These are some of the spiders that share our Melbourne homes and backyards.
The beautifully marked Badge Huntsman is active at night and occasionally comes into houses. Outside, it hunts slaters and other insects on the trunks of trees or in foliage. It hides under bark during the day.
Badge Huntsman Spider, Neosparassus.sp.Photographer: Alan Henderson / Source: Museum Victoria
Daddy Long-legs Spiders are probably the most common spider found indoors. They make their webs behind doors, around furniture, in garages and sheds and in the corners of ceilings. They feed on small insects, silverfish and other spiders.
Daddy Long-legs Spider, Pholcus phalangioidesPhotographer: Alan Henderson / Source: Museum Victoria
This is the largest of the Huntsman spiders and is commonly found under the bark of trees in the company of several other adults and immature spiders. It eats insects and other invertebrates.
Social (flat) Huntsman Spider, Delena canceridesPhotographer: Alan Henderson / Source: Museum Victoria
Huntsman Spiders are the large, hairy spiders often found inside homes. Although they are the spiders of nightmares and provoke the loudest screams, Huntsman Spiders are actually timid and relatively harmless. They eat insects and other spiders.
Huntsman Spider, Holconia sp. Photographer: Alan Henderson / Source: Museum Victoria
The Brown House Spider has a similar body shape and web to the Red-back Spider, but lacks the Red-back’s distinctive red stripe. It is often found indoors and prefers dark places such as in cupboards or under furniture.
Brown House Spider, Steatoda grossa Photographer: Alan Henderson / Source: Museum Victoria
White-tailed Spiders are frequent visitors to our homes, particularly our bedrooms. They are nocturnal hunters and feed mainly on other spiders, especially Black House Spiders.
White-tailed Spider, Lampona cylindrata Photographer: Alan Henderson / Source: Museum Victoria
Black House Spiders make distinctive lacy webs with several funnel-shaped entrances. Webs are common in the corners of window frames and on paling fences. These timid spiders appear only when prey is caught in their web.
Black House Spider, Badumna insignis Photograph: Alan Henderson, Museum Victoria
Wolf Spiders are ground-dwelling hunters. The female carries her egg sac underneath her abdomen until the spiderlings hatch. The spiderlings then ride on their mother’s back for several weeks. This behaviour occurs also in scorpions.
Wolf Spider, Lycosa godeffroyiPhotographer: Alan Henderson / Source: Museum Victoria
Walker, K. L., Yen, A. L. & Milledge, G. A. 2003. Spiders and Scorpions commonly found in Victoria. The Royal Society of Victoria.
In nature, Black House Spiders (Badumna insignis) and Huntsmans (Isopeda species) share the same habitat, particularly on and under the bark of tree trunks. Neither preys preferentially on the other spider and both feed on the same sorts of insects, so there may be some level of competition between them. It’s more likely that the environment inside your house has changed in some subtle way (or a number of ways) that suits one group of spiders over the other. Black House Spiders can be relatively easily deterred by removing their webs – they commit a large amount of their resources to producing silk and as these resources are limited they will soon run out of the ability to produce silk. If you keep removing the webs wherever they appear, the spiders will depart and seek a more conducive location elsewhere.
We’re not sure exactly how long they live, probably 1-3 years, and each batch of eggs produced takes its toll on females, particularly if the food supply is limited. Different species have different levels of ‘aggression’, activity levels and hunting techniques. Some remain around the burrows whilst others roam widely in search of prey at night. There are often also individual differences in behaviour and ecological tendencies within species, as well as between species. Females will only produce viable eggs if they have mated, although they may produce egg sacs that don’t hatch if they haven’t mated. The eggs remain in the egg sac for about two weeks and the hatchlings stay on the mother’s back for up to a month after emerging.
Dr Barbara Baehr at Queensland Museum is probably the best expert of Wolf Spiders in Australia at the moment.
Hi Matthew - we checked with our Live Exhibits team, and they've responded as follows:
The spider you describe is definitely a Wolf Spider (Family Lycosidae). These are the only spiders likely to be in your area that carry the young on the female’s back. There are 167 species of Wolf Spiders recorded in Australia but there may well be more than 400 species when the final count is done, so it can be difficult to match the exact species you have against pictures on the internet. All Wolf Spiders are active hunters, running across the ground (and sometimes into houses) at night in search of prey. To help with this life style they tend to be a uniform brown, grey or black, sometimes with stripes or similar pattern, which means most species look like all other Wolf Spider species.
