband was bitten by something on his forehead and eyebrow. He was moving furniture and constantly wiping his face with a small towel. He says he didn’t feel anything at the time but each day new symptoms popped up. At first we thought it was just mossie bites but then the bite areas became swollen. The next day the glands on his neck swelled up and 3 distinct puncture marks became visible in a triangle shape. The area became very painful and itchy and his eye was swollen. All attempts to get him to a doctor were refused so I have given him antihistamines daily and panadol for the pain. I am wondering what could have bitten him. We live in Adelaide north eastern suburbs. The bites cover a 1cm x1cm x<1cm triangle. The symptoms started 5/3/15 and are still happening now 9/3/15. Unless it is going to be fatal he wont go to a doctor. He is not worried But I am concerned for the children who are living in the house where he got the bite. Have you any suggestions?

  • Zoe P says:

    Hi Carolyn. Thank you for your comment. Australia Wide First Aid believe it is best you gain immediate medical advice. It is hard to give you any first aid recommendations without seeing the bite or signs which are present on the victim. We wish you all the best for the recovery process. Please keep us updated. Thank you again!

  • Nicole says:

    I know doctors are meant to be able to help us in recovery but most of the time they know little more than we do. We know ourselves better than the doctors so we should be able to self diagnose within reason. Most doctors I have delt with have no clue or “just keep an eye on it” and come back in a few days ( waste your time and give us more money and probably catch a cold while your in the waiting room). I try not to go to a doctor so having more information to help all individuals is better for everyone.

  • Kyarne says:

    Im young and freaking out over a bite I got around seven hours ago. Ive been reaserching the effects and am scared to death at the comments of skin being eaten away like an acid. I have not felt anything but a minor headache (At the time) I feel nothing now but am still worried. I can confirm it was definately a white tail spider.

  • Zoe P says:

    Hi Kyarne.
    Thank you for your comment. If you can confirm you have been bitten by a white tailed spider, we recommend you seek medical advice immediately. Do you have a photo of your spider bite? We would love to see it and share it with our future readers for the purpose of education. We hope you have a safe and quick recovery.

  • Ash says:

    Doctors can prescribe anti-biotics, which are a great idea after a nasty spider bite. My wife has redness, swelling, oedema from an unknown source. Looks like a tick bite, but we found the two fang marks! I know the doctor won’t know much more than Murtaghs can tell him, but, we must get onto the AB’s in the morning. @ Kyarne, if you’ve been bitten by a white tail, I recommend you get some AB’s from your doctor and make sure you kill any bacteria from the fangs.

  • Dr. Love says:

    Hi Adam. Many spider bites occur during leisure times and in activities and locations when or where a doctor might not readily be available. When an eight hour ER room wait might only reveal the same answer as that of five minute search of a good online source, it becomes clear to most that making initial enquiries via the facility of the web is a reasonable and viable option to going to a “bloody doctor”.

    I’d also suggest that both you and your message would appear more credible (when pointing out the ignorance of others) by the simple expedient of ensuring that when you call people “imbeciles”, you do the best you can to not appear one yourself by misspelling the word (with built in spellchecker too…).

  • Dakota says:

    Hi, my friend has a mark on his finger that has evolved from a small red dot to a small scab with a big red pussy ring around it. It appears as a big red bubble on his finger and around this the whole finger has doubled in size and part of the hand is continuing to swell. He has been to the doctors and has been given a strong AB but they have no idea was has bitten him, but we would like to know if it is a spider bite or not. The skin on his finger and surrounding area is tight and contains heat, the reason behind why we suspect a spider bite is because the day before this occurred he was in a creek environment and doesn’t remember being bitten but awoke with this mark and since then it has continued to grow. Pain is present in the area affected but has also travelled up his arm and can feel the ache in his shoulder. Symptoms are tiredness, he is lethargic and the pain is severe despite being on medication. This is the 5th day but it quickly worsened over 2 – 3 days.

  • Zoe P says:

    Hi Dakota. Thank you for your comment. It sure does sound very painful. Has it worsened again? We hope the spider bite is recovering quickly. We would appreciate it if you could supply a photo of the spider bite if you captured one throughout its development, however it might be difficult to pin point which spider bit your friend.

    Where was the creek located where your friend was bitten? The location along with some picture will help our first aiders identify and do further investigative research as to which spider which bit your friend. Please note that we do not provide medical advice, and you should continue to follow up with the doctors, as you have done.

    Thanks Dakota.

  • Marion Ivanic says:

    Ridiculous – pictures would indeed be helpful sometimes people are in places where they cannot get to a Dr or for some time, if what you say is right why bother giving any information at all – useless and fallacious. Don’t waste people’s time intelligent people who may need the information.

  • Zoe P says:

    Hi Marion. Thank you for your comment. As you already understand, there is a limited supply of spider bite pictures on the internet. Australia Wide First Aid are in the process of asking our users for pictures of their spider bites, which we will post to educate other readers on what to expect or to help them identify which spider bit them. If you have a picture of your spider bite, we encourage you to send it in. We will be happy to do more research into which spider may have bitten you, but please be aware that we can not offer medical advice. We do still encourage you and all readers to visit a medical departments as soon as possible.