- White-tailed Spider
- Life history cycle
- Danger to humans
- Spider bites
- Redback spiders
- White-tailed spider
- What to do if you think you have been bitten by a katipō or redback spider
- What to do if you think you have been bitten by a white-tailed spider
- The biting truth about white-tailed spiders | Te Papa’s Blog
- How painful is a white-tail bite?
- How venomous are white-tails?
- Where do white-tails come from?
- How many species of white-tail are in New Zealand?
- Where do they live?
- What do white-tails eat?
- When and how do they hunt?
- The myth about white-tails and daddy long-legs
- Do White tail spiders cause necrosis? Putting spider bites to the test
- The secret life of the White-tailed spider
- What we know about White-tail bites
- Q1: Was there ever a spider at all?
- Q2: Was the spider a White-tail?
- Q3: What other factors are at play?
- white tailed spider bites
- (PDF) White-tail spider bites
- White tailed Spiders : School of Biomedical Sciences
- Do white-tailed spiders cause necrotic ulcers?
- White-tail spider bite: a prospective study of 130 definite bites by Lampona species
Click to enlarge image Image: Mike Gray
© Australian Museum
White-tailed Spider bites have been controversially implicated in causing severe skin ulceration in humans.
White-tailed Spiders have a dark reddish to grey, cigar-shaped body and dark orange-brown banded legs.
The grey dorsal abdomen bears two pairs of faint white spots (less distinct in adults) with a white spot at the tip; the male has a hard, narrow plate or scute on the front of the abdomen. The two common species in southern Australia, Lampona cylindrata and L.
murina, are similar in appearance and have overlapping distributions in the south-east. Their bites have been controversially implicated in causing severe skin ulceration in humans.
White-tailed Spiders are vagrant hunters that live beneath bark and rocks, in leaf litter, logs and detritus in bush, gardens and houses.
Lampona cylindrata is found across southern Australia (south east Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia). Lampona murinais present in eastern Australia from north-east Queensland to Victoria (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria,).
They are most active at night when they wander about hunting for other spiders, their preferred food.
They have been recorded eating curtain-web spiders (Dipluridae), daddy-long-legs spiders (Pholcidae), Redback Spiders (Theridiidae) and black house spiders (Desidae) During summer and autumn White-tailed Spiders are often seen in and around houses where they find both sheltered nooks and crannies and plenty of their favoured black house spider prey.
Life history cycle
Tufts of specialised scopulate hairs on the ends of their legs allow them to walk easily on smooth or sloping surfaces. They make temporary silk retreats and spin disc-shaped egg sacs, each containing up to 90 eggs.
White-tailed Spiders around your house can be controlled by catching and removing any that you see and by clearing away the webs of the house spiders upon which they feed.
Danger to humans
White-tailed Spider bites can cause initial burning pain followed by swelling and itchiness at the bitten area. Occasionally, there are unconfirmed reports of weals, blistering or local ulceration – conditions known medically as necrotising arachnidism.
A debate continues about the involvement of White-tailed Spider bite in cases of severe ulcerative skin lesions seen in patients diagnosed as probable spider bite victims. Typically, in such cases no direct evidence of spider bite is available.
Sensational media reporting of supposed cases of severe “necrotising arachnidism” has given the White-tailed Spider a bad reputation. However, a recent study has monitored the medical outcomes of over 100 verified White-tailed Spider bites and found not a single case of ulceration (confirming the results of an earlier study).
The available evidence suggests that skin ulceration is not a common outcome of White-tailed Spider bite.
- Isbister, G.K. & Gray, M.R. 2003. White-tail Spider bite: a prospective study of 130 definite bites by Lampona species. Medical Journal of Australia 179: 199-202.
- Isbister, G. & Gray, M. 2000. Acute and recurrent skin ulceration after spider bite Medical Journal of Australia 172: 303-304
- Platnick, N.I. (2000). A relimitation and revision of the Australasian ground spider family Lamponidae (Araneae: Gnaphosoidea). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 245: 330 pp.
- Sutherland, S. & Sutherland, J. 1999. Venomous Creatures of Australia. Oxford University Press, South Melbourne Vic.
- White, J. 1998. Response to Chan, S.W. 1998. Recurrent necrotising arachnidism. Medical Journal of Australia 169: 642-643
You have reached the end of the page. Thank you for reading.
