November 25, 2009

Australian Redback Spiders Invade Japan

Venomous redback spiders, named after their fiery markings, are invading Japan's Osaka region, a wildlife expert recently warned.

It is believed that that they actually arrived years ago aboard a cargo ship coming from Australia, most likely in a container of Australian woodchips.

Japan Wildlife Research Centre official Toshio Kishimoto reports that as many as a dozen people have been bitten, including a 6-year-old boy in June, who received the first antivenom treatment in Japan.

"Their poison is strong and they are particularly dangerous to people in weak physical condition, like children and the elderly," Kishimoto told AFP.

"Redbacks are becoming a common species in Japan. They are very numerous, especially in the western region, and are now often sighted in residential areas.... Once the spiders spread, it's hard to eliminate them."

A major redback infestation was found several years ago in Osaka's street drainage system. Now they have spread to almost a third of the country.

In one reported case, a man unknowingly took a redback from Osaka north to the Tokyo region after the spider hitched a ride in his vehicle, Kishimoto reported

He added that Japanese people should become more aware of the dangers of redbacks.

"People need to be warned on how to treat them, and to be careful when they're out cleaning ditches, and to wear thick cotton gloves for example," said Kishimoto.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia