As freaky looking as we may find them, spiders are actually fantastic for the environment - they keep all the other creepy crawlies and bugs in check! However, we can all agree that they are hardly something that we would like in our homes. Imagine waking up to a Huntsman spider on the wall right next to you! Ugh!
Miss Muffet’s Revenge is great in that it helps keep spiders out, without having to kill them. This way, they can still help contribute to the local ecosystem. However, it is important to recognize which spider is which, and what they do. So we have compiled a handy list of the most common spiders you may find around your home, how to identify them, what they do, and what to do if you happen to get bitten.
1. White-Tailed Spider
These guys are found all throughout Australia and are most recognizable by the white tip on the end of their abdomen. For those who have not seen one before, they are actually very small! Females are no longer than 2cm, while males are much smaller at only 1.3cm. White-tailed spiders are normally found underneath barks, rocks, leaf litter and logs in bushland and around the home and garden. If you are to find one accidentally wander in to your home, it will generally be during late summer to early autumn and can be found any kinds of nooks and crannies that may attract their prey. White-tail spiders are great to have around as they actually prey on insects as well as other spiders including daddy-long-legs, redbacks and black house spiders. They are most active at night, as this is when their various prey is out hunting.
2. Black House Spider
The Black House spider is often mistaken for the infamous Sydney Funnel Web spider! However, it is actually far smaller (1-1.5cm), dwells in very different areas, and is in a completely different category of spider! So if the spider you are looking at looks like a Funnel Web, but is sitting in a cobweb likely situated in the corner of a window or skylight, you are looking at a Black House spider! Black House spiders are not native to Australia but were accidentally introduced many years ago from Europe and can now be find Australia-wide. Black House spiders form untidy, lacey sheets as their webs. They are often found on tree trunks, logs, rock walls, and buildings. They are most commonly found in urban areas (hence the name ‘house’ spider!) in spots like the dark corners of windows, verandahs, sheds, fences, porch ceilings, window frames and crevices. Their webs often trap pesky insects that are trying to get into your home.
3. Brown House Spider (Cupboard spider)
The Brown House spider is an overly bulbous-looking spider, that looks like a sphere with legs attached (very much like a Redback spider – in fact they are often mistaken as such!). They are found Australia-wide and can reach up to 1.2cm in length. These spiders prefer dark, undisturbed areas to hang out (such is the name Cupboard Spider!). The Brown House spider builds untidy, tangled webs which can be found in areas such as under rocks, timber piles, bark, on walls, under eaves, around garage doors, among old furniture and junk stored in sheds or garages, under garden benches, around compost bins, in upturned flower pots and among leaves on trees and shrubs – so pretty much everywhere!.
4. Daddy Long Legs Spider
Daddy Long Legs spiders are some of the most fragile looking of spiders with their legs seeming far too long for the rest of their body! If you ever had a fascination with spiders as a child, this is likely the one you may have been brave enough to touch or handle. They are found Australia-wide and are between 0.7-0.9cm long. Daddy Long Legs are often found in and around human habitation including houses, garages and sheds and feed on insects and other spiders. They form spindly, flimsy webs which can often go unnoticed.
5. Garden Orb Weaving Spider
The Garden Orb Weaving spider is one that you are likely to have encountered when working in an area with a large amount of foliage, possibly by walking right into the web! Garden Orb Weaving spiders spin their webs in areas that are prime spots for catching flying insects and spin them as large as 3m wide, which unfortunately means they are usually in our path. You may notice that their webs are usually empty during the day, and this is because the Garden Orb Weaving spider will hide in the adjoining foliage during the daylight hours and build their web at night. This is why when you remove one web, you are likely to find another not far from it the next day! These spiders are found Australia-wide and are between 2-3cm in length when full grown. They are most often found in the garden or hanging from rafters and roof overhangs.
6. Saint Andrew’s Cross Spider
The Saint Andrew’s Cross spider is actually quite a pretty spider – with a yellow and brown Aztec-painting style pattern on its abdomen, and its eight legs folded to look like four when it is relaxing in its web – a web that is famous for zig-zagging ‘ribbons’ that form a cross-like shape in the centre. These zig-zags apparently reflect UV light in order to attract insects! The Saint Andrew’s Cross spider has a body length of 1-1.5cm, and is normally found in webs spun within low, shrubby vegetation. This spider is found Australia-wide.
