This morning I shook out Potter's rug, as I often do. It is kept on an outdoor seat where the dog likes to sit and wait for us when we're out. I got a fright to see a highly poisonous female red back spider on the rug. If Potter sat on this spider, it would definitely bite her. If she was bitten, without anti venom she would almost certainly die.
The Red back spider, Lactrodectus hasseli, belongs to the Theridiidae family, found all over the world. Native to Australia, it is very common and found all over the continent. It is a close relative of the Black Widow spider.
There is no gender equality among Red backs. Females are larger than males, the red stripe is more dominant and they live longer, about two or three years compared to six or seven months.
Female Red backs build a cleverly designed nest, keeping the eggs and spiderlings safe at the top and using the bottom of the nest to trap prey. Males don't build nests.
Male Red backs rarely survive the mating process. To keep the female occupied during mating, they turn a somersault and offer their abdomen. The female sprays it with digestive juices and proceeds to eat its fleeting mate.
The female can store sperm for a couple of years, using it to lay several batches of eggs. She then produces sacs for the eggs. Each sac contains about 250 eggs, and she can lay eggs every couple of weeks.
I re-located this spider and reminded myself to wear gloves when gardening.