New Zealand is home to about 2500 kinds of spiders, most of them harmless. Only some spiders are capable of biting humans. There are three species of spider that should be avoided – the katipo, the redback and the white-tailed spider.
The katipo (Latrodectus katipo) and the redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti) are the only venomous spiders found in New Zealand. Only the adult females are capable of biting humans. Bites from both species are extremely rare, and there is a safe and effective anti-venom available.
The white-tailed spider (Lampona murina and Lampona cylindrata) is more common, and is often found in human habitats, including on the walls and ceilings of residential homes. White-tailed spiders will bite if provoked but in most cases the bite will cause little harm. The white-tailed spider bite can be painful, with some initial swelling, redness, itchiness and a burning feeling at the bite site. These symptoms will go and there are no long-lasting effects. White-tailed spider bites are not considered poisonous to humans. A recent Australian study has shown no evidence linking necrotic ulcers (destroyed skin) to white-tailed spider bites.
For more information on these spiders and what to do if someone has been bitten, visit Spider bites in the YourHealth consumer information section.