7. Huntsman Spider
The Huntsman spider is one of the quintessential Australian spiders – found Australia-wide and most famous for looking the most alien out of all the Aussie spiders! Huntsman spiders are more likely to be found in and around the home as they do not construct webs – they are, as the name suggests – a hunting spider! They will wander around at night in search of prey. Huntsman spiders generally have a body length between 2-3cm, however their legs can reach up to 6cm long (one particular species reaches 20cm long!). They are generally found under the flaking bark of trees, under flat rocks, under eaves, within roof spaces, and sometimes on the walls inside of homes. Huntsman spiders are extremely timid and can rocket away from you as fast as 1 metre per second! Huntsman spiders are great to have around as they help control local insect populations and will occasionally eat other spiders.
8. Wolf Spider
Wolf Spiders are very similar to Huntsman spiders, in that they are roving, nocturnal hunters who can move really fast! They are found Australia-wide, and normally found amongst moss and decaying ground-matter. Unlike the Huntsman spider, these guys stick to the ground and are likely to be spotted in and around your garden or lawn, particularly amongst leafy debris. The Wolf Spider is nocturnal and wanders around in search of prey during the night. Wolf Spiders have a body length of between 1.5-3cm in length and are characterized by their thick stripes on the front of their body and on their abdomen. Wolf Spiders enjoy a diet of insects and other small, ground-dwelling critters, and have even been recorded taking out cane toads!
9. Redback Spider
The Redback Spider is one of the most renowned Aussie spiders and is found Australia-wide. Almost all of us will have seen one at some stage as they just adore urban areas and all the good things that comes with them – good sources of food, sheltered spots for building webs, and fewer predators. Redback Spiders can be found almost anywhere around the home, including but not limited to window-sills, outdoor BBQs, letterboxes, roof eaves, sheds, outdoor toys and cubbies, garden shrubbery and flower pots. Redback Spiders will eat almost anything they can catch – insects, lizards, skinks, and even other larger spiders. Female Redbacks can grow up to 1cm in length and can sometimes be hard to notice due to this small size and their secluded hiding spots. Redback Spiders (female only) are most easily identified by their pea-shaped abdomen that sports an orange-red stripe down the middle.
10. Funnel Web Spider
Funnel Web spiders are generally exclusive to the East coast of Australia. They can typically be identified by a black or brownish glossy body and legs with indentations that give it the look of wearing armour, and they sport robust, velvety black/brown abdomens. Spiders that are often confused with Funnel Webs are Trapdoor spiders, Mouse spiders, and Black House Spiders. While some of the 30 odd species of Funnel Web Spiders are considered dangerous, the most notorious and dangerous is the Sydney Funnel Web spider. Male Sydney Funnel Webs are the most dangerous, having been responsible for several deaths prior to the development of the anti-venene in 1981. This is because during the warmer months of the year (November-April) male Funnel Webs wander about at night looking for females in their burrows. Males wandering in suburban gardens may sometimes become trapped inside houses or garages, especially those with concrete slab foundations where entry points under doors are easily reached.They may also wander into pools, where they can survive for up to 2 days. If you see a large, dark black spider in your pool it is safest to assume that it is a living Funnel Web!
Funnel Webs are not partial to entering your house (as common myth suggests) but instead burrow in moist, cool, sheltered habitats - under rocks, in and under rotting logs, crevices, rot and borer holes in rough-barked trees. In gardens, they prefer rockeries and dense shrubberies, and are rarely found in more open situations like lawns.
The most characteristic sign of a Funnel Web's burrow is the irregular silk trip-lines that radiate out from the burrow entrance of most species. These trip-lines alert the spider to possible prey, mates or danger. Funnel Webs rush out of their burrow when potential prey, such as beetles, cockroaches, small lizards or snails, walk across the trip-lines that the spider has placed around the outside of its burrow. They then return to their burrow to eat their meal. Rain may flood burrows (where females dwell) and the temporary retreats of male Funnel Webs, causing an increase in their activity. Funnel Webs are very vulnerable to drying out, so high humidity is more favourable to activity outside the burrow than dry conditions. Most activity is nocturnal. Gardeners and people digging in soil may encounter Funnel-webs in burrows at any time of the year.
All spiders in this blog (except Redbacks, Funnel Webs) should be caught and released back outside if possible, should they enter your home. Redback and Funnel Web spiders (if possible to do so safely) should be caught and taken to a collection point for the Australian Reptile Park’s venom milking program. Did you know: they are the only licensed procurer of Funnel Web venom in the country!
*Never put yourself or others in harm’s way in order to catch or photograph a dangerous spider! If you are bitten, seek immediate medical assistance.
Learn more about collection points here:
Learn more about venomous spider identification here:
Learn more about the spider venom program here:
Learn about spider-catching tips here:
Green Guides: Spiders of Australia by Terence Lindsey
Australian Museum Spider Fact Sheets https://australianmuseum.net.au/learn/animals/spiders/
Australian Reptile Park https://reptilepark.com.au/venom-program/spider-identification/