Female katipō spider, photo by Jess Costall / CC BY 2.0.
Because of the katipō’s increasing rarity and non-aggressive nature bites are rare.
Typical symptoms of katipō bites include pain at the bite site, which may spread to other areas, becoming more intense over the next few hours. People may also experience sweating, difficulty in breathing and abdominal cramps.
Redback spider, photo by Repat / CC BY-SA 3.0.
White-tailed spider, photo by Phil Bendle / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.
The usual white-tailed spider bite can be painful but the initial burning feeling, swelling, redness and itchiness at the bite site usually resolves and there are no long-lasting effects.
White-tailed spider bites are not considered poisonous to humans. A recent Australian study has shown no evidence linking necrotic ulcers (destroyed skin) to white-tailed spider bites.
What to do if you think you have been bitten by a katipō or redback spider
Katipo and redback spiders are the only spiders that cause systemic symptoms such as sweating, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. Generally these occur quite soon after being bitten. Mild symptoms can generally be managed at home with oral pain relief such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. If symptoms were to become more severe seek medical attention.
- clean the wound with antiseptic or warm soapy water
- place ice on the bite prior to travelling (not directly onto the skin – wrap the ice in a tea towel or other cloth to prevent cold burns).
- apply pressure to the wound
- consume alcohol after being bitten.
Do not panic as serious reactions are uncommon and unly to develop in less than three hours. Hospitals can provide safe and effective treatment. Venom is not always introduced with the bite. If it is, most reactions to the venom are moderate.
What to do if you think you have been bitten by a white-tailed spider
If you suspect you have been bitten by a white-tailed spider only simple first aid is necessary, as with any puncturing of the skin, as these spiders do not cause skin damage or ulcers:
- clean the bite area with antiseptic or warm soapy water
- place ice on the bite to reduce any pain or swelling (not directly onto the skin – wrap the ice in a tea towel or other cloth to prevent cold burns).
For any suspected spider bite, see a doctor if the bite area becomes very red or painful, blisters, appears infected, or forms an ulcer.
The National Poisons Centre is available 24 hours a day on 0800 764 766 for advice on first aid and treatment of bites.
The biting truth about white-tailed spiders | Te Papa’s Blog
White-tails are blamed for lots of nasty symptoms, and have developed something of a bad reputation, but is it deserved? Bug expert Phil Sirvid sorts fact from fiction.
White-tailed spider. Te Papa
How painful is a white-tail bite?
A study of 130 verified white-tail bites from Australia found they were always very painful, although the authors did not find much in the way of other effects beyond local redness and swelling. So, treat white-tails with caution because the bite will hurt, but you shouldn’t expect much in the way of other consequences beyond minor local symptoms if you look after the bite wound.
None of this stops the white-tail being blamed for a variety of conditions even when there is no proof of a spider bite at all. Examples of such misdiagnoses have been reported in the medical literature. This is not to trivialise the very real symptoms people may be suffering, but nobody is helped by blaming the wrong culprit.
How venomous are white-tails?
White-tails are blamed for a lot of nasty symptoms, particularly in relation to the skin. However, studies have shown that there is nothing in white-tail venom that’s of particular concern for humans.
It’s theoretically possible that some people might be especially sensitive to white-tail venom, but there’s no evidence that this is true for the majority of the population at large.
Secondary infections (i.e. infection present in the environment entering a wound at a later time) are sometimes blamed on white-tails, even if no spider is seen. These can happen with any skin breakage, be it a bite, graze, or sting. In some cases this may be serious, but the risk of infection can be greatly reduced by keeping skin breakages clean.
White-tails may have a potential role here in that they are capable of breaking human skin with a bite, thus creating a potential entry point for infection to enter the body. However, there is no evidence to suggest these spiders directly transmit bacteria or other pathogens in the act of biting.
But even if their venom is not dangerous, white-tails deserve respect because of how mechanically strong their bite is.
Where do white-tails come from?
Some people think white-tails are a relatively recent arrival in New Zealand, but they’ve been recorded here since the 1870s.
They come from Australia and almost certainly arrived via the trans-Tasman transport of goods and people. They can go several months without feeding so a short sea voyage to New Zealand wouldn’t be difficult.
