Redback reaches Queenstown despite chill

By Christina McDonald

Redbacks are known to have settled in Central Otago and Taranaki. Photo / File / Chris Callinan
Redbacks are known to have settled in Central Otago and Taranaki. Photo / File / Chris Callinan

Queenstown, even with its ice and snow, has proved irresistible for at least one Australian import spotted during the seasonal surge of non-native visitors arriving in the resort.

Hiding on the bottom of a dented 200-litre drum, an Australian redback spider was discovered yesterday afternoon by Queenstown man Scott McDonald at the Queenstown Transfer Station in Frankton.

Mr McDonald works for a cooking oil company and was moving empty drums when he discovered the spider.

Curator of Natural History at Canterbury Museum Dr Cor Vink said although Central Otago has a preferable climate for the spider to live and reproduce in, Frankton is not a common place for the redback to be found in.

But considering Queenstown's summers are warm enough for the spiders' eggsacs to mature, the air is dry and the spiders have been found in nearby areas, Dr Vink said "it's not unexpected".

The temperature is "not as ideal" for the spiders as Alexandra, Wanaka and Bannockburn "but still possible for it to survive."

A Ministry for Primary Industries spokeswoman said redbacks are known to have settled in Central Otago and Taranaki and because they are an established species in New Zealand, MPI is not undertaking research or control programmes at present.

"However, where redback finds are reported to the Ministry, and these are associated with recent imports of goods (for example at a port or a facility where containers are unloaded), MPI may further investigate."

Mr McDonald said the drums had been stored in Cromwell and taken to Queenstown over a month ago.

Australian redback spider facts:

• The redback spider Latrodectus hasselti is native to Australia but has been present in New Zealand since the 1980s.

• They are known to be established in Central Otago and Taranaki.

• The spider has venom which is toxic to people and bites can cause severe pain.

• Medical attention should be sought following a bite.

- Otago Daily Times

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