The Huntsman Spider: Australia's Scariest Arachnid

Infographic on the Huntsman Spider
Huntsman spiders can be found in warm regions across the world, including Australia. They are known for long, hairy legs that can propel them in any direction. But are Huntsman spiders just as fearsome as they seem? Let's take a look.

If there’s one spider that can strike fear into the hearts of arachnophobes and non-arachnophobes alike, it’s the dastardly Huntsman spider.

Found in most states and territories across Australia, Huntsman spiders are notorious for their speed, agility, and their penchant for hiding in homes and cars.

But are Huntsman spiders, with their eight eyes and whooping leg span of 15cm, truly something to be feared? Let’s take a closer look at whether this spider really is all bark and no bite.

What are Huntsman spiders?

Huntsman spiders belong to the Sparassidae family, which was formerly known as the Heteropodidae family.

Huntsman spiders can be found in many warm climates across the world, including Africa, the Americas, and much of Australasia.

According to Australian Geographic, there are about 94 different species of Huntsman spiders known to occur in Australia, though it’s believed that many more are yet to be formally discovered.

Unlike most spiders, Huntsman spiders do not weave webs to catch their preferred food of insects and other invertebrates – rather, these nocturnal predators prefer to run down their prey, or to pounce on them when the time is just right.

What do Huntsman spiders look like?

Most Huntsman spiders are dark coloured to support their nocturnal feeding habits.

Their most distinct feature is their long, hairy legs – unlike other spiders, their legs bend forward like those of a crab, and so they can move in any direction with great speed.

In further evidence of their ability to make a quick getaway, many Huntsman spiders have flat bodies for hiding in narrow spaces.

Where are Huntsman spiders found?

Most of Australia’s Huntsman species are widely distributed across the country.

In the wild, they typically use their flat body to live under loose tree bark, in crevices on rock walls, and beneath rocks, logs, and other litter.

They also use their flat body to weasel into homes and cars when it’s raining, or when conditions are humid.

Are Huntsman spiders aggressive?

Despite their fearsome appearance, Huntsman spiders are largely harmless to humans, and they will not bite unless provoked.

Compared to other spiders, Huntsman spiders are relatively friendly – for instance, females rarely attack males during the mating process, and Delena cancerides, ‘the Communal Huntsman’, are known to live peacefully in large colonies that share prey and raise offspring together.

In fact, Backyard Buddies touts the Huntsman Spider as a “great natural insecticide” to keep around the home, as they like to eat cockroaches.

First aid for a Huntsman spider bite

Huntsman spider bites typically only result in localised pain and swelling that can be treated with a cold compress.

In saying that, one species, Neosparassus diana, ‘the Badge Huntsman’, is known to inflict a bite that can cause severe localised pain and swelling, alongside sweating, nausea, and vomiting.

In the event of a Huntsman spider bite, consult the following first aid procedure:

  • Reassure the casualty and keep them under constant observation.
  • Apply a cold compress to the bite site for periods of up to 20 minutes to lessen the pain.
  • If the casualty is a young child (under 8 years), a pregnant woman, or if they exhibit any signs of deterioration, follow the basic life support guidelines per DRSABCD and call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.
  • DO NOT use the Pressure Immobilisation Technique, as the venom moves slowly and this will just worsen the pain.

If the pain persists or you are worried about your symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention.

Spider bites and anaphylaxis

If the casualty begins exhibiting signs of a severe allergic reaction, otherwise known as anaphylaxis, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, consult the Australian Resuscitation Council's anaphylaxis treatment guideline, and follow DRSABCD and be prepared to perform CPR.

Other fun facts about the Huntsman spider

  • Huntsman spiders can live for up to two years.
  • Many people think that Crab spiders are baby Huntsman spiders, as Huntsman spiders are sometimes called Giant Crab spiders – however, Crab spiders belong to the Thomisidae family of spiders, not the Sparassidae family.
  • The Giant huntsman spider, which is found in Laos, has the largest leg span (30 cm) of any spider in the world.

Conclusion

Huntsman spiders are found across Australia, and they regularly wander into homes and cars during times of rain and humidity.

Despite their fearsome appearance, Huntsman spiders are relatively harmless to humans, and they prefer to feast on cockroaches and other insects.

If you get bitten by a Huntsman spider, do not panic – though they may look like something out of a horror film, they do not cause horror injuries. Simply manage the pain with a cold compress and watch for signs of deterioration or anaphylaxis.

Recommended resources

If you would like to learn more about providing first aid in the event of a spider bite, book a First Aid course with us today.

We also have articles on what to do if you get stung or bitten by a snake, fire ant, and different types of marine life.

And for more details on how to identify and treat bites from some of Australia's deadliest spiders, including White tail spiders, head to our Resource Library.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, replace, or qualify as any form of first aid training.

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