How many species of white-tail are in New Zealand?
We have two species currently recorded here. In the North Island we have Lampona murina while in the South Island we have L. cylindrata.
While it’s entirely possible that both species have been transported over Cook Strait, I’ve yet to actually see these spiders in the ‘wrong’ island. They’ve also reached more far-flung parts of New Zealand such as the Kermadecs and I’ve seen them in the Chathams.
Both species are very similar in appearance and you’d need a good microscope to separate them. They also have quite similar habits as specialist hunters of other spiders.
Where do they live?
By day they living in cracks and crevices, something we humans provide in abundance with our homes.
They also living under loose bark in tree species we’ve imported from Australia.
What do white-tails eat?
White-tails are helped to prosper by the presence of two other Australian species long-established in New Zealand, the black house spider, and the grey house spider (respectively Badumna insignis and B. longinqua). As their common names suggest, these to live around homes and white-tails are quite happy to feed on them.
These are not the only spiders they prey on, but their abundance means these two species are a frequent food source.
When and how do they hunt?
The best time to see white-tails at work is after dark. The white-tail will very slowly and carefully enter a web. It starts plucking threads, trying to entice the web’s owner to come within attack range.
Once it does, the white-tail strikes hard and fast. It needs to kill such dangerous prey as quickly as it can. Forcefully deployed fangs delivering venom ensure this happens.
However, if the other spider attacks first, the white-tail will end up as prey rather than predator.
The myth about white-tails and daddy long-legs
One of the enduring myths about white-tails is that they are not especially dangerous to people unless they eat daddy long-legs spiders and co-opt their venom.
Daddy long-legs spider. Te Papa
The story goes that the daddy long-legs is particularly toxic to humans, but its feeble fangs means it can’t bite people. This is all – to put it mildly – complete rubbish.
We know the daddy long-legs can bite and the venom is not dangerous. Even if it was, white-tails have no ability to transform their own venom by taking on the venom of another species. It would be a neat trick if they could.
It’s also worth noting the daddy long-legs is one of the white-tail’s more formidable opponents. That’s because the daddy long-legs is incredibly attuned to what’s happening in its web.
No matter how careful it is, it’s virtually impossible for the white-tail to avoid being noticed. Once detected, the daddy long-legs will rain sticky silk down on it.
In no time at all, the white-tail is wrapped in silk and is being hauled up by the daddy long-legs for lunch.
More information about white-tailed spiders on Collections Online
Do White tail spiders cause necrosis? Putting spider bites to the test
You’re reclining on your couch in the late evening, watching something on TV and thinking about heading to bed. the corner of your eye you see a flicker of movement. You look down to find a dark shape lurching across the floor in the shadows. You flick on the lights, and suddenly all thought of sleep evaporates. You’ve got them: the dreaded White-tailed Spiders. They have arrived.
Admittedly the blue glowing eyes are not doing this White-tailed Spider any favours. These reflective lenses help the spider to navigate. (Photo: Spidentify)
For many people, a White-tail in the house might signal a good time to sell up and move countries. But before you leap from the couch and call the SWAT team, let’s take a deeper look at this common household visitor and the real danger its bite poses to us – and put these bite diagnoses to the test.
The secret life of the White-tailed spider
The name “White-tail” can be applied quite generally across a whole family of spiders (Lamponidae), many of which are very similar in appearance.
When we’re talking about the White-tail, though, it’s usually in reference to just the two large species that frequent houses in the south and east of Australia – Lampona cylindrata, and Lampona murina.
These species look extremely similar, and are known for their flattened black bodies, chunky legs and pattern of white spots – particularly a single white patch at the tip of the abdomen (back).
Lampona cylindrata – one of the two common Australian species known under the moniker “White tip” or “White tail”.
White-tails are specialist spider-hunting spiders. They spend the daylight hours hiding away in crevices – particularly under rocks and tree bark – and at night emerge to hunt other spider groups.
A favourite meal is the Black House Spider (Badumna insignis) which is extremely common around houses, building cottony funnels into brickwork and window sills. It makes sense in that case that White-tails spend so much time hanging out around our homes – they’re a smorgasbord.
Once the sun is rising, though, it’s time to find a nice crevice to safely wait out the day. Oh look – some folded sheets! What a find!
