A spider with a bad reputation?!
This spider has been accused of biting people and causing flesh-eating ulcers that refuse to heal. However, recent research of 130 bite victims (by two of the most common species from this genus), found no incident of skin damage other than from a painful bite (greater than a bee sting) lasting up to 24 hours. The conclusion given was these spiders are innocent of their reputation.
Nevertheless, something has caused these flesh-eating ulcers, which the people affected claim were from a spider bite. Another possible explanation is the bacteria living around the mouthparts of most spiders, probably as a result of their meals. If this was the cause, it could involve a range of possible spiders as few people have more than an elementary knowledge of spider identification.
Yet another factor, assuming the people were actually bitten by a Lampona species, is there are around 60 recognised species in this genus (occurring Australia wide), but only two of these were tested. Although not all of these spiders have a white spot on their tail, they are however of similar shape and the white dot in most instances is not particularly obvious.
This is one of the White-tailed Spiders. Note the white spot on the tail.
White-tailed Spider a Lampona species
These spiders are wandering night-time hunters that do not build a web, although they sometimes construct a tubular silken retreat, or to lay eggs. Their main diet is other spiders, especially the black house spider, so for those who dislike the look of the house spider and its untidy web, they might prefer the smarter white-tailed spider.
Being hunting spiders their eyesight is good. They have eight eyes (all forward facing) in two rows of four.
During the day, the white-tailed spider rests under bark, logs, rocks or leaf-litter.
This young spider is checking out what the Pie-dish Beetle is eating, but fortunately for the beetle, it is not on the menu.
Most of these spiders are between 1 and 1½ cm in length (excluding legs), but some (like the one below) are closer to 2 cm. I discovered this individual in the open on one of my nightly rambles and like most invertebrates in this situation, they tend to either freeze or move slowly. This one decided to move slowly. It was obviously not happy being caught in the open and initially hugged the ground.
However, it started to become annoyed when I continued to follow it.
In this shot it was very upset and began arching its back, presumably an aggressive posture.
When it reached the weeping foliage of a sedge, it turned and stood on tip-toe like a defensive/aggressive cat, side-on with arched back to make it look more dangerous. It certainly worked on me, as I had no intention of placing a part of my anatomy anywhere near it.
So my advice with spiders, is to treat them all with respect. Don't tease or mess with them because like most wild animals, they will regard you as a threat and are then more likely to bite. If you want to relocate any, simply place a glass over them, then slide a piece of paper or thin board under to trap it. Then release it outside! Alternatively if difficult to reach, a gentle nudge with a broom will usually make the spider crawl aboard so it too can be carried outside, but do it slowly/gently in order not to panic the spider.
Many people are paranoid about spiders, but this is usually due to ignorance and fear. The more you get to know them, the less fearful you become. So get to know your local species and discover how diverse they are in appearance and habit. Most spiders are not aggressive and none are interested in going out of their way to attack you, so inspect them from a respectful distance and learn to appreciate the importance of these creatures in your environment.