White-tailed Spider Lampona cylindrata

Spiders of Victoria series

Identification

The White-tailed Spider is a dark, elongated spider, 1 to 2.5 cm long. The abdomen is shaped like a lemon pip and has a dull cream spot on the tip. Male spiders and juveniles often have striped legs and two or four spots at the top of the abdomen, as well as one at the tip of the tail.

A White-tailed Spider

A White-tailed Spider
Illustrator: Graham Milledge. Source: Museum Victoria

The White-tailed Spider is a hunting spider, and does not make a web to catch its prey.

Habitat and biology

This is a common spider that usually lives in the garden under rocks, leaf litter and bark of trees. It does not make a permanent home, but roams at night hunting for food – mainly small insects and other spiders. This wandering habit is the reason why it is commonly found inside houses in bedrooms, in bed clothes, clothes left on the floor, wardrobes, curtains, bathrooms, laundries, and running across the floor or wall in other rooms. Spiders are most active from spring through to late autumn.

A White-tailed Spider outside

A White-tailed Spider outside
Photograph: Alan Henderson. Source: Museum Victoria

White-tailed Spiders are not aggressive spiders; they tend to bite only if they are provoked, threatened or startled in some way. Usually they prefer to run away. The bite can cause local burning pain followed by a variable illness. Symptoms may include an itchy lump, swelling, discolouration, blistering, ulceration, nausea or vomiting.

The best way to deal with these spiders inside the house is to use some common sense. Be aware of places they like to hide, do not leave clothes on the floor (but if you do, then shake them before putting them on), and check bedclothes before going to bed. The spiders are active at night, so they are more likely to be seen then. Either catch the spider and put it outside, or kill it by squashing or spraying with a household insecticide. You should not need to employ a pest exterminator to spray or fumigate your house solely for the control of White-tailed Spiders.

A White-tailed Spider inside

A White-tailed Spider inside
Source: Museum Victoria

Bites

To treat a spider bite, the wound should be washed with soap and water, dabbed with an antiseptic solution and, if painful, a water–ice pack or anaesthetic cream or lotion applied. Try to locate the spider responsible, and keep it so it can be identified correctly if necessary. Keep the person bitten under observation for 1–3 hours, and if their condition deteriorates seek medical attention.

This spider is suspected of causing a necrotic reaction resulting in severe skin damage in some 12 cases in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, none of the people affected could positively identify what bit them, so the White-tailed Spider remains only one suspect.

Further Reading

Brunnet, B. 1994. The Silken Web – A Natural History of Australian Spiders. Reed Books: Melbourne.

Lindsey, T. 1998. Spiders of Australia. New Holland Publishers: Sydney.

Walker, K. L., Yen, A. L. and Milledge, G. A. 2003. Spiders and Scorpions commonly found in Victoria. Royal Society of Victoria: Melbourne.

Comments (48)

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Julianne Boud 15 July, 2010 18:02
Hi, my sister recently was bitten by a white tail spider. Initially she didn't think it was a spider bite, so she ignored it for a long time. It got very painful and she took photos, she left it for over a week thinking she could beat it, but a trip to the hospital for her son, ended up with her having surgery. She has photographed the bite from start to finish. amazing and horrific photos showing how bad a spider bite can be. Do you know anyone that would be intested in these photos? thanks. Julianne.
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Discovery Centre 22 July, 2010 16:41

Hi Julianne, I hope your sister is now fully recovered. I guess one of the problems with displaying and attributing your photos to a white-tailed spider bite may be how sure your sister is of the species of spider and whether it was actually a spider that caused the problem. You mention that she didn't know it was a spider bite to begin with; does this mean she didn't see what bit her? Some extremely painful inflammations such as cellulitis can result from things other than spider bites. Regardless of that unfortunately we are not sure of a particular group or organisation who may want the images. Perhaps others reading this will be able to offer you some suggestions.

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Lin Whee 24 November, 2010 23:10
I would like to ask for information please. Whilst sitting on the porch this evening; I saw a spider that I have never seen before. It was about 15ml long and had an elongated body; but the colour of it was what caught my eye; it's thorax was like a green velvet type whilst the abodomen was bright orange to red. The legs were a distinct; with black and white stripes. It looked a particularly nasty creature; and it was extremely fast; as my cat went close to it. Can you tell me have you heard of such a spider. I know the white tip spider is very fast; but this one was faster than any white tip; this spider was shaped just like a white tip. Can you please help.? Many thanks. Lin Whee.
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Discovery Centre 22 December, 2010 16:15

Hi Lin, It is difficult without an image; even though your description sounds quite spectacular the colouring doesn’t match any adult spiders that spring to mind. We are wondering whether you may have seen either a juvenile huntsman which can move very quickly or possibly one of the species of crab spider. However the crab spiders don’t usually move that fast and don’t sound colourful enough to match your description.

