Australia's Poisonous Redback Spider
The Redback Spider is a poisonous arachnid from Australia.
The Redback Spider
Scientific Name: Latrodectus hasselti
Size: females around a centimetre, males around four to five millimetres.
Redback spiders are natives of Australia. They resemble the Black Widow spider and are part of the same family. Unlike female Black Widow spiders, which have an hourglass marking on their stomach, female Redback spiders have a red stripe running down theirs.
Redback spiders are one of the most dangerous spiders in Australia. This is because of the neurotoxin they inject when they bite and because they are so small, they are difficult to see. All the spiders from the Widow family are poisonous. While to date there has only been fourteen registered fatalities in Australia, the Redback's venom is extremely painful. Their bite shares similar symptoms to that of a North American Black Widow. Extreme pain that can last for over a day, severe sweating, nausea, vomiting, abdominal or chest pain, headache, fever, hypertension or tremors. Rare complications include seizures, coma, respiratory failure or skin infection at the bite site. Thankfully, there is an anti-venom, which usually gives immediate relief to symptoms once taken.
The Redback spider is one of the few arachnids, which display sexual cannibalism and one of the only two animals where the male actively assists the female in his own death. Males have a very short lifespan. Those that are not eaten in the mating ritual die shortly afterwards. Males who allow themselves to be eaten during mating are able to copulate for a longer time and thus fertilise more eggs. Females who cannibalised their mate will usually have no need to mate with another.
They usually prey upon insects, but can also capture larger prey in their web like King Crickets, Trapdoor spiders, and small lizards. They are also known to steal food from smaller spider’s webs. They can survive without food for just over three months. The Redback spider’s web is a disorderly, irregular mess of fine but strong silk. They make their homes in dry sheltered areas, near human dwellings.
They originate from Australia and can be found throughout most of the continent. They are also now found in New Zealand and Japan. Most likely, they made their way to Japan by being in air traveler’s suitcases and cargo. Japan has no native poisonous spiders and city officials have had to post warning signs in the parks to warn the citizens to beware of them.
The Redback spider is not an arachnid to be picked up or handled. Like all members of the Black widow family, they do not make good pets. They are beautiful spiders best admired from a safe distance.