White-tail spider bite: a prospective study of 130 definite bites by Lampona species

Geoffrey K Isbister and Michael R Gray
Med J Aust 2003; 179 (4): 199-202.


Objective: To investigate the circumstances and clinical effects of bites by white-tail spiders, including the two species Lampona cylindrata and L. murina commonly encountered by humans, and the incidence of necrotic lesions.

Design: Prospective cohort study of definite white-tail spider bites. Cases were only included if there was a clear history of bite, the spider was caught and was identified by an expert.

Setting: Calls to Australian poisons information centres and emergency departments.

Patients: 130 patients with a definite bite by a white-tail spider from February 1999 to April 2002.

Results: There were 79 bites by L. cylindrata and 51 by L. murina. Bites occurred in warmer months, 95% indoors and 75% between 16: 00 and 08: 00. The activity at the time of the bite was characteristic and the spider was encountered between bedclothes, towels or clothing. 25% of bites occurred on distal limbs. Pain/discomfort occurred in all cases, and was severe in 27%. Other effects included puncture marks (17%), redness/red mark (83%) and itchiness (44%). Systemic effects occurred in 9%. There were no cases of necrotic ulcers (97.5% CI, 0–2.8%) or confirmed infections. Median duration of effects was 24 hours (interquartile range, 1–168 hours). There were three distinct clinical patterns: pain only (21%), pain and red mark for < 24 hours (35%), and a persistent painful or irritating red lesion (44%).

Conclusions: Bites by Lampona spp. cause minor effects in most cases, or a persistent painful red lesion in almost half the cases. White-tail spider bites are very unlikely to cause necrotic ulcers, and other diagnoses must be sought.

Please login with your free MJA account to view this article in full

  • Geoffrey K Isbister1
  • Michael R Gray2

  • 1 Clinical Envenoming Research Group, University of Newcastle, Waratah, NSW.
  • 2 Division of Invertebrate Zoology, Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW.



We would like to acknowledge the large number of people who made this study possible, including the poison information specialists from NSW, WA and QLD poisons information centres, the nursing staff and doctors in both the Royal Darwin and Royal Prince Alfred hospital emergency departments and other clinicians who assisted in recruiting cases via the poisons information centres. Particular thanks to Bart Currie and Ian Whyte, who made it possible to organise the study and gave advice regarding the design of the study. Thanks to Tony Smith for critically commenting on the manuscript.

Competing interests:

None identified.

  • 1. Sutherland SK. Spider bites in Australia. There are still some mysteries. Med J Aust 1983; 2: 597.
  • 2. White J. Necrotising arachnidism. Med J Aust 1999; 171: 98.
  • 3. Isbister GK. Spider mythology across the world. West J Med 2001; 175: 86-87.
  • 4. Southcott RV. Arachnidism and allied syndromes in the Australian region. Rec Adelaide Children’s Hosp 1976; 1: 97-186.
  • 5. Musgrave A. Spiders harmful to man. II. Aust Mus Magazine 1949; 9: 411-419.
  • 6. Sutherland SK, Tibballs J. Spiders. In: Australian animal toxins: the creatures, their toxins and care of the poisoned patient. 2nd ed. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2001; 343-382.
  • 7. Pincus SJ, Winkel KD, Hawdon GM, Sutherland SK. Acute and recurrent skin ulceration after spider bite. Med J Aust 1999; 171: 99-102.
  • 8. Spring WJ. A probable case of necrotizing arachnidism. Med J Aust 1987; 147: 605-607.
  • 9. Gray M. A significant illness that was produced by the white-tailed spider, Lampona cylindrata. Med J Aust 1989; 151: 114-116.
  • 10. Ibrahim N, Morgan MF, Ahmed MR. Arachnidism: a serious new Australian disease. Aust N Z J Surg 1989; 59: 507-510.
  • 11. St George I, Forster L. Skin necrosis after white-tailed spider bite? N Z Med J 1991; 104: 207-208.
  • 12. Platnick NI. A relimitation and revision of the Australasian ground spider family Lamponidae (Araneae: Gnaphosoidea). Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 2000; (245): 21-43.
  • 13. Isbister GK, Gray MR. A prospective study of 750 definite spider bites, with expert spider identification. QJM 2002; 95: 723-731.
  • 14. Isbister GK, Gray MG. Latrodectism: a prospective cohort study of bites by formally identified redback spiders. Med J Aust 2003; 179: 88-91. <MJA full text>
  • 15. Isbister GK. Data collection in clinical toxinology: debunking myths and developing diagnostic algorithms. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2002; 40: 231-237.
  • 16. GraphPad InStat [computer program]. Version 3. San Diego: GraphPad Software, Inc., 2000.
  • 17. GraphPad StatMate [computer program]. Version 1.0. San Diego: GraphPad Software, Inc., 1995.
  • 18. Vetter RS. Myth: idiopathic wounds are often due to brown recluse or other spider bites throughout the United States. West J Med 2000; 173: 357-358.
  • 19. Isbister G, Gray M. Acute and recurrent skin ulceration after spider bite. Med J Aust 2000; 172: 303-304.
  • 20. White J, Hirst D, Hender E. 36 cases of bites by spiders, including the white-tailed spider, Lampona cylindrata. Med J Aust 1989; 150: 401-403.
  • 21. Young AR, Pincus SJ. Comparison of enzymatic activity from three species of necrotising arachnids in Australia: Loxosceles rufescens, Badumna insignis and Lampona cylindrata. Toxicon 2001; 39: 391-400.
  • 22. Atkinson RK, Wright LG. Studies of the necrotic actions of the venoms of several Australian spiders. Comp Biochem Physiol C 1991; 98: 441-444.
  • 23. Rash LD, King RG, Hodgson WC. Sex differences in the pharmacological activity of venom from the white-tailed spider (Lampona cylindrata). Toxicon 2000; 38: 1111-1127.


remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Responses are now closed for this article.