Spider hoax

July 2010

Spider hoax clogs inboxes Australia-wide

This month the Queensland Museum Inbox has been flooded with inquiries concerning a supposedly very dangerous spider, whose bite is believed to cause severe necrosis of the flesh. The email claims it is a new Huntsman-like spider recently arrived to Eastern Australia, is heading for Western Australia, and is breeding at an alarming rate. So, is this story true?

Answer

No. While the image is of a real spider, the Brown Recluse Spider (Loxosceles reclusa), the story is false. A few points from our Senior Curator of Arachnology:

  • this series of photos have been around for years, originating in the US and having nothing to do with Australia
  • the spider does not cause the wound
  • our native White-tailed Spiders (Lampona spp.) have also been erroneously blamed for the development of a similar lesion
  • no Australian spider is know to have necrotic (tissue-destroying) venom
  • the causes of these wounds are diverse and not related to spiders
  • although the spider does occur in Australia, it only lives in a very restricted suburban area in a southern Australian State, has been here for approximately 20 years, has not extended its range, and no bites have been recorded from it

To access more information about Loxosceles envenomations, see the following freely available journal paper:

Vetter, R.S. (2008). Spiders of the genus Loxosceles (Araneae, Sicariidae): a review of biological, medical and psychological aspects regarding envenomations. The Journal of Arachnology 36:150–163.

If you would like to discover more about spiders that do actually occur in South-east Queensland, check out the Queensland Museum’s pocket guide: 'Spiders of Greater Brisbane'. This handy guide is available online as well as from the Queensland Museum Explorer Shop and all good booksellers.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.

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