What we know about White-tail bites
In 1987 a man experienced severe skin necrosis following a day in the garden. “Necrotic arachnidism” – necrotic wounds resulting from spider venom – is known to be caused by Recluse spiders (Loxosceles spp.), and it was presumed that native Australian spiders must also be capable of causing it.
However, in the published case, there was no spider witnessed to be involved – let alone identified as a White-tail.
Despite a dearth of evidence, the story of the White-tail made it into the media, and it quickly became part of our collective wisdom as Australians that White-tails were “poisonous” skin-rotting ogres that had to be eradicated at all costs.
In the time since, the White-tail and other native Australian spiders including the Black House Spider and the Wolf Spider family (Lycosidae) have been touted as the cause of a wide range of serious skin problems, and a great deal of research has been conducted to test these claims.
It’s a telling result that in no case put under scrutiny in a two year period – where the spider was witnessed biting the patient, the spider was collected and then identified by an expert – was there a single case of necrosis.
In fact, there was no such case for any of the 750 spider bites in Australia put to the same test between 1999 and 2001. However, it has been found that necrotic wounds from purported White-tail bites, once carefully examined, turn out to have some other origin entirely – from diabetes, to staph infections to tinea.
As further evidence, the enzyme in Recluse Spider venom linked to necrosis is not found in White-tail spider venom.
White-tails hunt other spiders – not people. This one has captured an unfortunate Wolf Spider (Lycosidae).
So what does happen when we’re bitten by a White-tail spider? almost all spiders, White-tails are venomous. This venom is adapted to work on their prey, and affects us in fairly minor ways. The research tells us to expect pain and an itchy red sore that may last for around two weeks.
Bites almost always happen inside, most often when sleeping or changing clothes, and during the warmer months of the year. Infections and allergies did not make an appearance in the collected data, putting to rest the idea that White-tails were carrying abnormally potent cocktails of flesh-eating bacteria on their fangs.
Most notably, the peculiar condition called necrotising arachnidism did not raise its head.
Here’s the pointy end of the problem: We’ve all got an aunty/cousin/friend of a friend/uber driver who has lost half a leg to a White-tail bite, which would seemingly fly in the face of all this carefully gathered evidence. So is the White-tail a fiend to fear after all? If we want to get to the truth of these cases, we don’t just need the facts. We need to start asking the right questions.
A White-tailed spider hunting an orb-weaving spider in its web.
Q1: Was there ever a spider at all?
The first thing to make absolutely sure about in cases of White-tail bites is that there was actually a spider involved. It might sound a strange line of enquiry, but in too many cases of medically-diagnosed White-tail bites, there was simply never a spider.
Commonly, the patient felt a sudden pain while doing some activity such as gardening or sleeping. An ulcer later developed, and this “pain” is diagnosed retrospectively as a spider bite.
In other cases, a spider may have been spotted crawling on the person a week earlier, or found somewhere in the house, but never actually bit the patient. Given how common White-tails (among other spiders) are around the house, it’s not at all unly that one might turn up in a search.
If no spider was witnessed doing the biting, it’s extremely difficult to prove that there was ever a bite, let alone that the bite came from a spider.
When they’re not patrolling the house after dark, White-tailed Spiders hang out in luxurious silk-lined retreats under tree bark or rocks.
Q2: Was the spider a White-tail?
Since there is currently no evidence tying the White-tail to necrosis, any case where a person was definitively bitten by a spider and developed a necrotic wound at the bite site would need to start from scratch. Such a confirmed case in Australia would more ly be due to the introduced population of Recluse Spiders (Loxosceles rufescens) living in Adelaide (although such an event would be rare).
While it might seem a relatively simple task to identify a White-tail spider if you saw one, the estimated 10,000 species of spider in Australia does increase the difficulty of the task. In my work, I have witnessed a huge number of spiders incorrectly identified as White-tails, from Orb-weavers and Jumping Spiders, to Trapdoor Spiders, Black House Spiders and many more.
Any spider with a white line or spot (or even without one) seems at risk of earning the name “White-tail”, which does cast a shadow on all the supposed certainty around White-tail bites. The track record for Recluse Spider identification is no better.
To be absolutely certain, any case of a spider bite with complications would require the spider to be collected and identified by a spider specialist.
