The redback spider (latrodectus hasseltii) is one of Australia’s most dangerous spiders. It’s venom is extremely poisonous, and unfortunately, redbacks are particularly prevalent in Brisbane and the surrounding area. By taking some time to learn the basics about the redback spider and how to prevent it, hopefully you will have the information necessary to avoid its painful bite.
The female redback spider is the only one that poses a real danger. It is easily identified by its round, black body with a red stripe on its upper abdomen and an orange/red hourglass shape on its underside. It averages about 1 cm in length, and is significantly larger than the male of the species. Male redbacks are 3-4 mm long and are typically light brown with white on the upper side of its abdomen and a pale hourglass on its underside. The webs of the redback are messy and irregularly shaped.
By Toby Hudson [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Redback spiders are found all across Australia, including many highly urban areas. They may come in contact with humans more often than other species because they like to live inside structures. Redbacks are slow-moving and do not like to leave their webs very frequently. Instead, they prefer to hide out in sheltered areas where they can stay dry. Some common places where you may find redbacks are: sheds, tree hollows, shrubs, empty boxes, piles of rocks, letter boxes, and even under toilet seats. Redbacks are nocturnal, and they generally try to avoid being seen. In fact, most bites only happen because people place their hands or feet in places where a redback is hiding. This could include places like gloves, shoes, clothing, and boxes.
Redbacks are famous in the animal world because of their mating behaviors. They are one of the few species that engage in sexual cannibalism, where the female will usually eat the male. It is estimated that 2 out of 3 males will be eaten during mating, and the other third will likely die of injuries they sustain during the ritual. Surprisingly, redbacks are one of only 2 species in which the male actually makes an effort to assist in the cannibalism. This explains why they are in the family group known as widow spiders. Even among this group, redbacks are an extreme example of this behavior.
It is estimated that redback spiders are responsible for over 2,000 bites each year. Though they may be especially dangerous to a child, bites are rarely serious for an adult. Since the introduction of antivenom, there have been no recorded deaths from the redback spider. That being said, the bites are still often extremely painful and can cause complications. The three main symptoms are: severe and persistent pain, localized sweating, and goosebumps. Most cases can be treated at home with ice and a pain reliever. However, if the bite starts to produce more generalized symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headaches, and abdominal or chest pain, it will often require a hospital assessment. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, antivenom may be administered, although there is a small chance that the antivenom can create a dangerous reaction, so it is only given when absolutely necessary.
While not every redback bite can be prevented, there are a number of things you can do to keep your family safe. Sealing the exterior of your home is a great start. If the spiders can not get into your house, you will likely have less encounters with them. It is also a good idea to wear gloves and shoes when gardening, shake out clothing before wearing it, and get rid of piles of rubbish and debris in your home and yard. It is also highly recommended that you stay up to date with your yearly pest control treatments.
Redback spiders present a serious threat to humans and pets in our area, so it is important to do your part to keep them away. Radar Pest Control can be a good resource in this undertaking. Our expert technicians will inspect your home and work with you to determine the best method of treatment. Our treatments are odourless, do not stain, and are safe. Give us a call today and start seeing the Radar difference.