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Do huntsman spiders really crawl across your face at night?

Anthony Sharwood, Monday February 1, 2021 - 11:18 EDT

First the good news. Huntsmen spiders do not – repeat NOT – have any inclination whatsoever to creep their spidery, eight-legged crawl across your face while you're sleeping. You did not wake up with spider tracks on your eyelids this morning, we 99.999% promise.

The bad news is that huntsmen are out and about in large numbers right now, which is typical for the end of summer. Indeed, there are an awful lot of them in some parts of Australia this year.

Image: Just be glad your bedroom doesn't look like ths one in Sydney last week. Source: @PrinPeta on Twitter. 

Dr Lizzie Lowe is an arachnologist at Macquarie University and she's not afraid of spiders. In fact she loves them.

"The thing I find fascinating about them is there are so many different types and they have so many different ways of catching their prey," she told Weatherzone.

"They're actually really beautiful too. Like anything dangerous, the more you get to know about it and understand it, the less afraid you are. There are very few spiders that can hurt you. In fact less than half of one percent of all spiders will do harm."

OK Dr Lizzy, fine. But what about huntsmen? They look so evil. Can we really trust them to leave us alone when they're lurking high up on our bedroom wall?

Image: Relax, it doesn't want to slurp your brains out through your ears... unless you're a cockroach. Source: Pixabay

"Huntsmen don't have very good eyesight. They see light and dark and movement and that's about all. They will never intentionally run towards you because they're small and not highly venomous. They can bite you, but they won't do any harm.

"Huntsmen are super fast but they get confused, so if a huntsman is running towards you, it's confused. They're not aggressive spiders at all and they generally stay high up because that's where they're finding the food they want to eat."

Dr Lizzy went on to tell us that huntsmen are a "summer spider". Their eggs hatch in springtime, stimulated by the warmer temperatures and rain of spring. But some spiders do two rounds of breeding which is why many people are seeing another batch of babies right now.

For the average arachnophobe like us, it's a nightmare scenario seeing a horde of baby spiders on the wall. That's what happened to Sydney resident (and associate professor in medical science) Dr Darren Saunders last week.

"I reckon around 100 of the little guys were on my bedroom ceiling," he told Weatherzone. "They're only 1-2 mm including legs. I was too tired to do anything about it so left them alone.

According to Dr Lizzy, leaving them alone is a sensible course of action because the baby huntsmen won't stick around for long anyway.

"When the babies hatch out, they disperse very quickly over one or two days. They are highly cannibalistic and don't want to be eaten by their nestmates. Also they need to have their own food so it's within their own interests to disperse.

"There's probably only enough food for one huntsman in each house."

Dr Lizzy told us that one of the favourite foods of huntsmen is cockroaches. "Would you rather have a horde of cockroaches in your house or one huntsman?" she said.

It's a fair point. If you hate cockroaches (and surely we're all united on this), get used to that hairy eight-legged monster on your wall. Embrace it. Or at least tolerate it.

But if your fear is stronger than your rational mind and you really can't stand huntsmen, a large plastic see-through Tupperware container and a piece of cardboard or paper are Dr Lizzy's tip for a safe and efficient spider relocation to the garden every time.

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