A dog-sized spider? No way, not for me

ACTIVITY

Anytime I see the word ‘spider’ a chill creeps (like those eight-legged monstrosities) down my spine. I, like many sane, completely rational people, have what you might call a healthy fear of spiders. I put it down to my neglectful parents letting me watch the film Arachnophobia as a 10 year old.

Seriously, even seeing a daddy-long-legs dance wistfully along the wall like a bizarre hurdy-gurdy man is enough to give me the heebie jeebies.

So imagine the gut-wrenching horror I felt when I read a recent story an entomologist stumbling upon a colossal South American Goliath bird-eating spider that was as big as a dog.

Now take a moment and let that sink in a bit… the spider was as BIG AS A DOG!

Okay, so it wasn’t as big as the French Mastiff from Turner and Hooch, but it was big enough. And no, the fact that it is virtually harmless to humans, doesn’t assuage my sense of dread when seeing pictures of its 30 centimetre leg span. Luckily though, this particular nightmare creature doesn’t live in Australia. You may all breathe a mighty sigh of relief.

This tail and another about a family in the UK who discovered a highly venomous tarantula family (yes, family) in their bunch of bananas reminded me of the time I was bitten by white-tailed spider a few years ago.

It was a typical hot summer’s eve and I was scoffing a bowl of ice-cream while watching the cricket, and as I moved one of the many scatter cushions on our couch I felt a painful bite on my shin.

My attacker, commonly found around the home, must have snuck in to do some late-evening hunting and disturbed by my cushion flicking, sank its fangs into me as a warning to stop doing what I was doing.

The pain was unbearable. The bite area became swollen and itchy and about fifteen to twenty minutes later I felt nauseous and had a thumping headache. I was taken to the hospital and gradually the symptoms subsided. Thankfully I wasn’t allergic to the spider’s venom, but the pain of that evening and the ensuing scar tissue has left me a little more wary (by wary I mean completely terrified) of our arachnid neighbours.

Despite my unfortunate incident, the risk of a deadly spider bite is relatively low, but there are a number of spiders we need to be respectful of; from the humble and very common black house spider to the pretty, yet toxic red-back to the fearsome and aggressive funnel-web.

You can avoid spider bites by doing the following:

  • Always wear gloves, long trousers and shoes while gardening.
  • Wear shoes when walking around in the garden.
  • Inspect any suspected spider web or lair with a stick (or something similar), not your hands.
  • Shake out shoes before you put them on.
  • Don’t leave clothes on the floor – if you do, shake them out before you put them on.
  • Instruct children not to touch spiders.
  • Don’t assume that a spider at the bottom of a swimming pool is dead. Some spiders can survive in an air bubble for 24 hours or more.

If you think you may have been bitten by a spider, try to find out which species it was or catch the spider and dial 000 or 111 for our kiwi friends.

Find more information on spider bites and how to avoid them.


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