Trapdoor spider from the Keep River area of the Northern Territory, Australia.

The common name, trapdoor spider, covers several families of spiders.

Trapdoor spiders

Trapdoor spiders are found across most of Australia and consist of many different species from several families.

  • 31 October 2008 | Updated 8 February 2013

Description

The term trapdoor spider is applied to many different burrowing species within the spider group Mygalomorphae, and correctly identifying them is a matter for specialists. For example, mouse spiders are just one kind of trapdoor spider.

The name, trapdoor, is in reference to the silken lid that plugs the burrow. However, some wolf spiders also make lids to their burrows, while some trapdoor spiders do not.

Trapdoor spiders are robust spiders and black or brown in colour. Some species have paler markings or a silky covering of hair.

They range in size from one to five centimetres depending on the species.

Different species of trapdoor spider are found in all parts of Australia including Tasmania. They are more diverse in moist forest habitats.

Life history

Trapdoor spiders live in silk-lined burrows which they dig in the soil. The burrow protects the spider from predators, parasites and provides semi-constant conditions of temperature and humidity.

One kind of trapdoor, the tube spiders, extends the tube of silk several centimetres above ground, attached to a twig, rock or tree trunk.

Female trapdoor spiders stay in the burrow their whole life and may live as long as 20 years. Males leave their burrow at maturity (around two or three years old) to wander in search of a mate, after which they perish.

Trapdoor spiders feed mostly on ground-living insects captured at the entrance to the burrow. Common prey items may include:

Trapdoor spiders are usually not aggressive although they will bite if provoked.
  • crickets
  • moths
  • beetles
  • grasshoppers.

Pest status and management

Some trapdoor spiders reach a large size and can deliver a painful bite with large fangs. However, symptoms are usually no more than local pain and swelling.

Seek medical attention if symptoms persist and use caution to collect the spider for a positive identification.

Control of trapdoor spiders is impractical and unnecessary.

CSIRO Entomology is not currently researching trapdoor spiders. This fact sheet is provided for information only.

State museums and Canberra Connect in the ACT will usually provide identification and advice for the general public.

For more spider fact sheets see Entomology's Factsheets & Publications.