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Hoax – ‘Dangerous ‘New Known Spider’ Spreading In Australia’

by Brett M. Christensen

Update

In August 2018, another hoax warning about a new and supposedly deadly “spider from hell” began circulating via Facebook. The “spider from hell” message is not related to the older hoax I discuss below. You can read about the new hoax in a separate report here.


Outline

Circulating message warns you to watch out for a very dangerous ‘new known spider’ that is spreading across Australia. The message includes a picture of the spider along with a series of images supposedly depicting a wound caused by a bite from one of the spiders. 

Brief Analysis

At least for Australia, the claims in the warning are untrue. The spider shown in the message is a Brown Recluse. Brown Recluse spiders are not spreading across Australia as claimed. The spider and wound images in the message are derived from a much earlier spider-warning message set in the United States. Sending on this bogus warning will help nobody.

Example

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.
This spider is in all states so watchout.Not a good look!!
Please take note of this spider – it is very dangerous.
Please warn kids and send to every one you know to alert them as well!
This spider is breeding at a rate of speed and is found in more and more houses!!!!
Please ensure all the family takes a good look at this spider……….
maybe some should not look at the photos of the person who got bitten on the thumb and the end result…….
but take note of what the spider looks like. If it looks like a huntsman and you are not sure……….
unfortunately, but for your safety’s sake……..KILL IT!!!!
Brown Recluse Spider
Note that the message includes a series of gory images showing a wound to a person’s hand that was supposedly caused by a bite from the spider.

 

Detailed Analysis

According to this would-be warning, a very dangerous ‘new known spider’ is rapidly spreading across Australia and Australian residents should take careful note of its appearance, and kill it should they encounter one. The message includes a picture of the spider along with a series of images depicting a wound on a person’s hand that was supposedly caused by a bite from one of the spiders.

The warning has busily scurried across Australian in-boxes and social network pages since 2008.

Thankfully, however, the Australian version of the warning is an outright hoax.

The pictured spider – a Brown Recluse – is real and venom from the spider can cause necrosis around the area of the bite.

However, the Brown Recluse is not spreading across Australia as claimed in the warning. And, the images in the message come from an earlier US based warning and do not show a bite from any Australian spider.

An article on the Queensland Museum website dismisses the message as a hoax noting that, while the Brown Recluse spider has been in a ‘very restricted suburban area in a southern Australian State’ for more than twenty years, it has not extended its range and there have been no recorded bites attributed to the species in Australia. A second article on the Australian Museum website also dismisses the warning as a hoax. 
Despite suggestions from some commentators, the wounds in the images were not caused by Australia’s White-tailed spider either.

In fact, the message is just a modified version of a much earlier UUS-basedwarning message that includes the same spider picture and the same set of wound images.

And, even the original US warning remains unsubstantiated. As noted, Brown Recluse venom can cause necrosis, so it is possible that the images do show the results of a Brown Recluse bite.

However, necrotic wounds can result from a variety of agents and the actual cause of the wound depicted in the images has never been confirmed. US spider expert Rick Vetter notes that if the images do depict the results of a Brown recluse bite, the case would be ‘truly one of the rare, horrific ones’ and certainly not the normal outcome of such a bite.

The original US version tends to overstate the risk posed by Brown recluse spiders. And, certainly, the US warning has no relevance to Australia whatsoever.

It is high time that this hoax was laid to rest.  I first wrote about the hoax back in 2008. But, several years on, it continues to circulate and has now spawned a social media version.

Sharing the false information in the message will help nobody.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer