Red-back Without Red Back

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Red-back Without Red Back

Red-backs (Latrodectus hasseltii) are usually glossy black, with a distinctive red/orange stripe on the abdomen. However, it is not uncommon to find variations on this pattern. Don came across a red-back without any red on its back at all.

Red-backs are very common throughout Australia, especially in urban areas. They like to hide in dry sheltered places, for example under the rims of flowerpots, in sheds, under the seats of outdoor toilets, underneath outdoor furniture and in piles of rubbish. The males are very small and are considered harmless. However bites from the pea-sized females can cause sweating, paralysis, nausea, vomiting and severe pain. There have been no fatalities since 1956, when a specific antivenom became available.

In the days of backyard dunnies 80% of victims were men using the toilet, which explains the popularity of Slim Newton’s song ‘Red-back on the Toilet Seat’. Nowadays most people are bitten on the limbs, and most bites are minor. Even so, hundreds of people require antivenom for Red-back Spider bites every year in Australia. If bitten by a Red-back Spider apply ice packs to the wound to relieve the pain and seek medical aid. Do not apply a pressure-immobilisation bandage, as pressure can make the pain worse.

Spider information on the web

Queensland Museum Explorer – The Red-back Spider (
Australian Museum Online – (
Australian Reptile Park – Spider Hotline (