There is currently no test for White-tail spider bites (or other spider bites), so any diagnoses made in the absence of a spider are guesses (even by doctors).
Easy to pick? Here are just some of the spiders I’ve seen misidentified as White-tails over the years.
Q3: What other factors are at play?
It’s clear from rounding up the data from spider bites across Australia that a case of necrotising arachnidism would be an absolute rarity. Unless there is absolutely indisputable evidence that spider venom caused the wound, casting suspicion on a spider – and a specific type of spider at that – is reckless.
In the cases where necrotic “White-tail spider bites” were properly followed up, each turned out to have a different and unrelated cause. When treating these potentially serious conditions, blaming White-tails is not only a waste of precious time, it could put the patient in more danger by forgoing proper testing or appropriate treatment.
Imagine being diagnosed with a White-tail bite only to later discover you have skin cancer!
It’s imperative for everyone who develops a serious skin condition that the true cause isn’t overlooked in order to keep a scary story alive. Many misdiagnosed bites have a simple treatment once the real condition is identified. Before passing on another White-tail story, make sure you take the time to ask the right questions.
For assistance identifying spiders get the award-winning Spidentify app.
white tailed spider bites
|Australian White Tailed Spiders||www.toxinology.com|
This is a brief overview of information on Australian white tailed spiders, information on the main Clinical Toxinology Resources Website. For more detail and up-to-date information on white tailed spiders, covered at species level, visit www.toxinology.
com and search for “spiderbite” in the First Aid menu, or search for specific information on white tailed spiders in the Spiders – Search menu, using either “white tailed spider” in the common name field or select “Lampona” in the Genus field.
The information on this page will not be regularly updated, because regular updated information can be obtained from the main toxinology website, listed above.
Taxonomy of white tailed spiders
There are currently many species listed for the Genus Lampona. Only one is considered as a significant cause of bites:
White tailed spider, Lampona cylindrata
For more detailed information on white tailed spiders, including distribution maps and photos, use the Clinical Toxinology Resources Website at www.toxinology.com and search for specific information on white tailed spiders in the Spiders – Search menu, using either “white tailed spider” in the common name field or select “Lampona” in the Genus field.
Distribution of white tailed spiders
White tailed spiders are common throughout much of Australia, including Tasmania and have spread elsewhere, including New Zealand. They are common hunting spiders, frequently found in houses.
Venom of white tailed spiders
Spider venoms are generally complex mixtures of substances, often with one or more key components which cause most clinical effects in humans.
However, studies so far on white tailed spider venom have not found major components ly to cause great harm to humans. In particular, no components causing significant skin damage have been found.
For more up-to-date information on white tailed spiders use the Clinical Toxinology Resources Website at www.toxinology.com and search for specific information on white tailed spiders in the Spiders – Search menu, using either “white tailed spider” in the common name field or select “Lampona” in the Genus field.
Clinical effects of white tailed spider bites
White tailed spiders have only weak venom and cannot cause major envenoming (envenomation) of humans. They are probably a common cause of Spiderbites in Australia, but do not appear to cause major harmful effects.
In particular, despite a common belief they can cause skin damage and ulcers, there is no good scientific evidence to support this and bites generally cause only mild local effects. The bite is usually felt and is painful, sometimes very painful for a short time, but pain is not long lasting.
A local lump may form at the bite site, but this resolves over hours to a few days. Secondary infection of the bite site is possible, but is rare. Ulcers do not develop.
For more and up-to-date information on white tailed spider bite use the Clinical Toxinology Resources Website at www.toxinology.com and search for specific information on white tailed spiders in the Spiders – Search menu, using either “white tailed spider” in the common name field or select “Lampona” in the Genus field.
First aid treatment
First aid for white tailed spider bite is the same as for other Australian Spiderbites and is simple wound care. Pressure immobilisation bandaging is not required.
For details of the method, use the Clinical Toxinology Resources Website at www.toxinology.com and search for “spiderbite” in the First Aid menu, or search for specific information on white tailed spiders in the Spiders – Search menu, using either “white tailed spider” in the common name field or select “Lampona” in the Genus field.
