Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Redback spider

At the risk of reinforcing the image of Australia as a land of scary and poisonous beasties, today’s post is about the Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti) a classic  poisonous Australian beastie.

Ulike the other garden spiders that went racing off when disturbed today, the Redback sat very still for some time.

Today I found a Redback minding it’s own business against a sheltered brick wall (at least it was sheltered until I came along and exposed it with a spot of overdue weeding) in our front yard. It was a perfect little Redback hangout (until the cover was removed) as it is a very dry, sheltered and warm spot.

Now, I have to admit, if I sound nonchalant about discovering a poisonous spider millimeters from my hand, I’m faking it. I am quite the arachnophobe, but am respectful of these creatures that are as much a part of the natural environment as any pretty butterfly or bird. Besides, I am only likely to get hurt by a redback if I’m a) not wearing my gardening gloves and b) not looking where I put my hand. They just won’t come looking for you – you have to blunder into their direct path, which is quite a relief but still cause for caution.

According to the Australian Museum a Redback will struggle even to give you a decent bite. Still, you won’t find me testing the theory as if they do bite it is potentially fatal and at the very least very painful. Luckily antivenom is widely available and there has not been a reported death in recent years.

Another cautionary note is that they generally live close to humans as they love nothing better than a nice comfy shed, hollow garden ornament, sheltered garden wall or, quite infamously, a cosy spot under an outdoor toilet seat.

Because this spider is black (rather than light brown) comparatively big and has some white on the abdomen, I'm guessing she is an immature female based on information from the CSIRO's website.

Weirdly, I was well and truly an adult before I realised that we had Redbacks in Victoria. At some stage in my youth someone told me that they aren’t found in our state and I ignorantly took them at their word. You could imagine my shock when the first one I saw was one revealed by my then preschool daughter playing in the garden.  She picked up a ceramic garden ornament and looked inside to find a very brightly coloured little spider which she promptly came to show me. I managed to respond appropriately without screaming. Just.

In case my photos made you think she is gigantic, here is some better perspective. those are a couple of common garden snailsalso flushed from cover, so you can see the Redback is really quite small.

Many will know that the Redback has a very close cousin in the American Black Widow spider and has cousins in New Zealand and other parts of the world too. Ours just come with racing stripes. The Brisbane Insects website has quite good observations about the Redback if you can stand more creepy crawly info.

Personally I’ve freaked myself out quite enough, so I will leave you with one last photo and wish you a Happy and Safe Easter.

Heidi.

Just in case there was any doubt, a clear view of why this spider has it's name.

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Comments on: "Redback spider" (8)

  1. Oh, I am an arachnophobe too. I literally freak out when I see them heading towards me. I always sight them in my plants – the yellowish/greenish being the most common ones. Your photos make them look beautiful – strange that I am saying this. lol.

  2. Hi Heidi, what a wonderful topic and wonderful post. I used to be scared of spiders but now I find them awesome and fascinating. I’m pleased you showed them in proportion to the snails though. Great photos. cheers, cm

  3. You have to admit, even for being deadly poisonous, she really is quite beautiful. The Black Widows are quite common here, lurking in our firewood piles, under the roof eaves, or deck boards. I used to be petrified of them, but have come to realize that they’d much prefer to leave me alone, and only ask that I do the same for them. I even released one recently that had found its way indoors, and was lurking above the cat’s water dish! I wonder if the racing stripes on your species make it run faster than ours? :D

  4. Your opening comment hit the nail on the head… as I was coming over to the post I was thinking in my head “so it really is true that Australia is all deadly poisonous!”

  5. I almost just fainted dead away!! Those photos give me shivers!! :-o

    I am the biggest baby in the world when it comes to creepy-crawlies, but where we live in the US — hard freezes and long cold winters keep poisonous bugs much further south.

  6. Hello everyone and sorry about the lateness of my reply!

    I’d be interested to see a picture of your spiders Chandramouli (I can’t belive I’m saying that either!)

    Good point Catmint – if I hadn’t put the snail photo in the reback would have looked really very scary!

    I think we’d have to race the two to find out if the racing stripes made a difference Clare :D

    Well, Jess and Shyrlene, maybe I do have to admit we do have a few creepy and deadly crawlies…but we have some pretty cute critters too!

  7. OMG that looks so scary! I jumped when the first picture loaded. I’d like to think I would be calm-ish if I saw that hanging out, but I’d probably scream and run :)

    • Hello EvoOrganic and thanks for dropping by :) If the spider had moved when I first saw it i think I would have run for cover too, I think the fact that it stayed so very still helped me to be a – little bit – brave!

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