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What’s black and red with a potent attack?

June 19, 2014

Essendon? You are kidding — not since Matty Lloyd. It’s the Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasseltii).

DSCN8571I grew up in Ringwood on a half-acre block through which flowed the Mullum Mullum Creek. My childhood was spent racing through the creek-side bush collecting bugs. In those days I was warned of only two dangers – snakes and Redback Spiders. The latter inhabited our outside toilet (in the days when you had outside toilets). I had not thought about Redbacks for 30 years or more until last Saturday when I opened up our water pump housing and met one eye-to-eyes.

Messy, messy, messy

Messy, messy, messy

Redbacks, closely related to the Black Widow spider of North America, are so called because the female spider is glossy black with a red stripe down the back and a red hour-glass shape underneath the abdomen (see picture above). The male is smaller and brown. They build ‘messy’ webs in quiet and dark places. Another reason for wearing gloves when gardening! White egg sacs are often suspended in the web, pictured right.

The venom is neurotoxic and though dangerous to humans, of the hundreds of bites reported every year there have been no reported human deaths since the anti-venom was developed. You are in more danger of dying if you are the male spider. During mating the male offers itself for sacrifice and is consumed by the female. This act is thought to increase the chances of his genes being propagated by prolonging the act of copulation (it takes longer to eat and mate at the same time).

As I am thinking of the past I am going to complete my nostalgic tour by searching through my cassette collection for the album Welcome to my Nightmare by Alice Cooper, Track 3: The Black Widow. Oh to be young again.


One Comment leave one →
  1. June 20, 2014 12:16 am

    I want to not like this post, as I don’t like redbacks!

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