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aaron mckirdy 10 February, 2011 16:28
hi have recently come across a spider with the same body shape as a white tail spider and size only difference was its abdomen was glossy black smooth and a red tip not white thank you aaron
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Discovery Centre 12 February, 2011 11:32
Hi Aaron, if you see the spider again please feel free to snap some images and send them to discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au and we will try and identify it for you.
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linda 23 March, 2011 09:26
Hi, In the past month I have killed 2 white tails in the same area of the house, both quite large and dark. We found a large white tail a few days ago that was lighter in colour with more pronounced stripes. Today I found what looked like a smaller version, only 5mm big, on the kids toys near by. Could you tell me how they have their babies. If they don't have a web, where do they leave their eggs? I am a bit concerned as i have 2 kids under 3. Thanks
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Discovery Centre 27 March, 2011 09:34

Hi Linda, when young, White-Tailed Spiders are pale grey with white stripes (or chevrons) on the abdomen. As they age, the white stripes fade until the only marking is the white spot on the end of the abdomen. In very old females, even the white spot becomes difficult to see. Adults don't build a web but hunt for their prey by wandering, which is why they happen to wander into houses so regularly. They do, however, construct a small shelter made of silk which is placed in small crevices, behind cupboards, or under the bark of trees. Within this shelter, the female will make a number of egg sacs and stay with them until they hatch. The young spiderlings then disperse to live their lives independently.

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Genny 13 October, 2012 09:54
We live in Christchurch, where I have seen a few white tails over the years. I have captured one which was hiding under clothes in my daughter's bedroom, but I don't want to kill it as it is rather beautiful. It is the biggest one I have seen. I want to let it go outside, but everyone is telling me to kill it. They have received a really bad rap here NZ .. interesting to learn that they aren't the baddies they're made out to be! I will let it go in the garden and hope for the best that you are right about it not being poisonous
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sharon 17 December, 2013 08:15
Hi you would not say these nasty creatures were beautiful if you had been subjected to their bites twice in 6 months on the same foot with the same reaction-a swollen very itchy, very hot foot and painful foot and ankle that resulted in a week of rest and unable to wear any footwear! my daughter has had the same reaction on her arm from one. I have found several in our house and am now fed up and terrified of them!! Can anyone medical tell me why the bites react to some people much worse than others. I am very pale and freckly and some people suggest that they prefer my type of skin/blood. please help. i would be greateful for any tips apart from the obvious checks, i would appreciate any advice on preventing them biting and entering the house such as rentokil sprays etc.Thanks!
jennifer g schmid 5 November, 2012 16:18
I have recently been bitten by a white tailed spider but the location of the bite andwhat it looked like made it possible to identify even though I did not see it as a white tailed spider bite
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Discovery Centre 6 November, 2012 12:26
Hi Jennifer, if you are concerned about a possible spider bite, you should consult your doctor.  Museum Victoria offers a free identification service for spiders, but in order for the Entomologist to identify the spider, he either needs the spider itself, or a clear image of the spider.
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kate 10 November, 2012 22:14
As a child was bitten by a spider while at school (kindergarten). This resulted in pain and swelling of my upper arm (bite site), which later spread reaching towards my elbow. other symptoms included splitting and leaking skin. Was hospitalised and parents told to prepare for grafts and other surgery. Fortunately no surgery was required however some scaring remained present for several years (still faint), I get a dull ache in that arm from time to time... does anyone know if the two could be related.
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Karen 3 December, 2012 23:38
My husband got bitten by something on his leg after he fell asleep on the couch last week. The initial feeling he got was slight nausea,chills, rigors and pyrexia. At this stage there was no sign of a bite. The next day the pyrexia continued but controlled with antipyretics. A large red swelling with a few red dots (perhaps these were bite marks) developed on his shin which developed into a bad cellulitis. He attended ed and was commenced on iv antibiotics for several days. It has since cleared up but it was quite a resilient infection. It was suggested by the hospital that it may have been a white tail spider bite. I am very fearful as I have two very young children. If there is one is there likely to be more of them. Is fumigation of a house recommended or is the exposure to such pesticides a worse thing to expose my children to. I would be so grateful for some advice as I am extremely concerned about the welfare of my children.
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Discovery Centre 5 December, 2012 10:06

