November 10, 2010

Redback Spiders Migrating To New Zealand

Researchers have found that Australia's deadly redback spider has established itself in New Zealand, which poses a significant risk to humans as it threatens to colonize major cities.

Scientists said the venomous redback, which is a relative of the black widow, probably found its way over there by riding on imported goods from Australia.  They said that it established itself at sites on both the North and South Islands.

The government's AgResearch institute said in a study this month that the redback had proved more resilient to New Zealand's cold, wet winters than initially expected.

AgResearch scientists Cor Vink said the spider threatened endangered native spiders and insect populations.

"Having redbacks in New Zealand is also significant to public health because they have the potential to become established in a number of areas that are close to urban populations," he told the AFP news agency.

Redbacks are common in Australian cities and Vink said that climate modeling showed they had the ability to thrive in New Zealand's urban areas.

The Australian Venom Research Unit's website says the spider has caused 14 deaths, although there has not been any fatalities since anti-venom was developed in the 1950s.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia