Weird & Wild

Warm Weather Sparks Spider Boom in Australia

"Perfect conditions" mean more arachnids in the Sydney area and beyond.

Enlarge

St. Andrew's Cross spiders are among the species now thriving in Australia.


Politicians aren't the only creepy creatures having a good season: Warm weather has made for "perfect conditions" for a bloom of spiders around Sydney, Australia, reports the Australian Museum.

A warm summer down under has led to a boom in various arthropod species, from flies to moths, and that abundance of prey has meant many more spiders are surviving to adulthood than during leaner years. Some spider moms even produced two and three sets of offspring this year. 

Giant webs can be seen streaking across the landscape. Redbacks, huntsmen, golden orbs, and St. Andrews Cross spiders are said to be particularly prevalent. (See when millions of spiders rained down on the countryside.)

These kinds of boom and bust cycles are pretty common in nature, says Louis Sorkin, an arachnologist with the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

"The warm weather generally around the world accounts for good numbers of arthropods," says Sorkin. "Unfortunately, many people associate them with pest species in their (human) environment."

In other words, many people don't like having spiders in their homes. But they shouldn't be afraid, says Sorkin, because spiders perform critical ecosystem services, by keeping pesky prey like mosquitoes and flies in check and recycling nutrients.

Although some spiders do have venom strong enough to be dangerous to people, bites from them are quite rare. The animals tend to be much more scared of us than we should be of them. Most of the world's 40,000 or so species of spiders are relatively harmless. (See more photos of spiders in Australia.)

Watch: Male spiders attract mates with this strange behavior.

In the rare case that you are bitten, try to trap the spider so you have it for identification. You can place it in the refrigerator to slow it down and make it easier to transfer to another container. Usually all you need to reduce the pain is an ice pack, but seek medical attention if you experience more serious symptoms such as severe pain, nausea, vomiting, spasms, or dilated pupils. (Get more spider handling tips.)

Follow Brian Clark Howard on Twitter and Google+.

Comment on This Story