Hi Pauline, Redback Spiders (Latrodectus hasselti) don't build large orb webs that you might walk through in your backyard at night, but instead build messy webs in concealed places, such as under plant pot rims or hidden corners in the shed. Wearing gloves and being careful when poking into dark corners will prevent most bites.
Like many spiders, Redback populations vary dramatically from place to place, depending on local conditions. In any year they can be abundant in one suburb and almost absent in the next, which appears to be the situation you're faced with. Whatever the environmental conditions present in your garden, they seem to suit Redbacks this year, but may not next year, particularly with a cold winter.
Most people have a population of Redbacks in their gardens and sheds but because the spiders are well-concealed they go unnoticed. Your Redbacks may return to a 'normal' population next summer - in the meantime you can reduce their populations with the judicious use of pesticides, or an insecticide bomb inside the car. Make sure you read the labels of any insecticide carefully, and keep in mind that sometimes a chemical-free environment is better than a Redback-free one.
Hi LizzyBeth, thanks for your enquiry. The Wolf Spider is unique in carrying around its spiderlings. There are many species of Wolf Spider, and their colouring varies. You can read more about this interesting arachnid at: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Wolf-Spiders
The smaller spider may be a male Black House Spider. Males are short-lived compared to females, and upon maturity the male will find a female's web and wait at the edge until she is ready to mate. This, however, doesn't explain the resident spider's behaviour.
Another option is that the new spider is a White-tailed Spider. The white spot on the abdomen of this species is not always obvious, particularly as the spider ages. Black House Spiders are a favoured prey of this species, which would explain why the resident is apparently 'acting scared'. However, generally there is nothing stopping a White-tailed Spider entering a Black House Spider's web and consuming it on the spot.
There may be other options, but the best way to determine what's happening is to send in a photo of the spiders.
You can send a photo to us at email@example.com and one of our experts will look at it for you.
Hi Gemma, huntsmans have no interest in pets, but if your cat was to grab it the spider would probably bite in self defence. We are not aware of huntsman bites posing any particularly high risk to pets. To remove a huntsman if you feel confident just place a small plastic bowl or glass over the spider and slide a piece of paper between the bowl and the wall. Take the glass outside and release the spider.
Hi Lou, Museum Victoria has a free identification service, but we need to see either a photograph or the creature itself. If you see another one, we would be very to identify it for you. In the meantime, you can try and identify it yourself using our resources:
Hi Jarrod, it is likely to have been one of the spider hunting wasps that you saw dragging the huntsman. These wasps search for spiders to sting and paralyse. They then lay eggs on the spider so that upon hatching their young have a live food source to feed on. One species which we have had quite a few reports of this summer is the native species Heterodontonyx bicolor.
This question has been answered already in the above Discovery Centre responses. Hope this helps!
Hi Ruth, we have asked the Entomologist about your strange spider activity and he has suggested that it was most likely a wolf spider as they carry their young on their backs, and black and brown house spiders do not. If the spiderlings were still very young they probably won’t survive and if they do wolf spiders are not considered dangerous and have no interest in people, etc. Have a look at the infosheet we have about wolf spiders.
Wolf spiders do not pose a serious threat to humans or pets. As long as you do not threaten them, they have no interest in people and would much rather catch insects and other invertebrates. If bitten, symptoms include local pain and swelling. There are no records of any serious symptoms resulting from wolf spider bites in Australia.
It is difficult to remove them from your property as wolf spiders are wandering spiders and new individuals will recolonise from neighbouring properties.
Hi Lightning, Museum Victoria has a free Identification Service. If you send us in a photograph of the spider (or the creature itself), we'd be very happy to identify it for you.
Good advice on first aid for redback (and spiders in general) bites is available from the Australian Venom Research Unit.
We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.
Michael - the spiders you saw could've been one of any number of species, sorry - but it doesn't sound like a pleasant experience! If you managed to get any photos, you are welcome to email them to us via the Contact Us link at the bottom of the page, or you may want to use our Victorian Spiders website at http://museumvictoria.com.au/spiders/ to try identifying them yourself.
Hope that helps!
Hello Brendan - without seeing the spider ourselves we wouldn't be able to provide an identification, feel free to send us a photo via the 'Contact Us' link at the bottom of the page, otherwise you may wish to try identifying the spider via our Victorian Spider website at http://museumvictoria.com.au/spiders/
Hope this helps!
