Redback: Females are the most easily identifiable with the distinctive red marking on their torso.
Redback: Females are the most easily identifiable with the distinctive red marking on their torso. Toby Hudson

Warning Gladstone prime conditions for redback outbreak

A RECENT outbreak of redback spiders in the Brisbane region has prompted one of Queensland's leading arachnoid experts to remind Gladstone residents to be vigilant.

Despite no deaths being recorded from a confirmed spider bite in Australia since 1979, warm and dry weather is the perfect catalyst for the eight-legged creatures.

Owen Seeman, collection manager for Arachnida at Queensland Museum, said that Gladstone's recent hot and predominately dry summer could lead to a similar redback outbreak as the one experienced in south-east Queensland.

 

Queensland Museum Arachnologist Owen Seeman collecting specimens.
Queensland Museum Arachnologist Owen Seeman collecting specimens. Jeff Wright

"Redbacks love consistent warm and dry weather," Mr Seeman said.

"We had a massive drought in the late 1990s and well into the 2000s until it was broken by floods.

"In that time we had a massive redback population, but as soon as we had that one year (2010/11) with the floods, that was the end of it, and people hardly saw any redbacks.

 

"This summer has been hot and dry and now their numbers are building up."

Mr Seeman says Gladstone's humid climate would not deter redbacks, although our region luckily misses out on a more potentially deadly spider, the funnel-web.

"The redback is the only deadly spider in Gladstone - there are no funnel-webs - the funnel-web and redback are the only two spiders of great concern," he said.

"Their native habitat is sub-tropical Mediterranean... as you head up north you get less and less."

 

Redback Spider, Latrodectus hasseltii, with egg sac.
Redback Spider, Latrodectus hasseltii, with egg sac. Courtesy of Queensland Museum

Mr Seeman said redbacks can hide in all sorts of places and the females are the most easily identifiable with the distinctive red marking on their torso.

Juvenile and male redbacks have a little red marking but are mainly identified by shades of white and grey on their black background.

 

Male redback spider
Male redback spider Contributed

"They love pot plants, especially ones gathered together and the female likes tucking herself under the lip of the pot plant, barbecue areas are also common," he said.

Treatment for redback bites begin with ice and a trip to the doctor.

"Ice and pain relief to begin with and make sure you have someone with you to keep an eye on you," Mr Seeman added.

"If it starts to get excruciatingly painful you may need to go to hospital where they will observe you and if things start to wrong you'll be given anti-venom."


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