Gardening or a walk in the bush can bring you in contact with some annoying and potentially poisonous creatures. Here’s is a guide to avoid or survive those poisonous bites and stings.​

Last updated: 21 May 2019

​Funnel web spider

Funnel Web Spider Funnel web spiders live in the ground and are found in New South Wales around the Sydney Basin, Blue Mountains, Hunter region, Central Coast and south coast. It is one of the best known and most dangerous spiders in Australia. Funnel web spider venom is highly toxic and considered potentially dangerous. In some rare, extreme cases the bite can be fatal. Symptoms of funnel web spider bite include tingling sensations around the lips, sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache and high blood pressure and, in serious cases, fluid in the lungs and unconsciousness.

How to avoid funnel web spider bites

Loosely placed rocks and logs in the garden make an excellent habitat for funnel web spiders. You are more likely to encounter funnel web spiders during the warmer months, especially late summer, and also after rainfall that floods the spiders’ nests or spraying of pesticide that sends them looking for alternative shelter.

To avoid funnel web spider bites:

  • keep your garden free of rubble and rubbish where spiders can hide
  • wear shoes, gloves and long sleeved shirt when working in the garden
  • check shoes and households items for spiders.

What should I do if am bitten by a funnel web spider?

As most of the bites tend to be on the hands and feet, a pressure immobilisation bandage should be applied to the bitten limb. Seek urgent medical attention at hospital once the bandage is applied. If it is safe, collect the spider in a jar or container so the species can be identified.

Redback spiders

Redback SpiderRedback spiders are found commonly throughout Australia, especially in drier and built up areas. The spiders are shiny black in colour with a distinctive red stripe running along the length of their body. The venom from these spiders contains excitatory neurotoxins and they stimulate the nervous system. In most cases, redback spider bites cause severe, localised pain that may last for several days. In some cases, the localised pain can develop into more general symptoms, including sweating, nausea, weakness, chest pain and abdominal pain.

How to avoid redback spider bites

The redback spider is most commonly encountered in the garden, but bites are also reported in the home, particularly when putting on shoes.

To avoid redback spider bites:

  • take care when working in the backyard and avoid putting your hands into places you can’t see (e.g. under rocks, between piles of building materials)
  • when gardening and backyard cleanups, wear shoes, gloves and a long sleeved shirt
  • check shoes and clothing before putting them on, especially if they have not been worn for long periods of time or have been kept outside.

What should I do if am bitten by a redback spider?

Wash the bitten area with soap and keep it clean. Apply cold compresses and ice packs to reduce pain. Pressure bandages should not be applied as they make the pain worse. If the pain is severe and persistent, seek medical attention.

Emergency contacts

  • NSW Poisons Information Centre (Operates 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week) - 13 11 26
  • Ambulance – 000
  • Public Health Units - 1300 066 055

Further reading

Current as at: Tuesday 21 May 2019
Contact page owner: Environmental Health