WA Bugs - what to watch out for

Katherine Veness's blog | Created 2 years ago

Western Australia has a diverse array of life that has developed in a stable environment over many millennia. One of the most successful groups is arachnids, many of which look quite scary – but are they really as bad as they look?

Keep reading to find out more.  

Scorpions 

One group that has benefitted from the harsh Western Australian conditions are scorpions.

The biggest genus of this fearsome looking creature is Urodacus. This genus occurs all over mainland Australia. Despite their large size, the sting of Urodacus isn’t unbearable or long lasting. 

Front on image of a scorpion

Urodacus hartmeyeri
Image copyright WA Museum 

Another family – the Buthidae – is very common in Australia. They are the most toxic scorpion family in the world. Although they are responsible for many deaths each year in some countries, the Australian species are not considered deadly to humans.

If you’re stung by any species of scorpion, the first thing to do is apply a cold pack to ease the pain. If the pain persists, seek medical advice. These arachnids should definitely be avoided! 

Spiders

Many of Australia’s spiders have a bad reputation, sometimes well deserved and often not.

Although trapdoor spiders are closely related to funnel web spiders, they aren’t considered as dangerous. Trapdoors are a diverse group of spider, some species of which are very rare.

Some female trapdoor spiders can live for 40-50 years. They dig deep burrows, often with ‘trap-door’ lids, which they use to help them catch their prey.

Image of a large black spider

Trapdoor spider, genus Idiosoma
Image copyright WA Museum 

Funnel web spiders aren’t found in Western Australia, but watch out for them in the eastern states. These spiders are toxic and can kill humans, and are considered one of the most poisonous spiders on earth. An anti-venene was developed in the 1980s, which means deaths caused by funnel web bites have dropped.

In Western Australia, we do have to worry about the common redback spider (Latrodectus hasseltii). Redbacks have reasonably toxic venom, but it is slow acting, which means there is plenty of time to seek medical assistance. If bitten, apply an ice pack to the area, and do not panic or try to drive.

Redback spiders belong to a larger group called widow spiders (i.e. black widow, button spiders). The female redback sports an orange-red stripe on her back. She can lay up to 200 eggs in an egg sac, but not all these will reach adulthood. 

Centipedes

Western Australia is home to many types of centipede with a variety of physical characteristics.

Scolopendrids are particularly large centipedes with a painful bite. These striped centipedes are found all over WA – be careful if you’re camping!

Another centipede with a nasty sting is Scutigerida, or the house centipede. This centipede is found all over Australia, and is fast thanks to its long legs.

Image of a long, stripy centipede

Centipede photographed on Nerren Nerren Station, near Shark Bay, WA.
Image copyright WA Museum 

Millipedes 

WA is home to many different types of native millipedes, including the Marri Keeled Millipede.

The Portugese millipede has been invading Perth homes for several years. They are not poisonous and have no fangs, but are known to emit an unpleasant odour. They usually have more legs than centipedes. 

Image of a black shiny millipede crawling over leaf litter

Keeled Millipede
Image copyright WA Museum 

Further Information

This article was based on a lecture by Mark Harvey