Trigger warning for those of you with a spider phobia – this post contains images of spiders.
I run a Facebook group to help families move to Australia, and one subject that often comes up is the wildlife in Australia (and I don’t mean the cute and fluffy koalas, echidnas and platypus!) Lots of people are terrified of the poisonous spiders in Australia. And it’s not just the venomous spiders in Australia that have a bad rep – even spiders like the giant Australian huntsman spider (whose bite is low risk and non-toxic to humans) doesn’t have a lot of raving fans.
A lot of people tell me they could never move to Australia because of the ‘dangerous spiders’ we have here. I’ve even been told by some people that they couldn’t plan a holiday to Australia because of the poisonous spiders in Australia. This all makes me so sad. Sad that people let the story they tell themselves about a problem (that there are spiders everywhere here and you will get bitten) get in the way of the reality (which is that most of the time you don’t even notice spiders are around).
Memes have a lot to answer for – we’ve all seen those comedy pictures of somebody trying to fit a pint glass over a giant spider. This isn’t the reality I live in though – it’s just a story designed to intensify and reinforce people’s fears.
I felt it was time I dedicated a whole post about living with the ‘dangerous’ spiders in Australia so you can understand some facts about the different spiders in Australia (including the deadly spiders in Australia and the not-so deadly ones). The aim of the post is to help you learn a bit about the spiders in Australia and find out the risks involved in living here so you can approach the subject of spiders in Australia with a level head and a clear understanding of any risks.
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Are poisonous spiders in Australia really a problem?
Firstly, I want to begin by telling you about our house in the UK. We had an older house and we used to get those giant black, hairy spiders running around all the time. I absolutely hated them. I assumed that here in Australia, we’d have a similar issue only now we’d have the added risk that we’d be dealing with poisonous Australian house spiders. You just make assumptions based on your current circumstances, and as we had house spiders in the UK, I assumed we’d have giant, dangerous spiders in Australia running around our house.
The reality is that I’ve lived just north of Brisbane for 5.5 years now and, in that time, we’ve had the grand total of two large huntsman spiders in our home. Only two. In the UK, we’d have had way more giant house spiders than that during a year let alone over half a decade! I know that our Australian huntsman spiders are a bit bigger, but we don’t get them in our home very often at all and it is not something I really think about on a day to day basis (unlike in the UK, where I’d avoid sitting on the floor because I was worried a big spider would jump out from under the sofa)!
I’m not saying we don’t have venomous spiders in Australia, or that you will never ever encounter one. It is well-known that some of the deadliest spiders in the world call Australia their home. What I’m saying is that you need to keep the risk in perspective and not blow it out of all proportion.
As an example, the UK is home to a venomous snake – the adder. But how many people do you actually know who have seen one, let alone been bitten by one? (Actually scrap that, my husband was one of the few people in the UK who actually did get bitten by an adder when he picked one up as a child thinking it was a grass snake but at least he survived to tell the tale!)
Do you spend your days worrying about the fact you might see an adder or do you just get on with your life as normal without the risk crossing your mind? You choose where you place your attention. You could focus on worrying about whether this deadly snake has made a nest in your garden but the chances are if you get on with your life and don’t think about it you’ll never ever encounter one in your lifetime. It’s the same with spiders in Australia – of course, there are spiders in Australia and some of them are dangerous spiders. But the best way to deal with them is to be aware and carry on with your life without letting them stop you.
Resources that can help with a spider phobia
Being aware of the risks of dangerous spiders and taking adequate precautions is one thing. Being obsessed and letting fear take over your imagination is another.
If you’ve actually developed a phobia of spiders then it’s not something you’ll just ‘get over’ on your own. It is something you should take really seriously.
There are spider programmes on at various zoos to help people get comfortable around spiders. I’ve heard people in my Facebook group mention them before. If you’re afraid of something, rather than letting it rule your life and your future decisions, it’s a great idea to take some action to confront the fear and understand it better so that it stops controlling your life.
It’s also worth getting some books to help you like this Fear of Spiders book.
Hypnosis is a really powerful tool for curing phobias too. There are lots of guided meditations and hypnosis sessions for free on Youtube – just search for ‘phobia spiders hypnosis’ and you’ll find lots of options.
Don’t let a serious fear of spiders rule your life – it is possible to reduce or remove your fear. After all – you learned your fear, so you can unlearn it if you focus your energy on this. It’s really all about moving your attention rather than allowing your focus to stay on your fear.
What venomous spiders and non-poisonous spiders can be found in Australia?
Australian huntsman spider
The Australian huntsman spider are mostly grey to brown in colour and they have long legs. The Live Science website says:
‘The average huntsman spider species is about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long with a leg span of up to 5 inches (12.7 cm).
They tend to live under loose bark on trees and in little holes and cracks and under things. You find them all across Australia and there are a number of different varieties of huntsman. Despite their often large and hairy appearance, huntsman spiders aren’t dangerous spiders. They can bite, and do have venom, but it’s not toxic to humans and they aren’t aggressive. If you see one, it will likely try to run away fast.
