Everything You Need to Know About the White Tail Spider

Infographic on Whitetail Spider
White tail spiders are native to Australia and New Guinea. They are vagrant hunters that prefer to hunt at night in and around the family home. Their bites have been associated with ulcerating lesions, but whether this is true continues to be debated.

White-tailed spiders, which are more commonly known as white tail spiders, are native to Australia and New Guinea.

They are commonly found in bush and urban environments across the country, and their bites have been sensationally associated with a phenomenon called necrotic arachnidism.

The question is, are white tail spiders really the flesh-eating monsters that the media have made them out to be? Let’s take a closer look…

What are white tail spiders?

There are two common species of white tail spider, Lampona cylindrata and Lampona murina, both of which form part of the Lampona genus that is native to Australia.

White tail spiders are vagrant hunters; rather than spinning webs to catch and eat insects, they prefer to hunt and feast on other spiders in the dead of night.

White tail spiders have been known to eat curtain-web spiders, daddy-long-legs spiders, redback spiders, and black house spiders.

What do white tail spiders look like?

White tail spiders have a cylindrical, cigar-shaped body that is grey to dark reddish in colour.

Their most distinctive feature is a white spot at the tip of their abdomen.

They are also known to have dark orange-brown bands on their legs, which can span up to 5 cm.

Where are white tail spiders found?

Lampona murina is found in eastern Australia, including northeast Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.

Lampona cylindrata, meanwhile, prefers the cold, and can be found across southern Australia, including southeast Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and southern Western Australia.

In the outdoors, white tail spiders like to live beneath bark, rocks, and leaf litter. They also regularly frequent sheltered nooks and crannies in and around the home. In fact, they have a particular predilection for hiding between pieces of fabric.

Are white tail spiders aggressive towards humans?

White tail spiders are not aggressive, and they typically only bite humans when they are startled.

Per Australian Geographic, most victims sustained a bite when they stumbled across a white tail spider nestled in their clothes, towels, or bedding.

White tail spiders do not frequent the home to hunt humans: they frequent the home to hunt their preferred prey, the black house spider.

What happens when a white tail spider bites you?

As cited by the Queensland Museum, white tail spiders are relatively harmless to humans, as their venom is among the weakest of Australian household spiders.

Most bites occur on the arms and legs, and they typically only result in mild symptoms that are similar to those of a bee sting, including:

  • A burning or itching sensation at the bite site.
  • Swelling at the bite site.
  • Skin discolouration at the bite site.

These symptoms tend to resolve themselves within a few days.

White -tailed Spider on Carpet
White tail spiders are known to frequent the home, and they especially enjoy hiding between fabrics. However, they are not actively aggressive towards humans. Rather, they hang around the family home to hunt the black house spider, among others.

Do white tail spider bites cause ulcers?

Since the 1980s, there have been numerous media reports associating white tail spider bites with severe ulcerative skin lesions.

However, in most of these cases, there was no direct evidence of a spider bite.

Likewise, a 2003 study conducted by Dr Geoff Isbister, an envenomation expert, produced no cases of ulceration, despite testing over 100 verified white tail spider bites.

As such, the available evidence suggests that white tail spider bites are very unlikely to cause severe ulcerations.

First aid for white tail spider bites

  • 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.

The bite site is likely to remain red and itchy for a few days after the bite occurs. If symptoms are still present after 7 days, visit your doctor.

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, follow the Australian Resuscitation Council's anaphylaxis treatment guideline, and follow DRSABCD and be prepared to perform CPR.

Conclusion

White tail spiders are native to Australia, and they regularly frequent tight spaces in and around the home.

Rather than biting humans, they prefer to hunt other spiders - in fact, they can be considered useful around the home, as they are known to kill more dangerous spiders like redback spiders and funnel-web spiders.

If you get bitten by a white tail spider, do not panic – despite what the media says, you are unlikely to develop necrotic ulcers. Instead, manage the pain with cold compresses 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 bite or sting, 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 marine life.

And for more details on how to identify and treat bites from some of Australia's deadliest 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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