A white-tailed spider.

A white-tailed spider.

White-tailed spider

White-tailed spiders are common in urban environments where they are often found wandering houses at night in search of prey.

  • 31 October 2008 | Updated 8 February 2013

Description

White-tailed (or white-tipped) spiders have a dull black, elongate body with a distinctive white spot at the end of the abdomen.

Females have a plump abdomen and grow up to 20 mm long, while males are thinner and grow to about 12 mm long.

Adult white-tailed spiders have reddish legs and two pairs of faint white spots on the top of the abdomen. Young spiders have striped legs with more distinct white spots which fade with age.

White-tailed spiders are found in southern Australia including Tasmania. They are commonly found in homes and other buildings, although their natural habitat is under rocks, fallen timber and bark in gardens and bushland.

White-tailed spiders are recognisable by the distinctive white spot at the end of their abdomen.

Life history

White-tailed spiders mature in summer. They do not live in a web but wander slowly in search of prey, which mostly consists of other spiders.

During the day they seek dark places to hide before emerging at night to feed.

White-tailed spiders lay eggs in a silken brood chamber placed in a dark, sheltered place. The females guard their eggs until the spiderlings hatch.

Spiderlings disperse on foot and hunt tiny prey independently.

Pest status and management

The white-tailed spider has a bad reputation, but there is no proof that its bite causes long-term tissue damage.

Most victims suffer only localised pain, redness and swelling which may last from a few hours to a few days, although in some cases the symptoms are more severe.

White-tails will shelter under almost anything including clothes left on the floor overnight and bed coverings, a habit which gives rise to frequent bites. Avoid leaving clothes on the floor, and check under bed coverings before getting into bed.

Kill or evict any spiders seen wandering inside the house at night.

CSIRO Entomology is not currently researching white-tailed 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.

Find out more about our work with Animal Pests.