White-Tailed Spider: How to Identify and Manage

The White-tailed spider is a terrifying, cigar-shaped nightmare of a spider. Unfortunately, its fearsome appearance and sneaky habit of hiding in between bed sheets garnered it a reputation as a dangerous biter that it does not deserve.

Despite years of research demonstrating otherwise, many people still believe the white-tailed spider bite causes excruciating pain, skin wounds, and even loss of limbs.

White-tailed spider
Extreme close up of a White-tailed Spider (Lampona murina). Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/chris moody

White-tailed spider: Description.

White-tailed spiders have dark gray-colored, cigar-shaped bodies. Their legs are orange-brown with faint darker brown to black bands. The white tail name refers to the white spot at the tip of the abdomen just above the spinnerets. In addition, there are two barely noticeable white spots on both sides of the dorsal. 

Despite its apparent size in most photos, the white-tailed female (50% larger than the male) is just under 3/4 of an inch in length.

And we’ll pause right here. Sadly, not every white-tailed spider has a white tail. When coupled with the fact that several other species of spider get tagged as white-tails, identification can be tricky. You have been warned.

White-tailed spiders: Distribution and habitat.

We know of two common white-tailed spiders, Lampona cylindrata and Lampona murina, and possibly others that have yet to be identified.

Lampona murina resides in eastern Australia’s Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales. Lampona cylindrata calls home much of southern Australia, including Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria.

Both species of white-tailed spiders (Lampona cylindrata and Lampona murina) have migrated and found suitable habitats in New Zealand. The Lampona murina has lived on the North Island and the Lampona cylindrata throughout the South Island since 1980.

Habitats of the white-tailed spider.

The white-tailed spider does not build a web. Instead, it hunts at night and most often is on the look out for other spiders.

They spend their days beneath rocks, leaves, logs, and bark. Near your home they can be seen in gardensIn gardens, found inside leaf piles, hiding in plant trimmings.

In your home, they like to hold up during the day in tight cracks and crevices, in between sheets, curtain folds, clothing left on the floor, and inside boots and shoes.

Feeding and diet

The white-tailed spider’s favorite delicacy is the common black spider. However, it will also attack an d consume just about any spider inside your home including redback spiders, curtain-web spiders, and daddy-long-leg spiders.

They are most active at night when they wander about hunting for other spiders, their preferred food. They have been recorded eating curtain-web spiders (Dipluridae), daddy-long-legs spiders (Pholcidae), Redback Spiders (Theridiidae) and black house spiders (Desidae) During summer and autumn White-tailed Spiders are often seen in and around houses where they find both sheltered nooks and crannies and plenty of their favoured black house spider prey.

How to manage and get rid of white-tailed spiders.

The best way to prevent or rid your home of white-tailed spiders is to keep your home tidy. Indeed, a tidy home is a terrible for place for any spider to live, and the cleaner your house, the fewer spiders will take up residence.

And do not forget, the only reason the white-tailed spider is in your home is to eat the spiders living inside it.

Dust and vacuum your curtains, ceilings, wall corners and any cobwebs you find. Keep laundry off the floor and clean up any messes that might attract the insects that other spiders feed upon. Visit the attic and basement and get the dark, rarely visited spots cleaned out every few months.

Where possible, treat the interior and exterior of your home with a spider repellent.

White-tailed spider bites: Are the dangerous?

White-tailed Spider bites sometimes cause a burning pain, swelling and itchiness on and around the bitten area. In the past and even today, unconfirmed reports of necrotising arachnidism have been reported—but this is medically disputed.

As in this article:

According to THE NEW ZEALAND MEDICAL JOURNAL, Vol 117, No 1188, ISSN 1175 8716
White-tailed spider bites – arachnophobic fallout?
By Jonathan Banks, Phil Sirvid and Cor Vink.

Aim: To investigate if public concern regarding the toxic effects of the bites from white-tailed spiders, Lampona cylindrata and L. murina, is reflected in the case histories of patients admitted to Christchurch Hospital with a diagnosis of spider bite.

Methods: The case histories of patients admitted to Christchurch Hospital with a
diagnosis of ‘contact with venomous spiders’ were examined for evidence that the patients developed necrotising arachnidism.

Results: Ten patients were admitted to Christchurch Hospital between January 2001 and January 2003 with a diagnosis of ‘contact with venomous spiders’. We found no evidence that patients developed necrotising arachnidism. No patients admitted to Christchurch Hospital required re-admission to treat sequelae of the putative spider bite. Support for a spider bite as the causative agent was not robust and alternative agents could have been the cause.

Conclusions: The public’s fear of bites from white-tailed spiders is likely misplaced and, if the spider was not caught in the act of biting the patient, alternative diagnoses should be considered before assuming a white-tailed spider was responsible for the patient’s symptoms.

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Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for ThePredatorHunter.com.

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