Redback spider in Australia
The female redback spider is black with a distinctive reddy/orange markings on its back. They can grow up to 15mm (males are usually smaller and their markings are usually less prominent with some white and yellow on there too). They live all around Australia although are rarely found in the cooler temperatures of Tasmania. They tend to live in undisturbed, dark, quiet places.
They aren’t aggressive spiders and only bite if you make contact with it. Anti venom exists for the bites and is available from all emergency centres so although there is danger from these venomous spiders, it’s just about being aware and taking action if you were to come into contact with one. Simple precautions are keeping outdoor areas clean, wearing gardening gloves, checking before you step into sheds and keeping an eye on any outdoor toys.
Funnel-web spider in Australia
Funnel-web spiders are found in eastern Australia. They can vary in size and there are lots of different varieties – not all of the species are dangerous but several do have toxic venom. The male Sydney funnel-web spider is one to avoid, but there is now an anti venom and no deaths have been recorded since that was introduced in 1981.
Want to learn more about Australia’s spiders?
The Australian Museum website is a great resource if you’re keen to learn about the different types of spiders in Australia. Learn the facts about poisonous spiders in Australia, learn which deadly spiders in Australia to avoid and find out about the largest spiders in Australia. It’s a great tool as a spider identifier if you see any in your garden too. I’ve personally found that giving my kids the tools and resources to learn about the wildlife in Australia it has taken away any fear they might have felt. Now they know more about spiders in Australia than I do, and they actually really love them!
Just check out this video of my son and daughter letting this spider crawl all over them at Queensland Museum!
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#Happyhalloween! Here are two of mine holding a giant #spider at #Nightatthemuseum at @qldmuseum last Friday. ???? ???? ????I love that my daughter didn’t flinch at the idea of letting it crawl right up her arm! Would you be this brave?! #sobrave #Ididntholdit! #spiders #fearless #wildlife #halloween #queenslndmuseum #visitbrisbane #brisbaneanyday #brisbanewithkids
Spider precautions: how to stop spiders getting into your home
It’s sensible to prevent spiders getting into your home so you don’t need to focus on how to get rid of spiders in the first place!
Make sure that you remove any vegetation around your property – trees that go up against your gutter or bushes that lean into your wall make an easy entry point for a spider.
Ensure that there are no obvious gaps around doors and windows for a spider to sneak through.
Keep outdoor areas clean and tidy, especially underneath furniture.
Plant strong-smelling plants around the outside of your home like eucalyptus trees, mint and lavender.
Spray a water spray with a bit of peppermint essential oil in it as a deterrent around your home. Spiders also apparently don’t like citrus so some people swear by rubbing window ledges and skirting boards with lemon peel. Either way, it will make your home smell nice and fresh!
Pest control with a pest spray
If you are still concerned about getting spiders in your home in Australia, then you can get a pest spray of your property as a spider pest control strategy. There are two options if you go down the pest spray route for spider control.
You can bring in a pest control company to give your whole property a pest spray. There are lots of pest control services out there and a complete pest control solution will rid of you spiders, cockroaches, ants and all kinds of insects for less than $100 if you buy a package through Groupon! They spray around the boundaries and entry points to your home with a pest spray, and around the entrance to your loft, and any insect that comes into contact with that spray dies. Pest control prices are usually very affordable and you can have the pest spray service repeated annually so you never need to worry about another spider coming into your home again.
An alternative to bringing in a pest control service is to buy a spider spray and do a home pest control spray yourself. You can buy large containers of pest spray even from the local supermarket or from Bunnings and it’s easy to do yourself (but results aren’t likely to be as good or as long-lasting as if you bring the professionals in).
Once your home has been treated with a pest treatment, you generally won’t find any spiders lurking in there until the spray has worn off (which for the professional sprays is usually six months to a year).
Honestly though, move into your home and see if you see any spiders or cockroaches before you decide to go down this route. We so rarely get them in our home that we don’t get a pest spray done now (we had one done four years ago when we moved in but that has long since worn off and we still don’t get any spiders. Touch wood!)
Be spider aware but not scared of spiders
Being spider aware and teaching your kids about the dangers and some basic spider bite first aid is important (read this post which takes you through what to do in the event of a spider bite). You can be prepared without making it scary.
There are all kinds of dangerous things in Australia. Spiders are only part of it: we have stingers, blue-ringed octopus, stonefish, sharks, snakes…but fear of wildlife isn’t a reason not to move here. Just remember, your home country likely has dangerous creatures too. In the UK, there’s the false widow spider which can cause a nasty bite. Then there’s the weever fish with its sharp, venomous spines. Not to mention the Portuguese man o’war…
There is danger everywhere if you look for it. You just need to educate yourself about the dangers and then get on with living your life.
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