redback

Gardens contain an abundance of insects and animals with many beneficial to our garden as they help pollinate flowers, keep populations of pest insects down and in general, contribute to a diverse ecosystem.

However, there are some insects and animals that may cause us harm, that we should be aware of.

When gardening, it is a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeve clothing to offer some protection against bites from insects and animals as they are generally on the extremities – hands, arms, feet and legs.

Spiders

The majority of spiders pose no danger to people and are important to gardeners, where they can help control pest numbers. There are some however that may pose a risk to people and some of these are discussed below.

Funnel Webs

Belonging to the sub family Atracinae are the Funnel-webs. The best known of these is the Sydney Funnel-web or Atrax robustus, which is often considered to be one of the most dangerous spiders in the world.

Funnel-webs are found in eastern and southern Australia, including QLD, NSW ACT, VIC TAS and SA. Funnel-webs range in size from 1 – 5 cm, are black to brown in colour, tarantula like in appearance, with prominent fangs. Funnel-webs live in burrows but may also be found in tree trunks or ferns. Funnel-webs are more likely to be found during warmer weather, after rain as their burrow fills up and male funnel-webs are also active at night.

Symptoms of funnel web spider bite are quick to show and include severe pain at the bite site, sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache and high blood pressure and unconsciousness, without medical intervention death may follow. An antivenin is available and since its introduction in the early 1980’s there have been no recorded fatalities.

If bitten immediate first aid should be applied and medical help urgently sought.

Precautions to take should include wearing gloves, long sleeve clothing and sturdy footwear when gardening. Be aware of where you are placing your hands whilst gardening, especially in likely moist humid locations such as under rocks or logs.

Disclaimer: Further advice should also be sought from your local health care professional

Red Backs

Red back spiders or Latrodectus hasselti are found all over Australia. Their venom is highly poisonous to people. Female red backs are approximately 10mm in size and black to brown in colour with a distinctive bulbous abdomen. The abdomen displays a prominent red – orange stripe from which the spider derives its common name. The underside of the abdomen displays an hour glass figure in red – orange. Juvenile females may also have white stripes on the abdomen. The male spider is very difference in appearance being considerably smaller (3-4mm) and brown and white in colour.

Symptoms of Red back bite include nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, profuse sweating, restlessness palpitations, fever, general weakness, muscle spasms and fever. An antivenin is available and since its introduction no deaths have been recorded.

If bitten immediate first aid should be given and medical help sought.

Red backs can be found in dry sheltered areas and typically can be found around buildings, outdoor furniture, stacked materials or rubbish heaps. Precautions to take whilst gardening are to wear gloves, sturdy shoes and long sleeve clothing. Also take care in placing your hand where you cannot see and check clothing before putting it on if it has been outside e.g. boots or jackets.

Disclaimer: Further advice should also be sought from your local health care professional

Other Spiders

There are a host of other spiders which may be found in the garden which may cause harm to people these include; White Tail Spiders, Mouse Spiders, Black House Spiders and Trapdoor Spiders amongst others.

Precautions against spider bite include as previously mentioned ensuring gloves, sturdy shoes and long sleeves are worn whilst gardening, being aware of where you place your hands and the likely locations of spiders e.g. under rocks or logs.  Also ensure you check any clothing that has been left outside before putting it on e.g. boots.

If bitten further advice should be sought from your local health care professional or from emergency services (000).
For further information the following websites may be of use.

Disclaimer: Further advice should also be sought from your local health care professional.

Snakes

Australia has a large number of snakes, with a diverse range of colours and sizes. Some of the varieties commonly known include Eastern Browns, Western Browns, Mulga, Tiger, Death Adders, and Red Bellied Black to name a few.

Sometimes these snakes can be found in gardens in both suburban and rural locations and this is when they can pose problems to people and pets.

Prevention of snake bite firstly consists of ensuring the garden environment is less attractive to snakes. The first way is to remove and potential food sources, the primary source being vermin. To do this, ensure that there are no spaces for them to hide such as rubbish heaps or untidy sheds, and no food such as seed from bird cages or chook runs, pet foods and open compost heaps. The second way is to ensure that the garden is tidy and does not provide shelter for the snakes. To do this, ensure that that garden is kept tidy and rubbish heaps removed.

When working in the garden, wear long sleeve clothing, gloves and sturdy shoes and be aware of where you are placing your hands and feet, especially where you can’t see or when moving rocks or logs.

If you are bitten by a snake remain calm, apply first aid and urgently seek medical assistance.

Removing snakes

If you do find a snake in your garden, do not approach or touch it. The best course of action is to seek help. Licensed commercial snake catchers can be found in the phone directory or you can contact your state authorities for advice.

NSW Contact the Department of Environment and Heritage by phone: 1300 361 967
ACT Contact Canberra Connect on 13 22 81
SA Contact the DEWNR Fauna Permit Unit by phone 08 8124 4930
QLD Contact the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection 1300 130 372
VIC Contact the Department of Sustainability and Environment on 136 186 or your local council
WA Contact the Department of Environment & Conservation on (08) 9334 0292 or Wildcare Helpline (08) 9474 9055
TAS Contact the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (03) 6233 6556
NT Contact the Department of Land Resource Management on Darwin 1800 453 210 Katherine: 0407 934 252 Alice Springs: 0407 983 276

 

Snakes & Pets

Both dogs and cats may be bitten by snakes. Some of the signs that your pet has been bitten include;

Bleeding or a puncture wound, swelling, twitching, drooling, shaking, difficulty blinking, dilated pupils, vomiting, loss of bladder and bowel control, paralysis, blood in urine. Fang marks may not be visible due to the animal’s coat.

If your pet has been bitten you should keep it calm and contact your vet immediately.

For further information on Snakes the following websites may be of use.

Disclaimer: Further advice should also be sought from your local health care professional.

Other Insects

There are a number of insects that may cause problems for gardeners these include; Ticks, Scorpions, Bees, Wasps, Centipedes and Ants.

The best course of action for gardeners is to avoid these insects where possible. Again gloves, sturdy shoes and long sleeve clothing should be worn whilst gardening.

These insects may cause painful bites or stings and if bitten first aid should be applied. In some cases these bites may also lead to severe reactions in certain people. If this occurs medical assistance should be sought.

For further information the following websites may be of use.

Disclaimer: Further advice should also be sought from your local health care professional.