Fungus to kill white-tail spiders discovered

01:43, Jan 31 2009
WATCH OUT, WHITEY: A fungus discovered on the discovered on the West Coast, has been found to kill white-tailed spiders.

A fungus discovered on a dead spider near Lake Kaniere, on the West Coast, has been found to kill white-tailed spiders.

Canterbury University PhD student Nic Cummings made the breakthrough on a trip to the Coast, and now hopes to develop a biocontrol agent.

By last year, ACC spider bite claims had quadrupled, with 20,000 people paid $1.7 million for spider-related injuries.

Mr Cummings is now working with AgResearch scientist Dr Cor Vink to stabilise the fungus spores so they can be delivered to spiders, possibly using traps.

Vern Newcombe, from Community and Public Health in Greymouth, said they did not keep records on spider bites.

However, he said the white-tail spider itself was not poisonous. "It's the bacteria on the fangs. They're not venomous."

White-tails are dark grey and readily recognised by their elongated body form and a distinctive white patch on the end of the abdomen.

The Landcare Research websites says bites have rarely resulted in anything more severe than a red mark and localised, short-lived pain. As with bee and wasp stings, different people react in different ways.

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NZPA