Huntsman Cause Majority of Severe Spider Bites in Australia

They’re harmless! Just catch them in a plastic container, and put them outside…” RIP Uncle James

put them in a plastic container, take them outside

Surprise! Yep, afraid so. The results are in: If you are going to get a severe spider bite, the odds are it is going to be from a huntsman.

That is simply what the data say.

Hows ‘bout that? They are responsible for more bites than any other spider.

And that comes from the Oxford International Journal of Medicine:

This is the only large study of spider bite with prospective data collection, follow‐up and expert identification of spiders, and so provides the most accurate information on spider bite published to date. It gives comprehensive information on Australian spider bite as well as on the clinical effects and circumstances of bites by important groups of spiders that also occur worldwide…the commonest family to cause bites was that of the huntsman spiders


and, considering the majority are, “specialist confirmed”,  “harmless” huntsman bites, it is curious that:

Pain or discomfort occurred in ALL 750 definite spider bites…moderate in 544 cases (63%) and severe in 205 cases (27%).

Severe pain for more than 24hrs in nearly a third of cases? How do these people define harmless? Redback was the worst, but only accounted for ~5%, funnel web <1%. That’s ~6%? Hmm let me do the math here, and, yep, *carry the 1*, hey yeah: That means the MAJORITY of SEVERE spider bites in this country are estimated to come from HUNTSMAN.


We get lied to all day.

So you can add “huntsman are harmless” to the list of ignorant things people say, everyday, just because someone else said it to them once.

And there is no other rigorous study. Zero. None. There is one other real major paper in scope. Not as rigorous. But does it say they are harmless? Pfft.

Bites occurred to all parts of the body, with 49% distal (hand or foot), 27% on the proximal limb, 16% on the trunk, 7% on the head/neck and 1% on multiple regionspuncture marks or localized initial bleeding occurred in 33% of bites…swelling occurred in 13%… a red mark in 69% of cases… Systemic effects occurred in 13% of all spider bites.”

There have been 9 new sub-genus of huntsman spider found since 2012 (!): some with no eyes at all.


Maybe that is species, not genus, like that makes a difference. That’s still a lot. Too many, I say. What kind of creature has no eyes anyhow? And they probably vote Republican.

Say what you will about creepy things, politics and genocide: at least bats have the decency to have eyes. Same goes for Mao and Stalin.

Ohhh, so they have changed the genus as well (*writing while reading)! It is Heteropodidae, it was formally Sparassidae.

See? They’re sneaky too. Never play cards with them.

index2Apart from this study, there is virtually no information on spider bites. For any species, ever. This is because there is no expert identification, almost ever. Kind of obviously, when you think about it.

You have to rely on the patients’ memory, after the fact.

Of the few big studies attempted, most were done in Australia (of course, more spiders right?). 80% of injuries reported as “spider bite” by the treating physician where not actually spider bites at all. So there is that.

With the exception of some redbacks, where they actually did use antivenom, and, of course, the “fatal” funnel web: Most bites that are “bites” in the ED/AE, turned out to be from insects when examined by a specialist. But that is not going to help me sleep.

You can’t just milk spiders and inject people with the venom, to study the effects (apparently). So you have to trust patients looking at mug shots.

Do you know how many species in a single genus there are, that live in just this country alone? Yeah, the mug shot system was never going to work.

Plus, I’m not speciest – but spiders do tend to all look the same. More or less. And spiders do tend to look a bit different in those magnified close ups, to how they look whilst waving your arms in the air screaming:

“Get it off me! Get it off me! I’m too young, oh God I believe I believe, just get it off me!”.

Which was the conclusion the researchers came to as well (paraphrased).

Hence why we only have one decent study. And it says huntsman.


And when do most bites occur? All the time. Just, all the time. But they really start to pick up again around September/October. Yep, right now.

And I’m telling you, the females are coming in here following my pheromones. You think I’m joking? I’m not.

I bet I could induce mate barking if a female huntsman spider was exposed to human sweat during mating season. Hell, anytime. Hell, any species for that matter. No, but I’m serious. Get me some grant money.

No one is interested in inter species breeding anymore. Thank you VERY much human genome project.

fly g

But, anyway, otherwise we don’t know what bites have what effects. Period. Science, eh?

They even lost practically hundreds of samples in the only controlled study too. Even the good study. LOST.

These people caught the spider, for the study, while dialing an ambulance with the other hand. The lab lost 180 of the samples.

So dead or alive; those people were not included. Odds are they were probably dead. From Huntsman bites. Prove me wrong?

They live in colonies, that’s why there is a sudden rush of them. And their main predators are birds, and there are very few birds in my room. I’m diligent with that.

And when huntsman engage in cannibalism, they rarely eat direct kin…if they can help it. They will. But not if they can help it. Because they are a social spider. One of the only ones, actually. That’s from the J of Zoology. Well, how about that? That’s nice isn’t it.

It is also why there are so many different kinds of them, that we had to change genus.

I’d like to think Id eat my siblings only as a last resort…but deep down, I know all it would take is a late pizza guy and handy plastic spork.

Huntsman are considered the largest spider in Queensland, 20cm from leg to leg in some cases. Consider the 30cm high school ruler. 20cms! “Draw blood if they bite you, on occasion”. Well, I’m not surprised: they’re nearly a school ruler in length! They could probably draw blood if they kicked you.index

Especially all 8 legs, with a jump kick. And they do jump at you too. Because they are “aggressive”. But not “aggressive and harmless”, “aggressive and severely harmful”. So slight mis-characterisation there. Changes the picture just a tad.

They are nocturnal, that is why I see more of them.

