Australia’s Flesh Eating Brown Recluse Spiders?

Years ago, some guy (or maybe she’s a gal) wrote an email about the dangers of the brown recluse spider and how its bite can kill ya. Maybe the writer is really trying to be earnestly helpful or maybe s/he’s trying to scare some friends but boy has s/he managed to scare the bejesus out of a lot of Australians.

From news.com.au in 2008:
FLESH-eating spiders are not a threat in Australia, experts say, despite widespread alarm caused by graphic images in a gruesome hoax email.

The email, which has been rewritten for Australian readers, has several photos of a hand wound which becomes a gaping bloody hole.

It has a picture of a spider which it says has a flesh-eating bite and is breeding rapidly.

“This is a new known spider, so please take note. Has been found all over Eastern Aust and heading to WA. Looks similar to a huntsman,” the email says.

“This spider is in all states so watchout in fact it looks a bit like a huntsman… Please warn kids and send to every one you know to alert them as well!”






Despite the email carrying the hallmark signs of a hoax, Australian Museum experts have taken calls from worried residents across the country who believe they have found one of the spiders in their homes.

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“People are panicking. One couple had already ordered their house to be fumigated when they called us,'” museum naturalist Martyn Robinson said yesterday.

But the gory wound shown in the email is not the direct result of a spider bite, according to myth-busting website Snopes.com.

It has tracked this email – with the same images – since 2003, and claims the pictures are more likely showing a possible spider bite which became infected.

Mr Robinson said the email spider was an introduced type called a brown recluse which does not cause necrosis injury, or rotting of the flesh.

“We are worried people will just squash any spider they see, particularly any huntsmans.'”

The Queensland Museum has even set up an information webpage in response to the email.

“No Australian spider is known to have necrotic (tissue-destroying) venom” it said, adding that the brown recluse spider only exists in a very small area of one southern Australian state.

It also noted local white-tailed spiders have been “erroneously blamed” for similar wounds.

From Brisbane Times in 2010:
If you’ve forwarded an email – purportedly from Australian Red Cross – to friends or family to warn them about flesh-eating spiders you’re not only a victim of a hoax but also a nuisance.

Red Cross’s media advisor, Bruce Wardley last week said the group had fielded so many calls about the “killer” spider he had to post a message on their website disowning the alarming warning.

“The fake email has been around at least 18 months and unfortunately people keep forwarding it thinking they’re helping others,” he said. “We’d really appreciate it if people stopped forwarding it.”