Huntsman spiders are probably one of the most common (and scariest!) spiders in Australia. Their size, fast movement and ability to “jump”, coupled with their habit of finding their way into houses and cars, has frightened many an Australian! However, in reality huntsman spiders do more good than harm.
Huntsman spiders don’t build webs. As their name suggests they are hunting spiders, coming out at night to search for prey. They will eat a wide range of animals, mainly insects (including cockroaches!) so they can be pretty useful to have around.
Huntsman have predators too and they are preyed on by geckos, other spiders and potter wasps.
Huntsman spider size (and what do they look like?)
Australia has over 100 different species of huntsman, covering a wide range of different habitats. The biggest species of huntsman is the giant huntsman found in Laos, with a leg span of 30 cm. However, the largest huntsman most people will come across in Australia is the grey huntsman (Holconia immanis) with a leg span of up to 23 cm.
Most huntsman are a grey / brown colour, with bands on their legs. Their mottled colouration gives them camouflage on the trees and rocks where they live. One common group of huntsman spiders in Australia includes the badge huntsman (Neosparassus spp.) which have distinctive colour combinations of white, black, orange or yellow as a “badge” on the underside of the abdomen.
Baby Huntsman spiders (and other life-cycle facts)
Female huntsman produce a flat, oval egg sac of silk in which she lays around 200 eggs. Although some species will carry the egg case, others will place the egg sac in a sheltered spot and stand guard over it. It may take the eggs up to 3 weeks to hatch and during this period the female may become aggressive whilst protecting her egg case.
Once the spiderlings have hatched the female huntsman will often stay with them for several weeks. The young huntsman start out pale and gradually get darker with each moult as they grow.
Spiders grow by moulting. These old skins are often found hanging from surfaces and will give you an indication that huntsman are around (and an idea of their size!).
Although most huntsman spiders are nomadic, only coming together to mate, the social huntsman (Delena cancerides), which lives under the bark of trees, will live together in social groups of up to 150 spiders. This certainly is the stuff of nightmares and indeed was used as the “talent” in the film Arachnophobia.
Huntsman spiders will live for two years or more.
Do Huntsman spiders bite?
Huntsman spiders are not normally aggressive towards humans (except for females guarding their egg sacs). They are more likely to run away than attack, unless provoked.
Huntsman spider venom
Although their bite is lethal to insects, their venom is not particularly toxic to humans. However, the badge huntsman is reported to have more potent venom.
Huntsman bite symptoms
The mild bite only normally causes localised swelling and pain, which subsides within an hour. Occasionally victims may get a headache and mild nausea
Huntsman spider bite treatment
Follow the 5 step spider bite first aid:
The patient should sit down and try to relax
Clean the bite with water and disinfectant
Apply an ice pack to the bite area
If possible, collect the spider for identification
See medical attention
DO NOT apply a pressure bandage, as this worsens the pain and does little to stop venom movement (as it is slow moving anyway).
Can huntsman spiders jump?
Huntsman spiders have an unusual leg arrangement – they sit away from the body – which gives rise to their alternative name, giant crab spiders. Huntsman do sometimes ‘jump’, or more often ‘fall’ from a surface to escape, but it’s their speed that is their real asset.
Huntsman spiders are fast. Some of the fastest huntsman can cover 30-40 times their body length a second – up to 5m metres persecond for some of the biggest spiders.. This is around half the maximum speed of Usain Bolt!
Where do huntsman spiders live? (and why do they want to get into your home!)
Many huntsman spiders have very flattened bodies allowing them to squeeze under the rocks and the bark of trees where they live. This also allows them to squeeze around closed doors and through other gaps into your car and under doors and windows into your home!
Although they may be looking for potential prey, huntsman spiders will often find their way into your home during the warmer months to get away from the summer heat. Squeezing into gaps under doors and windows is natural behaviour and so makes them feel right at home.
How to get rid of huntsman spiders
As huntsman spiders are a nomadic spider with no fixed hiding place, it is quite difficult to target huntsman with a treatment. However, as they are hanging around your home looking for potential prey, a general pest treatment to the outside of the house to eliminate insects and web-building spiders, will make your house less attractive to huntsman.
Keeping the perimeter of your home clear of vegetation and garden beds, and ensuring your insect screens are in good order and well fitting, will also help.
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