Your eight-legged housemates

At Museums Victoria we are often asked...

“What kind of spider is this? It was in my house! Is it dangerous?”

Spiders may come into our homes for a variety of reasons, the main ones being hunting for food, looking for a sheltered, safe space to build a web or searching for a mate. Although they might give us a fright every now and again, they’re good to have around. Spiders eat insects (and other spiders), so they will make sure that they eat as many less desirable insects such as clothes moths, termites and introduced cockroaches as they can.

Here we’ve rounded up some of Victoria’s abode-loving arachnids to help you identify your eight-legged housemates. If you can’t see your spider here, you can Ask us to identify it for you.

Huntsmans

Huntsman spiders are generally large, fast-moving spiders that are famous for scaring people whether it be in the home or car. Unless defending their egg sac these spiders are usually timid with their first response to danger being to run. Often seen in Victoria are the Badge Huntsman (Neosparassus diana) and Social Huntsman (Delena cancerides). Huntsmans have a flattened body and legs that extend forwards and sideways, a bit like a crab rather than downwards like many other spiders. This makes it easier for them to get underneath doors and through window frames into our houses. They are active at night, hunting for food.

Social Huntsman Spiders live in large groups of sometimes up to 300 individuals. They share their prey with individuals in their own colony but can be very aggressive and cannibalistic to other colonies of the same species.

A Social Huntsman sitting on a piece of brown bark.
Social Huntsman

Black House Spider

Black House Spiders make funnel-shaped webs in, on and around buildings. You might see them in the corners of window frames, in between bricks and on fences. If they make their webs near outside lights, they can take advantage of insects that are attracted to the light and blunder into their web.

Black House Spiders are good to have around the house! They are very timid towards humans, so bites are rare. They are effective at keeping down insect numbers and are a food source for birds.

Black spider with white web material, dorsal view.
Black House Spider

Brown House Spider

Brown House Spiders prefer dark, undisturbed places in urban environments to construct their webs. You might find them in cupboards, in the shed, in compost bins and under plant pots. Despite being a different colour, Brown House Spiders are often mistaken for Redback Spiders due to their similar body shape and egg sac.

A Brown House Spider in its web.
Brown House Spider

Daddy Long-legs Spider

Is it true that Daddy Long-legs Spiders have the deadliest venom of all spiders but can’t bite through human skin? Not quite. While they are known to prey on the highly venomous Redback Spider their venom is not considered dangerous to people. Daddy Long-legs Spiders also feed on other small invertebrates. You might find their webs in the corners of a room or under porches and in sheds.

Long-legged spider.
Daddy Long-legs Spider

Redback Spider

Redback Spiders are often found around human habitation: in long unused shoes, in tin cans, underneath furniture and amid various garden rubbish. They build a tangled web and, once constructed, will rarely leave it. If they are disturbed, Redbacks may fall to the floor and pretend to be dead!

Redback Spiders are rarely seen over winter, but in summer bites number in the hundreds in Australia. These spiders are not aggressive, and most bites probably occur when people inadvertently put their hand in the web. Since antivenom has been available, there have been no confirmed fatal Redback envenomations.

Black spider with red markings with eggs.
Redback Spider

White-tailed Spider

These spiders don’t build a web but actively search for food. In doing so they often find their way into our homes. They like to hide in dark places during the day: a good reason not to leave piles of clothes on the floor. Outside, they can be found under bark or rocks during the day.

Tales of necrosis and ulceration resulting from a White-tailed Spider are unverified. Bites from this species may cause a burning pain, then local swelling and itching.

A White-tailed Spider on a leaf.
White-tailed Spider

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