Australia has some very dangerous bugs. They include deadly spiders, stinging
ants, wasps and bees. Fortunately the chances of being bitten or stung by a
venomous bug are incredibly slim, and even then, deaths are rare.
Many Australian spiders have a worse reputation than they deserve. Australia has
2,500 described species of spider and there are estimated to be another 7,500
species yet to be described. Only two or three of these 10,000 or so species
are considered to be dangerous to humans. These include the Sydney Funnel-Web
spider and the Red-back spider. Anti-venom is available for both species.
Most spider venoms will produce little or no reaction in humans, although in
some people, irritation or swelling may result. Sometimes the bacteria in a
spider’s mouth may cause an allergic reaction.
There is only one bee in Australia to be wary of, and that is the introduced
European Honeybee. Bees will usually only attack in defence of the hive, or
when they are grasped or trodden on. The sting of a Honeybee can be painful,
but usually causes only local pain and swelling. Some victims, however, can
suffer an allergic reaction.
Many ants have a sting at the tip of their abdomen which they use to inject
venom into their victims. Some ants lack stings. Instead they bite their prey
and spit formic acid into the wound from the tip of their abdomen. In most
cases, an ant bite or sting causes only a sharp stab of pain for a few minutes.
People who are allergic to ant bites, however, will suffer a more serious
Wasps are great scavengers. They are usually found around areas of human
habitation and activity, and so pose a particular hazard. Unlike bees, wasps do
not die after stinging and will often sting more than once. Stings usually
result in minor symptoms such as localised pain and swelling, but they can be
fatal for people who are hypersensitive to the stings of social insects.
The paralysis tick Ixodes holocyclus is found in forests and bushland
along the east coast of Australia. It produces a venom in its salivary glands
that can cause numbness in humans around the spot where the tick has attached.
The venom can be fatal to babies and small animals.