Medical treatment of white tailed spider bite
In general, white tailed spiderbites do not require medical treatment. The bite site should be cleaned with disinfectant, as for any other wound. If pain is significant, give an oral pain killing drug. Only if the pain persists, the patient becomes generally unwell or the bite area develops blisters or becomes discoloured should medical attention be sought.
For further overview information, use the Clinical Toxinology Resources Website at www.toxinology.com and search for specific information on white tailed spiders in the Spiders – Search menu, using either “white tailed spider” in the common name field or select “Lampona” in the genus field. Treatment information will be listed near the bottom of the page.
For detailed information on medical treatment on the Clinical Toxinology Resources Website you need to access the subscriber-only area, but substantial information, is also available in the online version of the CSL Antivenom Handbook, also available on this site. There is no antivenom available for white tailed spider bite, nor is an antivenom needed.
(PDF) White-tail spider bites
Data were obtained for 50 consecutive cases of
suspected White-tail spider bites. In only two cases
was a White-tail spider bite considered possible.
Of the remaining 48 patients, most presented with
inflammatory dermatoses, followed by infections,
inflammatory immune responses and other
probable insect bites (Table 1).
In the two cases where a spider bite was considered
ly, both patients claimed to have seen the spider
in the act of biting. The patients had puncture
marks in the skin, and complained of a mildly
painful reaction around the bite that persisted for
approximately 24 hours. In neither case, however,
was the involvement of Lampona spp. confirmed by
proper taxonomic identification of specimens.
Spiders in New Zealand
Whilst there are an estimated 2,500 species of spider
in New Zealand,6 confirmed bites are relatively rare
occurrences. Although isolated incidents of spider
bites have been reported in New Zealand associated
with half a dozen or so species,6-8 in reality, only the
Latrodectus species are documented to be venomous
to humans. Australian redback spiders (L. hasselti)
are commonly intercepted on imported goods, but
there seem to be only isolated populations of these
spiders in this country. Therefore, despite being a
regular hazard to humans in Australia,9 the same
does not apply in New Zealand. There are records
of envenomation by the native katipo (L. atritus and
L. katipo),8,9 but since these are sparsely distributed
and reclusive, bites are rare.8,9 There are two White-
tail spiders, Lampona cylindrata and L. murina, which
have been in New Zealand for more than 100 years.1
They are nocturnal and often associated with
human dwellings.1 Whilst not aggressive to humans,
they will bite if provoked. The bite is immediately
painful, so it is usually possible to see and catch the
The following basic diagnostic criteria for White-tail
spider bites are recommended:
1. A White-tail spider must be observed in the act of
biting (not just observed in the vicinity)3
2. Bites are immediately symptomatic3
3. Puncture wounds are usually visible in the first 24
4. Reaction in most cases should settle within 72
Ideally the spider should be caught and sent for
proper taxonomic identification (see Derraik et
al.2 for guidance in this regard), although digital
photography may be a reasonable alternative.
Cases in New Zealand that do not fulfil the
above criteria are unly to have been caused
by White-tail spider bites. First consider other
insect bites such as fleas, ‘sandflies’ (Simuliidae) or
mosquitoes, particularly if they are itchy. If there
is a suggestion of infection, consider Staphylococcus
aureus folliculitis, ecthyma or cellulitis. If the lesion
persists, consider inflammatory dermatoses and
if the lesion blisters, consider one of the many
Most White-tail spider bites will settle with no
treatment. Ice can be applied for immediate
pain control, followed by standard doses of
anti-inflammatories and/or anti-histamines for
symptomatic relief. Secondary infection of any
broken skin can occur: treat initially with an
antiseptic cream such as 1% hydrogen peroxide or
10% povidone-iodine. Rarely cellulitis can develop:
consider treatment for Streptococcus or Staphylococcus
aureus infection with oral flucloxacillin (erythromycin
if allergic to penicillin).
1. Banks J, Sirvid P, Vink C. White-tailed spider bites – arachnophobic fallout? NZ
Med J 2004; 117(1188): U748.
2. Derraik JGB, Sirvid P, Vink C, Hall G. White-tail tales. NZ Med J 2008; 121(1269):
3. Isbister GK, Gray MR. White-tail spider bite: a prospective study of 130 definite
bites by Lampona species. Med J Aust 2003; 179: 199-202.