You might want to look at our spider identification page. If you can't find it there, you can contact us through our Ask the Experts page. Images can be attached at the bottom of this page when you submit your enquiry.
Could you please send your photo of your spider with your enquiry to the Discovery Centre? We can't identify it without seeing it! Thanks.
If you see it again please feel free to take a photo if you can and send it into us.
Hi Jake, it is very hard for the Museum team to know what to tell you without identifying the spider first. Are you able to snap some photos and email them in to us? Please quote your enquiry number, DC ENQ 5762, in all future correspondence.
Hi Ben, there are many different species of spider and we need to see an image to ensure we give you the correct identification and information. If you can safely do so please take an image of the spider and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi John, you are welcome to send an image of the spider to email@example.com and we will try and identify it for you.
Hi Beth, you're very welcome and glad we can help out. Sometimes identifications can take up to a few weeks depending on the workload and availability of our collection managers and curators. We'll contact you directly as soon as we have an identification on the spider.
Hi Beth, we do have a free identification service at the Museum. If the insect is still alive, please place it in the freezer overnight which will humanely kill it, (it is illegal to send most live insects through the post). Then place it in a small container which won't get crushed such as a pill jar and mail it to Discovery Centre PO Box 666 Melbourne 3001, along with your contact details. It is illegal to send flammable material through the post so please don't add any methylated spirits or anything like that.
Hi Shannon - Our Red Back Spider infosheet and the Victorian Spiders website contain lots of information about Red Back Spiders that you may find helpful.
Hi Claire, thank you for sending us your very good quality images complete with coins to give us an idea of scale. The e-mail we sent letting you know that the spider looks to be a juvenile redback should have reached you by now.
Hi Beth, we are sorry to hear of the loss of your cat. We are not aware of Black House Spiders or White-tailed Spiders posing a high risk to dosmestic pets. These spiders can be quite common in domestic situations and you would imagine that if they could easily kill pets that deaths would be far more common. Both these species of spiders tend to run when faced with a threat. It may have been that your cat's immune system was reduced as a result of treatment or the anesthesia.
Hi Beth - We'll pass your question through to an entomologist, and see if they have an answer for you.
Hi Jessica, no spiders feed on people or have a desire to bite people. The Museum does have a free identification service, so if you or someone else can safely collect a couple of the small spiders we can try and identify them for you. If there are suddenly a lot of small spiders there may have been an egg sac in the house that has released a number of baby spiders. Or as you say you may have brought them inside on a toy. Probably the easiest thing to do is to just keep regularly vacuuming up the spiders and any webs they build.
Hi Rebecca, I don't believe that wolf spiders pose a serious threat to pets or humans. It is hard to remove them from your property as wolf spiders are wandering spiders and new individuals will recolonise from neighbouring properties. Spiders have no interest in people and as long as you don't threaten them will leave people alone, and will go about their business of catching insects and other invertebrates.
if you can obtain an image of the spider and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org we will try and identify it for you.
Huntsman spiders will feed on a wide variety of insects including cockroaches, moths and beetles. They will basically feed upon anything they can overpower quickly and easily. If you are going to catch food for it avoid any stinging or biting insects such as wasps and ants.
As for the rate of feeding, most will feed a little more often than once or twice a month, but they can certainly survive on that rate. Young huntsman will usually feed as often as they can. It’s hard to say why yours would only want to feed that often – there are a couple of possibilities that spring to mind. Adult males typically don’t feed much, and elderly huntsmen begin to lose their appetites as they near the end of their lives.
Hi Janine, Museum Victoria has a free identification service but in order for the Entomologist to provide an accurate identification, an image or the specimen is required. You can find all of the details for identifications here: http://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/ask-us-a-question/identifications/identification-guidelines-/
We are glad you like the tarantula webcam, our Live Exhibits Department are in the process of setting up Bower-cam; a webcam in the Forest Gallery which will be focussed on the bower of our male Satin Bowerbird. They are also looking into the possibility of having some other invertebrate cameras operating in the back of house areas.
Unfortunately we cannot provide medical advice on your son's possible bite as we haven't seen and identified the spider; and people can react in different ways to a spider bite, (if that is what has caused the problem). I recommend that you take your son to a doctor and have them take a look at the injury.
All the best with your son.
Apologies for the delay in getting back to you; as you probably know there are many different species of spider and it is hard to identify them from a description alone. If the spider is still there and you can safely do so please feel free to take a photo of the spider and e-mail it to email@example.com and we will try and identify the spider for you.
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