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Redback Spider Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Like their black widow spider cousins, redback spiders are venomous. Read this lesson to find out what they look like, where they live and to find out more about this dangerous spider.

Beware the Red Stripe

You and your family are visiting your cousin in Australia. You're playing hide-and-seek in the back yard, so you decide to disappear behind a shed where your cousin can't find you. As you're crouched down, being very still, you notice a black spider with a red stripe in its web on the shed wall. You've never seen one before, but it looks a lot like the black widow spiders you stay away from at home. You decide to change your hiding place, which is smart because that spider is a venomous redback spider that is related to the black widow.

Redback spiders are venomous (poisonous) spiders that are originally from Australia and have a red stripe on the top side of their abdomens. Females are bigger than males and are usually black, while the smaller males are a paler brown color, though they both have that red stripe. And like their black widow cousins, redbacks have a red hourglass spot on the bottom of their abdomens, too, though the males' marks are lighter in color.

Female redback spider
Female redback spider

Female redback spiders usually live to be around two or three years old, but males usually only survive six or seven months. This is partly because males fight with each other to get to a female, and females kill the males and eat them as a snack after mating.

Although they are from Australia, redback spiders have also been found in places like New Zealand, Southeast Asia up through India, and even parts of Japan.

A Sticky, Messy Web

If you left your room messy and sticky before you went outside to play, your mom would probably make you come back inside and clean it up. And while male redbacks don't spin webs, females do, and that messy, sticky room is exactly what their webs are like.

Redback spider in its web
Redback spider in its web

The female's web isn't round, even and high up in a tree like some spider webs. It's near the ground and has a jumbled, cone-like shape with sticky strands going out in all directions. The female redback spider also attaches sticky strands to the ground, trapping unsuspecting dinner guests.

Redback spiders are carnivores, meaning they eat meat, and they prefer insects. But the sticky web strands also trap much bigger snacks like mice, snakes, lizards, birds and even some other kinds of spiders.

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