Hi Karen, white-tailed spiders are not a communal species but it is possible for homes to have more than one. Don't be too concerned, there is no species of spider that actively seeks out and bites people. It may have been that your husband rolled on the spider and that it bit in self defence. Spraying of the house is a personal decision but be aware that it will be a short term measure at best. You would need to talk to pest control companies to see what sort of guarantees they could give you that their methods would kill all the spiders in a home and how long the sprays would be effective. You would need to be doing continual spraying as spiders would return as the chemicals wore off. My opinion is that it is better to know the habits of the spiders and thereby minimise the chance of any further bites. The Australian Museum has information about spiders in the house and garden with advice on how to miminise spider numbers in the home.

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Melissa Taylor 13 December, 2012 22:16
Hi there, I have a photo of a rather large black spider and I have no idea what it is. I initially thought it was a huntsman due to its size but it's the wrong shape and colour. My photo isn't the best and not up close. Could I possibly send it and find out what I'm dealing with as I found another slightly smaller in another room 2 minutes later. Thanks!
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Discovery Centre 14 December, 2012 11:49
Hi Melissa, please feel free to go via the ask the experts link to submit your image and enquiry.  
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Melanie 14 December, 2012 22:13
Hi there, im wondering how whitetail bites affect cats? We live in Auckland and find whitetails around our house often, the other night my cat bout a rather large one in, ive herd their bites can be fatal to cats, is that correct? Thanks, Mel.
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Benjamin Taylor 12 November, 2014 14:03
Hello Melanie. I just lost a very beautiful cat whom we had for 8 years. He was very inquisitive. Anyway we figured that he must have been bitten by something, spider, snake, etc. He died very quickly after about half an hour of painful meowing. I have just killed a whitetail spider crawling across our carpeted floor. Whilst I cannot certainly say it was a whitetail spider bite. It seems to add up.
Discovery Centre 22 December, 2012 15:16
Hi Melanie, I think this is a question for the vet rather than us!  I have checked with the Entomologist and he not aware of any specific cases. We hope this helps.
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Amanda 22 December, 2012 16:19
I was bitten by a suspected white tail at the start of this week. It felt like a sting. I looked for my eye brow clippers to pull said sting out, but failed to find anything. I then noticed a red tiny lump came up. This then vanished and my skin peeled away about 1cm wide. Since the bite, I had a headache for five days in a row, feel nauseous, extremely itchy at the area, and very, very, tired. When it does begin to heal it turns green or yellow in colour, like an infection/blister type of thing. The doctor has since given me two types of cream. I would like to know how long the symptoms will last?
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Claire 26 November, 2014 12:26
I too had the same symptoms after a suspected white-tailed spider bite. After a week of antibiotic creams which did nothing I used Colloidal Silver to treat the bite which seemed to begin to clear the blister immediately. However three days later it is still not completely gone and I still feel very lethargic. Hope this helps someone in future.
Lorraine Malone 14 December, 2014 00:39
I was bitten by a white tail on my finger a week in hospital then a couple months later I had an operation because my finger was a mess. My finger was shortened due to the operation and my whole hand still aches in cold weather 12 years later. The spider is not poisoness it's the toxins in the dirt that's on there bite which gets pumped into your system so it depends on the dirt in your area that causes the problems
Discovery Centre 23 December, 2012 11:35
Hi Amanda, it is difficult for us to say as the Museum doesn't currently have an arachnologist and is not researching the effects and longevity of spider venom. The other difficulty is that you say a suspected white-tailed spider bite so I assume you didn't see what bit you? Probably the best thing to do is stay in touch with your doctor, especially if it is not healing. The Australian Venom Research Unit website is worth having a look at as well. They have information on various spiders, snakes, ticks etc in Australia with regards to first aid and treatment. 
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donna 16 January, 2013 11:10
i was bitten on the back of my leg near the top of my calf muscle 2 days ago. it wasnt painful at the time but insanely itchy with a big lump under the skin.. it has left two distinct puncture marks with a 2cm red circle around it. i felt extremely nauseas and my vision went a bit weird. the worst symptom though is a constant throbbing pain that has been in my foot since the bite. feels like a boiling hot skewer being plunged in and out. do these symptoms usually go away on their own? i live in an area that is well known for red backs and white tails but i didnt actually see the critter responsible.
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Discovery Centre 16 January, 2013 11:23
Hi Donna, as stated above, if you are concerned about a possible spider bite you should consult your doctor. Museum Victoria does not have expertise on the effects of spider bites. The limit of our service is that we offers free identification service for spiders, but in order for our research staff to identify the spider, we either needs the spider itself, or a clear image of the spider.
Hannah 21 February, 2013 14:31
hi there, so my partner an i have found a white tail spider in our bedroom and we positively identified it but today i had a baby spider crawling down my leg and im having a lot of trouble identifying it ive got a picture and would love to know what it is so i can sleep properly tonight =]
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Luke 9 May, 2013 03:00
Hello Discovery Centre, S.A has it's fare share of spider spices. I've heard from a group of mates that White Tailed Spiders possibly SPIT there venom at there pray our humans, is this correct as they don't stand up like a Bird Eating, or a Funnel Web Spiders. Also are White Tip spiderlings venomous from day dot. Thanks
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Discovery Centre 15 May, 2013 11:39

