If you happen to be in Australia and come across a redback spider, you definitely want to keep your distance.
These fun-filled creatures are responsible for the majority of serious spider bites in the outback, and the females are usually the culprits.
There isn't much to worry about when it comes to the males, as their bites only result in short-lived discomfort. However, if you are the victim of a female redback, you're not only in for a world of pain, but your nervous system will be affected as well.
The redback spider is so named because of the red stripe on its back. It also has a red hourglass on the underside of its abdomen, which could cause some to mistake it for the black widow, its relative.
Though these spiders are native to Australia, they can also be found in New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
Unfortunately, they like to live in spaces where we often reach our hands, including mailboxes, sheds, decks, and even underneath toilet seats.
The males are tiny compared to the females, who basically run the entire show.
Females spin the webs, and males are only allowed to eat what they catch and reproduce with them if they have been accepted. Even then, males are often cannibalized during mating.
They mostly prey on insects, but it isn't uncommon for them to eat other spiders or lizards. When victims get caught in their webs, the spiders bite them repeatedly. This injects venom that liquefies their insides, which the spiders later suck out and eat.
Females don't often leave their webs, but they will bite people whose hands come too close. Their venom contains a neurotoxin which can cause vomiting, sweating, headaches, chest pains, and extreme discomfort for over 24 hours. More severe symptoms include seizures, respiratory failure, and even death.
Fortunately, an anti-venom for redback bites was developed in the 1950s, which has prevented any human deaths since it has become available.
Still, though, you really don't want to mess with one of these critters.
Oh yeah, and females can lay four to ten egg sacs, each of which can hold up to 500 baby nightmares.
I would say that I'm glad I don't live in Australia, but I can't forget that the U.S. is home to the equally frightening black widow. Oh, what a wonderful world we live in.