They live communally and bring 1/3 of food back to the hive-gaggle to feed younger siblings (unless they grow to be the same size, then they’ll kill them).

There is a single pregnant queen. So if you see an egg sack carrier – kill that with extreme prejudice. And always 2 there are – the master and the apprentice. They hunt in packs, but usually pairs.

If you kill one, there will be another roaming with it: possibly bigger, possibly smaller. They are paired as master/apprentice, so hope you killed the older one first…and LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU!

And they probably eat people too. For all weimage know. It would explain why they run at you. Hasn’t that ever seemed curious to anyone else? I am still quite a bit bigger than them. Most of them. Here is one on the keyboard.

Were creatures smaller in the past? That is not what the fossil record appears to indicate. There is no reason for these spiders to behave the way they do. No reason. Unless…they at some time ate people.

Something like 13% of bites occur in your sleep, one study said. What a bastard of a spider.

Here is one sitting on the toilet roll. imageThey’re just a’holes.

Perverts too, apparently. Hey, It’s what I heard.

Look at him glaring. You’re sitting there, all vulnerable, staring back at the most aggressive spider in the whole country. The one that causes more severely painful bites than any other; and then it speaks:

…wipe…slower…” it seems to say with it’s eyes (if it bothers to even have them) in its cross-species, gravelly pur, of a look.

And that’s when you notice you can only see…7 legs. Dirty bastards. At almost the same moment you feel a fury paw caress your inner thigh, the call is coming from INSIDE the toilet bowl!

Oh yeah, very “social” spider, the huntsman. Why won’t this soap make me clean? I hate them. I do, I don’t care. I hate them. Some stereotypes are true.

index1The controlled study recruited people at random, had aracologists in emergency rooms, followed people for 2 years, gave them equipment to catch the spiders. There is no other good research.

Positive predictive values of spider species identification at over 0.95 with 95%CI of ±0.02. You better gosh darn believe it folks.

The results are in: If you are going to get a severe spider bite, the odds are it is going to be from a huntsman. That is simply what the data say.

So next time a hippie tells you not to kill one, or someone says “they’re harmless” and hands you a Tupperware container; hand it straight back and say that you just “got a feeling” mother earth wants them to personally handle this one.

Then just pray like hell that they are one of the ones that gets severely bitten.

Oh, man how I hate hippies. They are the spiders of people.

Written, while drunk, when I was first brought to Australia to live in 2013, after breaking into grandparents’ alcohol glass cabinet & refilling bottles with water. Live in the rainforest indeed. Mirkwood more like. 

J.C. (2013CopyEd2017). Huntsman Cause Majority of Severe Spider Bites in Australia. Chronicle of Letters. Oct. Ed11(018), (13)-[013 Orig].


Isbister & Vetter (2007) Medical Aspects of Spider Bites –

Isbister (2006) Spider bite: a current approach to management, Aust Prescr 2006;29:156-81 Dec 2006DOI: 10.18773/austprescr.2006.095

Isbister & Grey (2002) A prospective study of 750 definite spider bites, with expert spider identification, International Journal of Medicine, Volume 95, Issue 11,

Isbister (2004) Med J Aust 2004; 180 (5): 225-227. Published online: 1 March 2004 –

White (1999) Necrotising arachnidism, Med J Aust 1999; 171 (2): 98. Published online: 19 July 1999 –

USyd (a2018) Australian Spider and Insect Bites,

Rahmani etal (2014) Poisonous Spiders: Bites, Symptoms, and Treatment; an Educational Review, EMERGENCY,





About J.Chron.Ltt.&Sci. [JCR]

~CogSc (Humor); NeuroPsych; Philosophy (Death/Identity); Methods (Research); Intelligence/Investigation (Forensic); Medical Error~
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3 Responses to Huntsman Cause Majority of Severe Spider Bites in Australia

  1. And yet one more reason to not live in Australia!


    • In truth, it is very difficult to study experimentally, a lot of these figures do not testify to what that really means. I don’t think I say, but no-one has died from a red back since the anti venom in the 50’s, no one from a funnel web since the 80’s. And there would be a large unreported figure. Still, not if people were seeking treatment necessarily.

      So the take home is more that all animals are dangerous, but generally not if you leave them alone ergo; so don’t pick up spiders- as a rule. & if you don’t want them in your bed, clothes & car: kill them. Or don’t complain when you crash on the freeway heading down to the beach, while reaching for your sunnies, after a spider, that you threw outside, crawled into your car glove box on the way back into your house.

      I do think more people are going to pick up a huntsman, than a red back widow or a funnel web, and this is because “venom unlikely to kill a human” somewhere got translated into “harmless: just throw them outside on your washing or tuck them neatly in the sun visor of your car”.

      But the figures for the deaths or even serious bites related to the most deadly spiders are lower; & yet you do not see people picking them up “armed with this knowledge” do you? Or Lecturing people to reach into funnel web trap door lairs & tickle the under side of their bellies – cause they love that, for all we know. This is sure to account for some discrepancy in the serious bite figures.

      But Huntsman are massive and everywhere.

      They are fast to move, annoying & numerous: as are people who throw this massive, social, territorial spider off their balconies (into their territory, essentially) and then think they need bug sprays, that actually are poisonous, to protect against the “infestation” of spiders they are shuttling around the house in plastic containers, like a bus service. Francis crick said 100k neurons may be enough to be conscious, but, especially if you are up nights; it is apparent that these spiders care about accidentally hurting us about as much as pharmaceutical companies, who make pesticide on the side.

      Plus, they’re massive & run at you. But no webs, social & a very cool spider. On paper. Just not on my papers. ^^


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