What does it look like? The female Redback Spider is usually black, but can also be brownish, with an orange-red blaze on the dorsal surface of the abdomen, and a similarly coloured hourglass shape on the undersurface. The male is much smaller (3-4mm), pale brownish, with white spots and streaks, and with an hourglass pattern on the undersurface of the abdomen.
Where does it live? Australia-wide in close proximity to human habitation.
What are its habitats and habits? Found in drier, terrestrial areas, often within disused building materials, around houses and in gardens, where it constructs a tangled web of vertical threads, which have sticky a coating designed to entangle its prey (usually insects, other spiders and small lizards), which are then hoisted up into the air before being bitten and consumed (or stored for later consumption). Due to its close association with human habitation, redback spider bites are common, although significant envenoming only occurs in around 20% of bites. Symptoms can include pain, sweating, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness and possibly death (particularly in the aged and very young), without the administration of antivenom. In 2016 a 22 year old man died after being bitten by a redback spider during a bushwalk on the north coast of NSW. This was the first recorded fatality from a redback in 37 years. Redback spider antivenom was introduced in 1956.
Scientific Name: Latrodectus hasselti
Size: TL 10mm