Venomous nasties


Australia has a deserved reputation of being home to numerous venomous biting and stinging creatures. Since spending my primary school years in the Stony Rises, a part of Western Victoria that was rocky and infested with snakes, I have never been too fond of them. Many of the volcanic rocks had been gathered up many years ago and made into superb dry stone walls, which are now an important heritage but make great homes for snakes.

However, a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that spiders and bees cause the most venomous bite and sting hospitalisations. Over 11,000 people in Australia were hospitalised because of a venomous bite or sting between 2002 and 2005. Bites from snakes accounted for just 15% of these, most commonly from Brown snakes (54%) Black snakes (15%) and Tiger snakes (11%).

Spider bites accounted for a third of the hospitalisations, especially red-back spiders (59% of the spider bites) white-tailed spiders (7%) and funnel web spiders (3%). (A white-tailed spider once bit my mother to her considerable distress.) Bee stings accounted for almost quarter of all bite and sting hospitalisations. Other nasties that put people in hospital include ants, centipedes, millipedes, jellyfish and stingrays.