- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
White Tail Spider Bite – Symptoms and Treatment
White tailed spiders are a species of spiders which are found in the eastern and southern parts of Australia. They are not too large or too small. They are referred to as white tailed spiders due to the presence of a whitish spot in the last section of their abdomen.Lampona murina and the Lampona cylindrata are the two most common species of white tailed spiders. Both these species have been introduced into different regions in New Zealand.
As opposed to other kinds of spiders, white tailed spiders do not spin a web to entrap their victims. Instead, they wander around in their habitat and find and hunt down the prey. They are venomous and also have a tendency to kill other types of spiders.
Many humans have suffered from white tail spider bites. The bite can result in a number of symptoms such as localized pain and swelling, occurrence of a reddened patch, irritation, and itching. Sometimes, additional symptoms such as headaches, malaise, nausea, and vomiting may also be noticed.
It was a widespread belief that white tailed spider bites resulted in development of ulcers and necrosis, i.e. gradual deterioration of the skin. A 2003 study carried out by Gray and Isbister has however proved this myth to be false.
Lampona murina and Lampona cylindrata, the two most common types of white tailed spiders are almost similar in appearance. As compared to Lampona murina, Lampona cylindrata is slightly larger in size. The male species of the latter can reach a full body length of about 12mm, while females can grow up to 18 mm. Their legs have a diametrical span of approximately 28 mm.
Both the types of this spider species have to be investigated under a microscope to get a clear differentiation. Both of them are quite slim and feature an elongated body that is either gray or dark reddish in color. The legs feature bands that are dark orange-brown in color. Two light white marks can also be observed on their abdomens. However, the primary characteristic is the prominent white mark present at the tip, just above the web-spinning gland.
The stark resemblance in the appearance of these two kinds of white tailed spiders has led to an incorrect belief that only one type occurs. Researchers also affirm that several other kinds of white tailed spider species are present, but they are not identified as yet. It is however accepted that all types are distinguished and classified as white tailed spiders by the striking white tip occurring at their abdominal ends. There are other distinct features that are present at birth, but which disappear during growth and shedding. The white tail however remains during the entire course of its life. The eggs of the Lampona cylindrata are pinkish in color. They are walled by a flattened silk enclosure and protected by the mother till they hatch.
As mentioned above, white tailed spiders do not spin webs. The ends of their legs have special hairs that allow them to crawl on evena glass surface. They are nocturnal creatures and generally hunt down other spiders, particularly the black house spider.
White tailed spiders can be noticed living inside homes, in gardens and leaf clusters, under rocks, and underneath the barks of trees. They can also be seen to inhabit in the folds of towels, clothes, and in shoes.Hence, they are most likely to come across humans, usually on the beds, inside closets, or ina towel rack. Since they roam from one place to another, the reported cases of white tailed spider bites in Australia are far greater than bites caused by other species of spiders. A study conducted in Australia to ascertain the percentage of white tailed spider bites has indicated that nearly sixty percent of all reported spider bites are caused by this species.
Symptoms of White Tail Spider Bites
Some of the signs and symptoms of white tailed spider bites are listed below:
- White tailed spider bites are often noticed on the legs and arms
- There may be localized redness that is accompanied by inflammation, pain, and itchiness of the affected skin area. The pain is however short-lived and fades away quickly
- On occasions the location of the white tailed spider bite may elicit a reddish bump. Incessant scratching can cause the skin to tear up and result in an open wound which is then susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.
- The bite can also be sometimes accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, nausea, mild illness, and headaches. These symptoms also vanish without treatment.
- The venom of white tailed spiders is not potent. Hence, unlike the widespread myth, white tailed spider bites do not lead to development of ulcers or extensive skin damage.
Treatment of White Tail Spider Bites
White tailed spider bites do not result in any health complications. The symptoms may be treated in the following ways:
- The site affected by the spider bite has to be thoroughly washed with soap and water
- Local pain may persist for many hours, while minor swelling may last for a day or two. You can use non-prescription pain killers to alleviate the pain. Swelling and inflammation may be eased via use of topical corticosteroids. The pain and swelling can also be reduced by application of ice compresses after every 2 to 3 hours.
- Itchiness and stinging sensations can be decreased by using anti-sting ointments. You may also apply an ice cube or a paste made from cold water and baking soda to the affected site. Doctors may also recommend antihistamines to find relief from itching.
- A severe allergic reaction to spider bites called anaphylaxis is a life-threatening situation and requires emergency care. It can be identified by varied symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness, swelling around eyes and lips, tightness in chest and/or throat, hoarse voice, rapid rash formation, fainting or dizziness, swallowing difficulties, persistent coughs or sneezing, high fever, and pale skin.
It is a good option to try to catch the spider and take it to the doctor for examination.