Some estimations have it that there are a whopping 10,000 different types of spiders in Australia. Yep – 10k. That’s not great news for arachnophobes looking to go Down Under for the shimmering beaches, the surf breaks, the jungles, and the mystical Uluru, especially not as a one hefty chunk of that number are thought to be dangerous and deadly.
The thing is, only about a third of the total number of Aussie arachnids are known in any great detail. The rest are just thought to exist, because the ecosystems of this country – a country the size of a continent, no less – are so vast and varied that they almost certainly support creepy crawlies that have yet to be discovered and documented.
This guide will focus in on nine of the most frightening and fearsome spiders in Australia. It’s all about the eight-legged beasts that have a bite that can kill, or the ones that have the power to totally ruin a vacation to the sands of Sydney, the wine hills of Adelaide, the deserts around Perth, the jungles of Darwin – you name it. Let’s get going…
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One of the most famous spiders in Australia – not to mention one that you’ll likely come across since they are so ubiquitous – is the huntsman. These scary-looking beasts are gray or brown and have long legs that make them look huge. The biggest ones can measure up to a foot across, making the one of the largest arachnids in the country and a downright unpleasant sight to come across just as you’re tucking into bed!
There’s good reason to be scared, too. Although the huntsman spider’s venom is not deadly to humans, it can cause some pretty severe symptoms. Many people suffer from bad headaches after being bitten by one of these, others vomit, and some can even experience heart palpitations. The good news is that huntsman spiders usually only bite in defense, and it’s usually only the women who get aggressive around the main mating period.
If you come across a huntsman spider in Australia, it’s a good idea to give it a wide berth. If you get bitten by one, seek medical attention immediately. Your symptoms won’t be pleasant but they should pass with the right treatment.
Dangerous animals in Europe can often be large scary beasts, such as a growling bear or a pack wolf. However, the most dangerous animals in Australia have the potential to be much, much smaller. Cue the white-tailed spider. The bodies of these surprising killers can measure only around 1.2cm from end to end! It’s blink and you’ll miss em stuff, so check your shoes, folks!
Bites can be very bad indeed, leading to vomiting and headaches. Some can lead to complications like necrotic ulcers. If those are left untreated, then the only course of action may be amputation! It’s a rare occurrence but it’s a fate that you definitely want to avoid.
White-tail spiders have a dark red or gray appearance, a long thin body, and a white tip at the bottom (hence the name white-tail). This makes it relatively easy to recognize. They’re present in pretty much all states apart from the Northern Territories, going as far down as Tasmania. Sadly, for those Kiwi-bound, these guys have also been accidentally introduced to New Zealand sometime in the last few decades.
The recluse is another dangerous spider from Oz that you should be aware of. It has some extremely potent venom that can cause harm in humans. Fortunately, it only releases a small amount of said venom at a time, meaning that fatalities are quite rare with these guys…
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to fear. After a recluse spider bites you, you’ll feel increasing pain for around eight hours. This will often become unbearable. Your skin might blister and an ulcer known as a necrotic lesion will appear, leaving a gaping wound in your skin. Needless to say, medical attention will be required.
You can tell a recluse for its long legs (several times the length of the body sorta’ long) that fan out in an almost circular pattern around the creature. They are almost always brown or dark brown, or a mixture of the two, and some specimens have a violin-shaped bump on the top of their frontal thorax. Sadly, brown recluses are VERY common, and it’s even thought that they are now spreading faster than ever before on account of global warming.
Sydney brown trapdoor spider
Trap door spiders are cheeky little critters who like to hide in holes and jump out just when you’re not expecting it. They dig little nests of up to several inches deep and cover them with dead leaves and woodland undergrowth for camouflage, then proceed to lie in wait for passers by.
Fortunately, though, these are some of the least dangerous animals on this list. Of all the spiders in Australia, they’re unlikely to cause serious problems. For one, no one has been killed by a trap door spider bite. That said, they can sting and might well cause serious medical issues in victims who have particular allergies to their toxins.
Trap door spiders look like tarantulas because they are very hairy. However, they’re smaller than tarantulas and have black shiny legs to boot. They also have large, strong fangs that can hurt as they pierce your skin. As the name implies, trap door spiders are typically found in NSW, in the Sydney area and surrounds.
As the name would suggest, mouse spiders are small in size. They’re short, stubby, dark-hued creatures. Their abdomen is often black but can also be a beautiful, silky, dark-blue color. The species also has a lighter patch on top. This makes the spider distinctive and relatively easy to spot among the larger and more homogenous spiders in Australia.
These spiders are not aggressive but they will bite you if you disturb them. When they do, you’ll find yourself in a dangerous situation. Their large fangs can leave a gaping gash in your skin, which can become infected if not treated. The venom isn’t deadly but it can cause severe illness and discomfort.