Hi Luke,

We found out from the museum entomology staff that White Tails bite they do not spit.  Their main prey is other spiders particularly Black House Spiders.  Spiderlings are so small their fangs could not penetrate human skin and their venom glands will be working.

 

Sam 7 October, 2013 22:37
My kitten was playing with a white tail spider then he ate it could that harm my ketten?
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Levi Steber 29 October, 2013 17:58
she is OK but i think it might do something to her head later on in life!
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Jadanne 9 November, 2013 17:00
Hi Just courious on what the symptoms are of a white tail bite I've googled images I haven't been bitten just courious as I've recently doney first aid so no how to treat them and I've seen images so I no wat they look like and what can happen if not treated but have no idea what the syptoms are when you get bitten
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Amy 25 November, 2013 03:28
I think my cat just ate a white tip, I didn't get a good look at it coz I hadn't put my glasses on yet, but from the size it looked like one, I can't think of any other spiders in chch that size. What I'm wondering is will it harm her? I'm scared it will hurt her
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Holly 11 December, 2013 14:24
Hi there, we have recently found and removed two white tail spiders. I have small children in the house and I am quite concerned for them if they got bitten. Are there likely to be more around the house?
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colleen 6 January, 2014 02:51
I've been bitten many times, need help, doctors haven't helped at all, nothings worked at stopping the dieing skin underneath, nor the side affects, nor the increased depression still in place as they rot my skin. Any ideas for about 16 bites marks / scabs / sores on one arm remaining and still rottening. Lost for ideas
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Paula 28 April, 2014 01:11
Hi Colleen I was bitten by a white tail 4 weeks ago up here in Darwin and since then my skin has been rotting away, I have tried antibiotics, creams which only make it fester more. I am in so much pain I can't sleep. I feel sick and struggle to walk. I was bitten on my left calf. I went to local hospital here and all they did was take pics, scratch their head, shrug their shoulders and sent me home to slowly fester some more. I too am desperate for help but not getting anywhere. My wound is size of a 20 cent coin and red raw around outside and looks like melted cheese in the middle. Medical professionals say they can't help me.....
Karen 10 January, 2014 11:43
Hi. I have been bitten this morning by a white tail. A good sized one too. It is over 2cm! Not much pain etc at the moment but obviously keeping an eye on things. It was unusual to see the spider act dying then dead after it bit me, to the point where I actually picked it up, is this normal? It is fine now and looking rather annoyed at being captured :). Fingers crossed it all clears up ok.
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Johanna 13 January, 2014 16:03
I found a large white tail about 3 days ago in the bedroom, then yesterday when I opened and took some clothing out of a chest of draws about 20/30 small white tails came out with the clothing. I have been unable to find a web. What do the baby spiders feed on. I have sprayed the room and draws but today found another large spider in the same room. Am now paranoid about finding more
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Charmian 13 January, 2014 21:33
I was bitten by a spider when I was a child, and after reading this I was wondering if it might have been a white tail? It was massively itchy for a week after the bite, the site of the bite swelled up to the size of a tennis ball and was red-purple in colour. The symptoms disappeared after a week or two, and I had no other symptoms. I was just wondering what could possibly have bitten me, as I didn't see the spider responsible.
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Deana 28 March, 2014 01:05
Hey my kitten ate a small dead white tip spider we had killed earlia that day and was waiting for my partner to come home and pick it up as I have a major fear of them! But my kitten managed to get to it and ate it will this harm him :(?
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Discovery Centre 1 April, 2014 13:53
Hi Deana, we think it is very unlikely that this will cause the cat any harm. 
michelle 16 June, 2014 09:07
