The Find-a-Spider Guide

The Find-a-Spider Guide    The Find-a-Spider Guide    The Find-a-Spider Guide    The Find-a-Spider Guide

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The Find-a-spider Guide

Created by Dr Ron Atkinson
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Welcome to the Find-a-spider guide!

Have you found a spider but don't know what it is or whether or not it is dangerous to humans and domesticated animals? If so, this website may help you to identify it on the basis of what it looks like, how big it is, and where you found it. Current knowledge about the toxicity of each spider and some information relating to its natural history are also included.

PLEASE NOTE: This website only contains information on spiders found in South-east Queensland although many of the species included have a much wider distribution throughout Australia and a few are also found in other countries. If you have a spider that was found elsewhere in the world this site could still be of some value to you since many Australian spiders are related to, and bear a close resemblance to, species that are found on other continents so the information presented here may help you track down the kind of spider you are dealing with even though that species is not actually included on this website.

But what if you have heard about a particular spider but don't know what it looks like or need to find out more about it? Well, this site also allows you to search for it using either its common name or its scientific name. There is also a page on the venoms of the more hazardous spiders found in Australia and another page with information about spider silk.

For most people the best way to use this website probably is to first read the frequently-asked questions (FAQ) section and the associated information pages then click on the Find-a-spider tab at the top of each page. From there you can search for a particular spider on the basis of its common and scientific names, the location/habitat in which you found it, the family it belongs to and the burrow, web or egg sac it builds. If you find these methods difficult to use you can simply go to a page that offers you galleries of spider photos that will in turn direct you to pages on particular spider species.

Note: Recent additions to the information section of this website are pages on the functions of major spider body systems, spider defences, the tendency of some spiders to exhibit social or colonial behaviour and the creatures that are close relatives of the spiders, such as the ticks, mites, and scorpions.

What's happening in the spider world this season?

How the spider population in your area will present itself at this time of the year depends not only on the season but also on such things as which country or district you are living in, whether you live in forest, farmland or some other kind of environmental setting, and what particular weather conditions you have been experiencing lately. In general, it can be said that there are more adult spiders around during late spring to early autumn than for the colder months of the year because there are more insects around for them to feed on when the weather is warm. In addition, adult males of many species will only be found in summer and autumn because this is when the population of adult females will be greatest. Adult spiders will be hard to find during mid-winter unless they occupy a habitat that protects them from the adverse conditions of winter. Finally, you can expect to see plenty of immature spiders in autumn and in early spring and you will see more spiders in areas of high rainfall and fewer examples of most species during droughts.

If you are concerned about being bitten by one of Australia's life-threatening spiders it is worth noting that you have the greatest chance of finding male funnel-webs during the period late spring to early autumn, mouse spider males in autumn, and female red-back spiders at almost any time of the year. Please note that all other Australian spiders are presently considered not to be life-threatening and/or to be so infrequently seen that bitings almost never occur. There is also a widely held belief that the bites of white-tailed spider and some other Australian spider species can cause severe and long-lasting skin ulceration. Current evidence suggests that such concerns are largely unjustified. There is more information on this topic on the spider hazards page.

Email Ron Atkinson for more information.    Last updated 6 October, 2009.

Acknowledgments: The author wishes to publicly acknowledge the many people who have helped in the on-going development and operation of this website, in particular

* the University of Southern Queensland who hosted the the forerunner of this website over the period 2002-2009;
* the following expert arachnologists who provided species identifications and other advice or suggestions: Robert Raven, Val Davies and Barbara Baehr (Queensland Museum), Helen Smith (Australian Museum), David Hirst (South Australian Museum), Volker Framenau (Western Australian Museum) and Greg Anderson (QIMR);
* the many spider enthusiasts and especially Rob Whyte, Nick Monaghan, Trevor Jenks and Russel Denton who gave permission for the use their excellent photographs on this website.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the contents of this website are accurate, particularly in regard to the identity of individual spiders and the toxicity of their venoms to humans and domesticated animals. Unfortunately, much remains to be clarified about the taxonomy and toxicity of Australian spiders. For this reason, the author accepts no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property that might result from the application of information supplied at this website.

Copyright: The contents of this website (apart from those photos that display the photographer's name) remain the property of the author, Ron Atkinson. Those who visit the site are permitted to make copies of any image or piece of text they require PROVIDED the source of this material is acknowledged whenever it is published or made available to others, but PLEASE NOTE that any image that displays the name of the person who took it may NOT be copied since the copyright for it remains with the photographer.