Australian 'monster' not so deadly


A deadly Australian red-back spider found in Leixlip, Co Kildare turned out to be little more than a case of mistaken identity when the creature in question was identified as a common European spider at Dublin Zoo today.

Australian Mike Carter discovered what he believed to be the deadly spider while carrying out work on a pillar outside a house in Leixlip. Mr Carter, who has seen red-backs in his native Australia, said he recognised the creature’s web before capturing the spider in a crack in the pillar.

He took the spider in a jar to Dublin Zoo because he feared people would not identify the spider as potentially deadly.

The red-back is closely related to the notorious black widow spider and differs in appearance only by the absence of a red dorsal stripe. Only the female’s bite is dangerous but its venom acts directly on the nerves causing illness and in some cases death.

Director of Dublin Zoo Leo Oosterweghel said while the arachnid resembles an Australian red-back it is a harmless European spider.

“I can understand why he mistook it for an Australian red-backed spider, but its not, it’s a European species,” he told The Irish Times.

Mr Oosterweghel warned that while the Australian creature is far more dangerous than its European cousin, people should be careful as any spider can be dangerous especially if sensitive or allergic.

“You always have to be careful of spiders because they do have mandibles which they inject into their prey.

“There are European spiders that can still be quite painful and unpleasant but nothing like what you see in Australia - especially for people with sensitivity and allergy - they can kill you.”

Mr Oosterweghel thanked Mr Carter for bringing the spider to the Zoo’s attention and encouraged the public to send in photographs if they come across any unidentified creatures in future.

As for the spider in question, Mr Oosterweghel has decided to give it a new home.

“I actually like spiders so I’m going to keep it for a while and see how it goes.”