Hi there, I woke up 2 weeks ago with a stinging sensation in my knee. I thought it was a hive as I had just changed the bed sheets. By the following day it appeared to be more raised, redder in colour and more painful, I then assumed it was a reactionto a mossie bite. By the following day my leg was so swollen, hot to touch, extremely painful and very inflamed. A visit to the doctors confirmed some kind of spider bite (most suspect being a whitetip spider). By that evening I physically could not weight bare on my leg at all, I was in excruciating pain and my leg looked awful I felt sick and had a mild head ache, this resulted in a trip to A&E again doctors were suspecting a whitetip spider bite. The area where bitten had developed a pulsate/abcess and the tissue around this had become inflamed with cellulitis (a bacterial infection of the tissue which can spread rapidly if left untreated). The following day the original puncture hole had widened and my knee started oozing, this continued for 4/5 days.after 3weeks of antibiotics my knee is just healing, its purple to look at and I suspect I will be left with a small scar!
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Mandie Brown 13 November, 2014 23:45
I have now witnessed 3 whitetail spiders act dead, I'm very afraid of spiders and the last one I witnessed on my decking outside it was on its back with the legs curled up as though it was dead so I flicked it with a catalogue and it virtually jumped and crawled off extremely fast then headed down between my gaps of my decking. They are sneaky, fast and very clever creatures. Anyone worried regarding whitetails inside...... I have surfaced sprayed every 2 months around windows and doors but haven't seen one until tonight and was a young one.
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Cand 28 November, 2014 02:44
I was bitten by a white tail spider last night. (I have a photo I have sent in to be identified in case I'm wrong) but I'm confused, I woke up because the bite hurt, but then the pain was gone and I have just felt kinda numb ever since, everyone is saying their bites are very painful but this is not the case for me. Also, I seem to be itchy around where I was bitten.. I was bitten on the face in front of my right ear and my war, neck, jaw, even my lips are itchy. Can it be possible that everyone reacts differently to the sane spider bite?
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Discovery Centre 2 December, 2014 16:45
Hi Cand, thank you for sending us your image so we could provide you with an identification. Hopefully you are feeling much better, if not or you are concerned about your symptoms, we recommend that you consult a doctor.
anoumas 14 December, 2014 21:14
I got bitten a few days ago I don't know what to do??????????????????????????????????????????
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Dee 16 December, 2014 23:46
I sent in a picture of the spiders to you that I caught inside. You have identified them as white tails. I am catching 1-2 of these spiders a night, usually when I get up for a drink of water. My house is only 3 years old, it's clean, I don't leave clothes or rubbish around. I am sick, so I have a humidifier going. How can I get rid of them without the expense of calling pest control? I also don't want to breathe in the fumes as I get asthma. PLEASE HELP!! I am having trouble sleeping, as I caught another one running to my bed when I turned the light on tonight :(
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Janine 18 December, 2014 16:12
I'm wondering if this year there is a particularly large number of white tailed spiders around in Melbourne? I've killed two in the house in 3 days. One was quite large (and I assume a female) and one of our curious, predatory cats was chasing it (not sure if they're harmful to cats?). I was quite disturbed given how big it was and couldn't work out what it was (especially after I'd squashed it - it didn't resemble much). I did some research on spiders in Victoria, but no luck. Then today I found another one, but smaller, running across the dark floorboards and noticed its white tail. It has a long abdomen and the glassy legs. It looks exactly like the photos of white tailed spiders. I'm just concerned that this is two in 3 days - hence my query about an influx of them in Melbourne (also noting Dee's comments). Or maybe they were a couple and now they're gone... but hopefully haven't left a bunch of kids behind? Is it the weather that attracts them indoors? The wind, rain and humidity have been notable this week. Thanks in advance for any response.
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