French backpackers flagged down police in Australia for help with an invasion of spiders the size of dinner plates - not noticing the 2m python in their van.

The two officers in Queensland's Mareeba were flagged down near Granite Creek, about 70km west of Cairns.

It turned out the hapless tourists were exaggerating. Only one spider was in the van and it was more the size of a saucer.

But the tourists should have been more worried about the 2m long scrub python curled up on the back seat.

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The two female officers suggest the travellers invest in a can of spider spray.