Huntsman spiders are familiar to many Australians as the large, flat-bodied and extremely fast intruders, which, to some people’s horror, occasionally take up residence in kitchens and living rooms. There are 94 described species of huntsman spider in Australia. The two back pairs of legs are shorter than the ones at the front and the legs fan out sideways enabling them to walk forwards and sideways often giving them a crab-like appearance. They come in a variety of colours and patterns but are mostly brown, black and grey. Some species are very large reaching over 160mm in leg span.
Huntsman spiders occur Australia-wide and are usually found on tree trunks, under bark, beneath stones or on the walls of houses. Some species are extremely compressed and live between the hairline cracks of sandstone and granite outcrops.
The huntsman eats a variety of insects, arthropods, small lizards and frogs. The prey is not captured in a web but actively stalked and run-down with stealth and speed. The fangs are large and powerful and hold the food item until it is immobilised by the spider’s venom. Although bites can be painful to humans and occasionally cause mild nausea and headaches, the symptoms are usually only localized pain and swelling.
Courtship in huntsman spiders is surprisingly romantic when compared to other spiders. The male is rarely attacked by the female and the process may last many hours. After mating, the female places her egg sack under bark or a rock and keeps guard of it until hatching. At the appropriate time, the mother spider opens the egg sack to help her spiderlings out and she may stay with her spiderlings for several weeks.