Friday, March 19, 2010


My Grandma used to say this old rhyme:

The redback spider is a curse,
Just one bite will send you off in a hearse.

Between 1870, when they were first identified, and 1956, when the antivenom was developed, there were 13 known deaths from redback bite. Bites are relatively common, as the spiders like our back yards; in fact five people required treatment for bites in NSW on the 15th of March this year.

I noticed this attractive young Latrodectus hasselti in the top of the chooks' water container today. She's only small -- that blue cap is about 3cm across. Big redbacks have a 1cm abdomen and would therefore fill the lid. I think youth might account for the patterning of the abdomen too; older redbacks tend to favour a Little Black Dress with a single red stripe. More information on our poisonous little friend here.

Redbacks have a very distinctive tangled web, with lots of three-way joins:

I think this tiny fellow wrapping the sandwiches is the young lady's boyfriend. His is a short life: redbacks are a feminist species and usually eat their mate as part of the breeding process.

Both spiders met an untimely death after these photos were taken.


Lightening said...

We have the little blighters here too! :( Thankfully no-one has been bitten by them. Hopefully it stays that way.

Chookie said...

I hope so too -- the bite is agonising!

Jamie said...

For some strange reason I've come across only one redback here in 19 years at Marrickville. And she was under the garbage bin lid. I'm glad I don't get many of the little bitey blighters. And so far we haven't had any funnelwebs at all, either. Another blessing! Or maybe I'm just not observant enough...

Onesimus said...

I've seen more redbacks this year than in the previous 3 at my house.

Several weeks ago I found a large dead one under a large plant pot "saucer". I was tempted to give it a little prod with my finger but resisted. I called my wife to show her and then the spider came back to life and started walking away.

We've had one making a home in one of our compost bins and the most recent one we've found had made its web outside the back window of our house.
If any spider can be attractive it would have to be a large glossy red back.


Shirley said...

Hello again Chookie, biting Spiders… it looks like it means business too! Thank goodness we don’t see them here :-D