Historically, the most common site of red-back spider bite was the male genitals as he sat on the ‘thunder-box’. But these spiders are found in many places which means that people are likely to be bitten on any part of their body. Before an effective anti-venom was developed in 1956, 12 people in Australia were reported to have died from red-back bites; no one has died from red-back spider bite since.
Only the female red-back bites people , the male’s fangs are too small to penetrate human skin. Even the bites from small females may cause extreme discomfort. The puncture marks are visible, the venom is normally very slow to act – causing a slight tingling within an hour but the full effect may take days to become apparent. Symptoms include swelling, stiffness and pain around the bite through to paralysis of the lower limbs.
Red-backs are not an aggressive spider – they only bite people when disturbed and think they are catching prey or being attacked.
Red-backs build untidy webs. The upper part is sticky to catch prey, the lower living quarters is not sticky. They build their webs adjacent to walls, fences, letterboxes, kid’s play equipment, stored items and under seats – including the outside loo. It’s worth having a look around, if you see any red-back webs there will be more – it is worth having a thorough treatment carried out by a professional Pest Manager. Simply removing the webs will not give control.
Red-backs live and breed in places where you will not find them and are very difficult to treat without specialized equipment – in wall and roof cavities, inside tubing such as outdoor furniture and amongst stored goods. If these areas are not treated, they will be the source of future infestation. In fact, red-back spider control is a case of search-and-destroy rather than control by a general spray treatment.
It is important that the treatment is as thorough as possible. Red-backs can reinfest by being carried in on goods or by the wind. Re-infestations will often not be controlled by the original treatment as the spider has little contact with surfaces and therefore may not come into contact with the treatment.