Question: Are Huntsman Spiders dangerous?
Answer: There is a disturbing e-mail currently circulating about a new spider that has made its way to Australia and can cause a necrotic skin reaction. The email displays a sequence of photos of a man’s thumb becoming progressively more infected and claims that this is the result of a Brown Recluse Spider bite.
This spider is a species found in North America and the spider gets its name from the fact that it usually lives in dark secluded places, such as garden sheds and woodpiles. It is sometimes called a Violin Spider or Fiddleback Spider because of a violin-shaped marking found on its body. The Brown Recluse Spider is not found in Australia, although a species from the same genus has been accidentally introduced and has been found in Adelaide. There are records of a bite from a Brown Recluse Spider causing tissue necrosis, (tissue death) in North America; however not all bites from this spider necessarily lead to a necrotic reaction.
The Brown Recluse Spider does have a superficially similar appearance to the spiders that we commonly call Huntsman Spiders in Australia. The Huntsman Spider, despite its name, does not hunt man! These spiders can be common in urban areas, and can be found in our gardens, homes and sometimes cars looking for food. While they do possess venom that they use to kill their prey they are not considered highly dangerous and their first response is usually to run if they feel threatened.
Despite what some of us fear, spiders do not seek out people, and have no interest in us, although they may make use of our homes to build their webs in or on and to take advantage of any insects we attract such as flies and cockroaches.
Hi Andrew, an arachnophobia course was conducted at Melbourne Zoo in the past but there have been none for more than a year and there are currently no plans for more in the future. If a course is to occur in the future, you will no doubt hear about it through the media, so keep an ear out. In the meantime, one option would be to consult a psychologist if the condition has become debilitating. There are some who specialise in phobias such as arachnophobia - contact the Victorian Psychologists Association or the Australian Psychological Society to find the best one.
Hi Leanne, it may be difficult if the spiders are fast moving but if you are able to take a couple of digital images and e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org we can try and identify them for you. The only spider courses I know of are ones that were run by Taronga and Melbourne Zoos, designed to assist people who have arachnophobia. This doesn't sound like you but you may want to contact them to see if they know of any other options.
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Hi Patricia, thank you for your enquiry. Museum Victoria offers a free identification service but in order for the Entomologist to make an identification, he requires a clear image of the specimen or the specimen itself. You can read more about the Identification guidelines here: http://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/ask-us-a-question/identifications/identification-guidelines-/
Hi David - We have another infosheet on Victorian Huntsman Spiders which includes the following information about Huntsman bites: “Huntsman spiders are timid spiders and bites are infrequent. Symptoms are usually minor, including local pain and swelling. Some Neosparassus species can give a painful bite.” The full response and a lot more detail on related resources and external links can be found at the link above.
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