4. Atkinson RK, Wright LG. Studies of the necrotic actions of the venoms of several
Australian spiders. Comp Biochem Physiol C 1991; 98: 441-4.
5. Rash LD, King RG, Hodgson WC. Sex differences in the pharmacological activity
of venom from the White-tailed spider (Lampona cylindrata). Toxicon 2000; 38:
6. Forster R, Forster L. Spiders of New Zealand and Their Worldwide Kin.
University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 1999.
7. Chamberlain G. Arachnoidism as applied to New Zealand spiders. A preliminary
note. Rec Auckland Inst Museum 1947; 3: 157-9.
8. O’Donnell M. A review of records of spider bites on humans in New Zealand
including some previously unpublished records. The Weta 1983; 6: 72-4.
9. Sutherland SK, Trinca JC. Survey of 2144 cases of red-back spider bites. Med J
Aust 1978; 2: 620-3.
ACC5089 Printed April 2009 ©ACC 2009
217599-Pr#5.indd 2217599-Pr#5.indd 2 02/04/2009 14:47:5502/04/2009 14:47:55
White tailed Spiders : School of Biomedical Sciences
White-tailed spider (Lamponidae Lampona cylindrata; Photo by David McClenaghan, CSIRO)
White tailed spiders are readily identifiable by their cylindrical body shape and the presence of a white or grey spot on the end on their abdomen. They are active hunters, preying upon other types of spiders, and may be found roaming inside houses, especially in warmer weather.
White tailed spider (Lampona sp.)
(Photo A. Young, AVRU)
White tailed spiders are readily identifiable by their cylindrical body shape and the presence of a white or grey spot on the end on their abdomen. They are active hunters, preying upon other types of spiders, and may be found roaming inside houses, especially in warmer weather.
White tailed spiders are readily identified by a distinctive white spot on the abdomen, present in both males and females. They are often found in bedding, or in clothing that has been left on the floor, and are mainly active at night, when they hunt for prey of spiders and insects.
It is unknown whether the male and female are equally associated with skin necrosis. In most spider bite cases in which Lampona sp. have been positively identified, only a mild localised reaction or blister ensues.
There is, however, a small number of cases of significant tissue loss after a witnessed bite by these spiders.
White tailed spiders have been implicated in some cases of Necrotising Arachnidism (skin breakdown or ulceration following spider bites). The incidence of ulceration or necrosis following white tailed spider bite is not known. The majority of cases appear not to develop ongoing ulceration, although blisters and redness are common.
Most cases of witnessed white tailed spider bites do not develop ongoing ulceration, although blisters and redness are common.
- A small number of witnessed white tailed spider bite cases have been associated with skin ulceration or necrosis (breakdown of the skin).
- The incidence (number of cases) of ulceration or necrosis following white tailed spider bite is not known.
- The majority of alleged cases of necrotising arachnidism in Australia are circumstantial evidence at best.
- There is currently no test available, clinically or experimentally, that can confirm or exclude the diagnosis of white tailed spider bite (or any other spider bite).
- There is currently no antivenom or other specific treatment for white tailed spider bite.
- No treatment has been shown in clinical or experimental trials to be of particular benefit in the treatment of ulcers ascribed to white tailed spider bites.
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been used to treat ulcers of various origins, including suspected spider bite, with some success. There are case reports of its success in the healing of some ulcers thought to be due to spider bite, but no controlled trials have been conducted.
Clinical photographs of a confirmed white tailed spider bite: L-R Day 4 after the bite, Day 8 after the bite, Day 18 after the bite
Photos: K. Hoyle
Do white-tailed spiders cause necrotic ulcers?
There is little evidence that bites from the white-tailed spider result in severe or necrotic ulceration. In a study of 130 patients with confirmed white-tailed spider bites, no cases of necrotic ulcers were observed (Isbister & Gray, 2003).
The notion that necrotic ulcers could be caused by bites of white-tailed spiders has been in the zeitgeist for decades.
The belief stands that either the venom itself or bacteria in the venom of the spider result in a syndrome of blistering and ulceration or necrosis surrounding the bite site.
While bacterial infections can certainly lead to necrotic injuries, no definitive link has been made between white-tailed spider bites and this condition.