Like the trap door spider before it, mouse spiders tend to live in covered holes in the ground in woodland and forest areas. There are a couple of subspecies in the world, but only one lives outside of Australia. The others are all here, between the Blue Mountains and the rolling Adelaide winelands. Watch out folks!
Funnel-web spiders are among the most deadly arachnids on the planet. The Sydney funnel-web, in particular, is one you need to be wary of during your time in Australia. The venom is toxic and gets into your bloodstream where it can attack the nervous system. Although fatalities are rare, there’s no doubt that a bite from a Sydney funnel-web can lead to death.
These spiders are shiny and dark brown or black. They can grow up to 5cm across and have large fangs capable of ripping into your skin. Sydney funnel-webs don’t want to hurt humans but will bite as a way of protecting themselves. Before they strike, they will often assume a warning pose that involves rising on their back legs and presenting their teeth.
Just to put things into perspective here, scientists have tested the required amount of lethal venom from a funnel web to be about 1.5mgs for a crab-eating macaque (that’s a whole monkey!). Compare that to the average venom yield in a fully grown male of the species: A whopping 176 milligrams, enough to wipe out over 100 monkeys in one bite! No wonder this one’s listed as the most deadly spider on the planet!
Of all the spiders in Australia, tarantulas have to be the most terrifying to look at. Their huge size makes them so much scarier than your average spider (apart from, maybe, the huntsman). However, here’s the strange thing: They are generally harmless. Yep…plenty of much smaller spiders in Australia often pose a far greater risk to your safety.
Tarantulas are venomous. However, their venom is pretty low in terms of potency. If one bites, it might itch a bit but it almost certainly won’t be deadly. (A wasp or bee sting is generally more poisonous than a tarantula bite!) Plus, they have very little reason to attack and generally don’t want to get into contact with humans.
The main downside that we can think of is that tarantulas often look a lot like funnel web spiders. That can cause confusion, because one’s not that bad but the other happens to be the most deadly spider on the planet. Don’t take any chances. If you get bitten, be sure to seek medical treatment just to be sure!
They call the redback the Australian black widow since it looks a whole load like the Latrodectus spider species that plagues much of the rest of the world. Truth is it comes from the same genus as, so the similarities should come as no surprise. The females are the ones to watch out for. They can grow to a centimetre in length and display the famous red blotch on the back thorax.
The venom in these guys is not nice. Not nice at all. It contains a mix of toxins and amino acids that disrupts the proper functioning of living cells. That can lead to holistic symptoms like sweating and nausea, along with breakdown of the flesh around the site of contact.
Redbacks are a really big problem in Oz, too. Estimated envenomation events (that’s bites!) from these guys sit at anything between 2,000-10,000 per year. That means they are responsible for the most incidents of any spiders in Australia. One of the main reasons for that has to be the fact that they like to live in warm, dry places – AKA homes!
Garden orb weaver
The Garden orb weaver is a curious looking species of spider that’s not just common to Australia. They actually exist all over the planet, from the plains of North America to the hills of Europe. The only place they don’t live is at the poles, in the Arctic and Antarctic. Their success surely has something to do with their ruthlessness – it’s thought about 80% of each young are cannibalized to help the rest survive!
Anyhow, that aside, garden orb weavers aren’t actually all that bad. They bite A LOT of people Down Under each year, but their attacks are nowhere near as deadly or painful as the dreaded funnel webs. They usually cause local swelling and irritation, along with some pain at the moment of contact. That’s it. Finito.
Where they live is hinted at in the name. Garden orb weaver spiders love gardens in suburban homes. They will usually seek out shade during the heat of the day but emerge at dusk and dawn to check if anything’s been caught up in their often-elaborate webs. Oh, and did we mention that they look strange! Like positively alien strange? You can hardly miss them if they are there.
Are there venomous spiders in Australia?
There are no more widely distributed venomous animals in Australia than spiders. In total, there are over 10,000 spiders in the country and a large portion of those is likely to be venomous. This makes them hard to avoid, so you need to be careful if you come across one!
What is the biggest spider in Australia?
During your trip to Australia, you may come across spiders that are far bigger than you ever imagined was possible. The Australian tarantula – also known as the whistling spider – is the largest spider ever found in the country. Its body is 6 cm long while its legs grow out to a whopping 16 cm.
What is the most common spider in Australia?
You’re unlikely to come across huge, terrifying, poisonous Australian spiders on a daily basis. The most common spiders are small, harmless house spiders, just as they are in Europe and the US. These include the brown house spider and the daddy longlegs spider.
How common are spiders in Australia?
Spiders are one of the most commonly found animals in Australia, with well over 10,000 species living around the country, from the Outback to the city center of Sydney and other towns. Large numbers of these spider species are actually yet to be officially documented and described, meaning it’s hard to know exactly how common they are.