Huntsman Spiders

29 November, 2009

Social (flat) Huntsman Spider, Delena cancerides
Social (flat) Huntsman Spider, Delena cancerides
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria

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.

Comments (16)

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David 3 December, 2009 10:57
So it's very unlikely that a huntsman would bite a human. But if, hypothetically speaking, a huntsman did bite a human, how severe, if at all, would the effect of its venom be?
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Discovery Centre 4 December, 2009 14:28

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.

tammy 25 March, 2013 09:05
I was bitten by a huntsman and it hurt like hell but I was fine and there was no side affects.They are completely harmless
Roger Smith 31 August, 2013 19:10
I've been bitten at least half a dozen times. But only because whenever I find one somewhere it shouldn't be, such as in the house, I remove it by hand. I've probably handled hundreds of them, and only ones that have been chased by someone or otherwise stirred up tend to bite. The worst reaction I have gotten was from a particularly large huntsman. The site of the bite was fairly itchy for a couple of hours, but there was no pain involved at all. Generally I noticed no reaction at all after being bitten. I have heard of people having localised swelling around the bite. Wolf spiders look quite similar and their bite can be slightly worse, most people claim that it hurts, but not nearly as bad as a bee sting, more on the same pain level as a bull ant or jumping spider.
Kate 7 December, 2009 11:25
David, I was bitten by a huntsman (only because I picked it up, it didn't attack me!) and it felt just like a little pinprick. No after-effects at all. Can't say this would be the case for all spiders and species, but in my experience, they're pretty harmless.
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patricia 12 February, 2010 16:36
my neighbour found a spider in my front garden, near my front door. they thought it could be the brown recluse spider but after looking it up, the photos dont look anything like it. this spider was at least 5-6cm long, by about 3cm wide. it had a big white/clear fat/rounded, oval-shaped belly, with long legs. the legs looked close to a huntsman, but they seemed to be straighter and longer (and less hairy). the web was so big and thick like silk. i havent seen a spider so big and long before. the legs were darker, yet the belly was pale. any ideas on what it could've been? i would like to know if it is dangerous or not.
Discovery Centre 15 February, 2010 15:04

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-/

Victoria 13 December, 2012 13:01
I think what you saw was an Orb Spider, they make big strong webs and sit in the centre. They make the webs at night and early morning. I don't know if they are poisonous. I see them all the time, I live in Victoria.
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leanne 7 August, 2010 20:03
i have some strange brown very fast moving spiders in my home. Slightly smaller than a huntsman. They are brown and i always find them on the floor moving, never in a web. Any ideas? And do you know of any courses run on spiders? They intrigue me
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Discovery Centre 12 August, 2010 14:19

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 discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au 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. 

ina kite 8 March, 2011 13:03
The huntsman is usually big and black and you may see it on the wall or corners in the ceiling. It's harmless and quickly curls itself up if touched and very common in the tropics and often called 'money spider'. People there believe if you spot one in the house, luck is upon you so don't kill it.
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Lucy 22 March, 2011 11:42
Hi, I've found a few hunstmen inside the house lately. One had placed an egg sac behind a picture frame on the wall. Is there a certain time of year that they lay eggs? I always see more of them in summer. Where do they go in winter?
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Bahar 13 June, 2012 23:53
Hi, A huntsman spider moved into my room about a month or so ago. I've only seen it feed once (on a moth), a couple of weeks ago, but don't think it's had anything to eat since. At the risk of sounding crazy I'm worried it might die of starvation, though it looks healthy enough. I've even considered finding live insects for it too feed on.How long can they go without food?
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Larana 26 July, 2012 23:53
Im arachnophobic and I have the heebie jeebies after reading about the spiders are there any things you could suggest i do to fix my phobia?!?
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Andrew 25 August, 2012 16:55
I too am arachnophobic. I am interested to find out what can be done about this phobia.
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Discovery Centre 27 August, 2012 11:58

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.