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Strine: Australian
Slang, what you need
to know but are
afraid to ask...

22 pages full of must
know Australian
slang from 'aggro' to
'zack' and heaps in between.

Australian Spiders

Interesting Spider Facts:

  • Australia has over 2,400 species of spider. Less than 50 of them are harmful to humans.
  • Spiders were among the first animals to live on land, an estimated 400 million years ago.
  • Spiders have their head and thorax combined, jaws designed for piercing or tearing prey and eight legs. This places them alongside scorpions, ticks and mites in a group called Arachnids.
  • After mating the male St Andrew’s Cross spider is likely to be eaten by his partner.
  • Most spider bites can cause a reaction. Always seek medical advice when a spider bite is suspected.
  • There is an urban myth that says the Daddy Long Legs is the country's most poisonous spider. This myth is still unsubstantiated as it has a jaw that cannot open wide enough to bite us! (This is why we have never scientifically analysed its venom).

Common Australian backyard spiders

Over the years we have encountered many different species including: Orbweavers, St Andrew’s Cross, Leafcurling, Spiny, Whip, Scorpiontailed, Flower and of course Daddy-Longlegs spiders. Visit the Australian Online Museum and links on the right of this page for information and pictures of each.

Encounters with Spiders

When I was 14 years old I spent an afternoon perched upon the dining room table. I was too scared to return to the floor in case the fist sized Huntsman spider I had emptied half a tin of Baygon onto resurrected itself and scuttled in my direction.

Today, whilst reading the Backyard Spider Guide, in the latest Australian Geographic (Issue 77), I reflected on how I have overcome arachnophobia and learnt to cohabit peacefully with my eight-legged friends.

Throughout my life I have lived in both regional and metropolitan Australia. In all of these locations my fear of spiders has been put to the test; in different ways, by different shapes and sizes of spider.

Growing up it was the Funnel-Web that held the most fascination. Hiding in silk-lined burrows the Sydney species is the country’s deadliest. It wasn’t until the 1980s that an antivenom was developed. My childish fears seem well founded.

The thing is, I never actually encountered a Funnel-Web, nor did any of my family & friends. We spied many a Trap Door, with their strange little lids of dirt that fly open to allow the spider to grab unsuspecting bugs and drag them into their lair. But the Funnel-Web remained an arachnidic bogeyman.

When I moved to a farm in the country as a teenager, the most common encounter was with the Huntsman, a generally harmless, but large, hairy spider. These spiders enjoyed a lavatory location and would often be found on the inside of the toilet door. Usually unnoticed until I had cornered myself with their company.

As I moved north during my career, the Redback spider became the one to watch. When my son was little, I would have to constantly clean the outdoor furniture of these persistent spiders before he could toddle about freely, little fingers finding their way into small crevices. No one has died from a Redback bite since the antivenom was developed in 1956. However, I have known those who have suffered their painful bite.

A child to the rescue

My war on spiders was one of determined horror, and although I won the battles, I knew I would lose the war. When my son was three, he took over the chore of flushing the non dangerous variety down the toilet, whenever I began to reach hysteria.

Strangely enough he hadn’t caught my fear; in fact, he began to develop a respect for the creatures. It wasn’t long before he refused to send them to their death and instead insisted on taking them outside and setting them free. Secretly I didn’t really mind, I was always nervous they would find their way back up the cistern and find me in a compromising position.


Understanding a spider’s role

Today we live on the Sunshine Coast. Our home is ideally situated between surf and mountains. Our backyard adjoins a nature reserve and we have become friends with the local wildlife. Owls nest in the tree I can see from my kitchen window; rosellas wake us up in the mornings; and butcher birds balance on our hammock, spying for worms.

Although I grew up on a farm, it is only now, in my thirties, that I have come to really appreciate Australia’s wildlife. Everyday we watch the ecosystem at work. My son points out a trail of ants in the laundry, and a gecko as it scurries across the lounge room wall.

We wonder at the chicks learning to fly during our daily walk. When we encounter a spider web between the tall trees we admire its intricate handiwork, and regret destroying part of its web. The birds eat the spiders and the spiders eat the insects. Life goes on and my son finds endless ways to show me the value of these things.

I hold the Spider Guide in my hands and marvel at their different shapes and colours. The illustrator has drawn them in beautiful detail. The Funnel-Web seems more intriguing than horrifying. I have grown to realise that I share Australia with her abundant creatures, and am in awe of them. Even the eight-legged ones.

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