It wouldn’t be Australia without dangerous, venomous creatures. One of the most notorious of these species is the redback spider. Redback spiders are located in almost every area of Australia and are particularly prevalent in rural regions. Here are three easy ways to identify a redback spider nest.
Spot a spider
If you spot a redback, odds are the nest won’t be far off, as females very rarely leave their webs. Female redbacks are renowned for the distinctive bright red or orange stripe on the back of their abdomens. Juvenile female redback spiders are brownish in colour, rather than jet black, and sport a red or orange mark lined with white edges. Some females, however, do not carry the distinctive red stripe and are
instead entirely black/brown, so if you spot a spider that you suspect could be a redback, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Adult female redbacks are generally 12-15mm in size, whereas adult male spiders are far smaller, only growing to about 3-4 mm in size. Males are also much paler than females and are not easy to see, unless they are spotted with an adult female during mating season (late summer and autumn). Males are not as prevalent, as the females eat them as a snack after mating; just as English rock band Space reveals in their aptly named album ‘Spiders’, “the female of the species is more deadly than the male”. Male redbacks do not bite but females pack a nasty bite full of poisonous venom.
Know the nest
Unfortunately, spotting a redback spider is not as easy as it seems. Redbacks are renowned for hiding during the day and lurking in dark areas. Their webs, however, are a lot easier to spot. Redback webs are messy looking; appearing as a tangled mass. Their webs are split into two areas; the top is a funnel-like retreat area, whereas the bottom area is for trapping prey. Running downwards from the web’s upper section, there are vertical, sticky silk threads that run to ground attachments. These lines are referred to as ‘trip lines’, which alert redbacks to the presence of threats or entangled prey. Between these trip lines are finer ‘guy lines’, that snap when their prey moves around, allowing the trip lines to hoist the prey securely into the nest.
Location, location, location
While redbacks can nest just about anywhere, they tend to favour certain spots over others. Unluckily for us, redbacks favour areas in close proximity to humans. Redbacks tend to dwell around building foundations and on the exterior of buildings. One of the most common redback nesting spots is near outside window frames. If your property has piles of outdoor storage materials or piles of scrap, rocks or wood, be aware that there may be nests lurking underneath. Mailboxes are also a common nesting place for redbacks, as they offer dimly lit and secure surroundings to support their webs. These spiders also favour dwellings in side garden sheds, work sheds and outhouses. In fact, redbacks have a nasty habit of constructing their webs across the seats of outdoor toilets, particularly in rural areas, so it always pays to look in the dunny before you commit.
While redbacks are generally non-aggressive, they will attack if threatened or provoked. If you spot a redback or a redback nest around your property, its always best to call in a professional. If you are bitten by a redback spider, monitor your symptoms carefully and visit a doctor as soon as possible. If the person bitten is a child, elderly person or a pregnant woman, ensure they are taken to hospital for anti-venom immediately.
We found this great video of David Attenborough explaining how the female redback spider constructs her web.