Among the most feared and hated of spiders is the Huntsman Spider. The huntsman is not a single spider, it’s a family, containing around 2000 different species. There are lots of different huntsmans, and they have a few things in common. One is that their legs point forwards. Another is that they tend to be big. Like… really big.
A decent sized one can can be bigger than an outstretched hand. Approximately the correct size to sit right across your entire face. Just so you have a good mental picture.
The largest are 30cm wide, a foot across. Those don’t live in Australia, thankfully, they’re recently discovered in Laos. But the example species used here, the Golden Huntsman, lives in Northern Queensland and gets almost as big, being the largest known before the Laos cave monster.
Most of that size is taken up by legs, long, spindley legs. Not knobbly sticks like the Golden Orb weavers, but thin. Hairy like a tarantula but not fat and heavy. And because they’re not fat and heavy, and because they have such long legs, they are blindingly fast. Keen awareness and lightning reflexes makes them difficult to kill, and they often run behind furniture or other cover. Presumably plotting their revenge.
The Huntsman is a creature of nightmares. They have a habit of walking (or running) up walls and on ceilings, and can appear in inconvenient places, like the back of the toilet door when you close it.
The big question, of course, is obvious. Is it venomous?
And the answer is complex.
Sort of. Really all spiders are venomous, with a few irrelevant exceptions, but only rarely does a spider’s venom have much effect on humans. These are insect neurotoxins, so they’re not really built for giant smelly apes.
So the huntsman is venomous because it’s a spider. But it is in no way dangerous. Sure it looks dangerous. Sure, sleeping with one on the roof above your bed is about the worst sleep you can have. Sure they’re scary and fast and unpredictable.
They’re not only harmless, they’re beneficial. Hunstman Spiders kill a lot of other nasties, like cockroaches and less pleasant spiders. The vast majority of spiders, including the Huntsman, are harmless. They are feared unjustly and pay for it with their lives. They’re not in any way capable of harming a human.
In fairness it should be said that they can bite, and their bite kind of hurts. It can create a localised swelling and itching. But it’s not something you’d need to see a doctor about, nor is it a good reason to be a big girl’s blouse about that big one behind your couch. Oh, you didn’t know it was there? Don’t worry about it then.