To quote clinical toxinologist Prof Julian White (1999), “the white-tailed spider is often suspected but never confirmed to be the culprit. In most cases, a spider is found in the house after the bite and an unsubstantiated link is made.'
White-tail spider bite: a prospective study of 130 definite bites by Lampona species
Med J Aust 2003; 179 (4): 199-202. || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2003.tb05499.x
Published online: 18 August 2003
White-tail spider bite has attracted significant media and public attention in Australia over the past 20 years.1-3 It has become a feared condition that is purported to cause ulceration and necrotic lesions for which there is no effective treatment.
Before 1980, there were scattered reports of definite white-tail spider bites causing minimal effects.4,5 However, over the past 20 years, necrotic lesions and ulcers have been attributed to white-tail spider bites.
6-11 In a few cases, houses were searched for spiders and it was suggested that either white-tail spiders or, in some early cases, wolf spiders (Lycosidae) were responsible for the ulcers.
1,6 Several reports of necrotic lesions attributed to white-tail spider bites have been published since then,3,7-10 despite lack of evidence of an identified white-tail spider biting the patient. These reports led to increased fear in the 1990s and general acceptance that white-tail spider bite causes necrotic ulcers.
Here we report a prospective cohort study of definite white-tail spider bites with expert identification of the spiders. The white-tail spiders in this study belong to two species, Lampona cylindrata and L. murina, both commonly encountered species in southern and eastern Australia (Box 1).12 Our hypothesis is that white-tail spider bites do not cause necrotic ulcers or lesions.
Subjects were recruited prospectively during a 39-month period from February 1999 to April 2002.
Most were a subgroup of a large, prospective study of all spider bites in Australia, conducted from 1 February 1999 to 30 April 2001.
13 In the following 12 months, the same methodology was used, but only including white-tail spiders (this study), redback spiders,14 and mygalomorph spiders (unpublished).
Cases were recruited from emergency department presentations and calls to New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australian poisons information centres. Although the study covered the whole of Australia for the 12-hour period overnight, it did not recruit from Victoria during the day.
Cases were only included if there was a definite history of spider bite and the spider had been collected at the time of the bite. Patients were seen or contacted within 24 hours of the bite where possible, and then followed up by telephone after 1 week, or until the clinical features had resolved. Verbal and written consent for the study was obtained from all patients.
The following information was recorded for each spider bite: patient demographics, circumstances of the bite (location, time, activity at the time, season), bite site, local and systemic effects, past medical history, and management (hospital attendance, first aid, treatment).
A standard spider information sheet was completed at the time of each call by G K I and entered into a database (full details available from the authors).15 Severe pain was defined as pain greater than a bee sting or equivalent. Duration of effects was defined as the length of time of objective signs and symptoms of the bite.
An asymptomatic red mark remaining at the bite site was not included in the duration.
The spider was either collected directly from the patient or mailed to the authors for identification. Spiders were stored in 70% ethanol and kept at the Australian Museum.
Spider identification was done by an expert arachnologist (M G). All spiders were identified to species level.
Morphological characteristics (mainly genitalic) and geographical distribution data were used to identify the species.12
Ethics approval was obtained from the Central Sydney Area Health Service Ethics Review Committee (RPAH Zone), the Joint Institutional Ethics Committee of the Royal Darwin Hospital and the Menzies School of Health Research, and the Ethics Committee of the Royal Children’s Hospital and District, Brisbane, to cover all institutions involved.
For descriptive statistics, median and interquartile range (IQR) were used for data not normally distributed. Fischer’s exact test was used for comparison of proportions and the Mann–Whitney test for comparison of medians. All statistical analysis was done using GraphPad Instat,16 and confidence intervals were calculated with StatMate.17
During the initial 27-month period, 1474 subjects with spider bites were recruited.13 Of these, 122 had a definite bite by a white-tail spider and the spider was collected for identification.
Twelve cases in which spiders were collected were excluded (eight were suspected bites, three were not bites, and in one case possibly the wrong spider was collected).
A further eight cases were recruited in the 12 months after the major study, to give 130 definite white-tail spider bites: 79 by L. cylindrata and 51 by L. murina.
The 130 patients included 60 males (46%) and 70 females (54%), aged 3–76 years, with a median age of 30.5 years (IQR, 19–45 years). There were 25 children (age