Growing up in Australia we become used to all the creepy crawlies that live in the bush. Whether it is spiders, ants or flies, they may be annoying or scary, but have become something we adapt to and respect.
After all, it is their environment and we are mere visitors.
Image: David Clarke via Flickr
Recently Andrew emailed us with a question:
I too am a keen camper/walker and have been in the hills in one way or another since I started cubs at about 7 years old in the UK.
Now I have a question…my experience of hiking, navigating, camping etc is fairly reasonable, however the vast majority has been done in England, not Australia (where I now live) and the flora and fauna is VERY different. I have all the relevant first aid training for bites and stings and generally take the rule to avoid everything I can, but recently I’ve been considering this issue;
If you are hiking a new route, it is all planned and you arrive at your bush campsite just before dusk … perfect for setting up your tent and getting the fire going before dark, only to find a number of trapdoor or funnel-web spiders in the vicinity of the campsite. The next campsite is a day’s trek away and there is little light left to find a more local random spot for the tent.
What do you do?
I am regularly told things like ‘don’t set your tent up near there’ but if you have a site with numerous creatures living burrowed into the ground, can you set your tent up over them safely?
- Are you best not sleeping or pushing on in the dark vs spending your night with these things?
- How likely are they to attack?
- Can they attack through the bottom of your tent, or do they just stay in their burrow until you leave in the morning?
Obviously, given the option, one would never camp in such a location and find another, but often such luxuries as choice aren’t available so if you can provide any advice as to how to manage this it would be very much appreciated.
Here is our reply to Andrew:
To be honest spiders and other bugs and creatures don’t really worry us. I suppose growing up in Australia makes you blase about them. I reckon most of them are more scared of you than you are of them. For example, if you put a tent up over a potential spiders lair I suspect it will just wait in there till you leave. There is no way it could bite you or get through the tent floor.
Obviously an ants nest is another issue . Those buggers will still be walking around under your tent and can be very annoying if they get inside. Before you put your tent up it is worth looking around on the ground to see if they are heading off to a nest. It is usually pretty obvious.
I certainly would not head off and arrive in another site in the dark. Other than the obvious risk of getting lost or injured in the dark, you may have the same problem at the next site!
I actually diversified my question and asked it of a forum for people who keep arachnids as pets too. Figured I’d get an opinion from spider experts, and from walking experts. For your information they had this to say…
‘Even the more “aggressive” trapdoors tend to be shy. If they’re scared, chances are they will clutch up in a stress ball for the entire time you’re there.
It won’t likely leave its burrow.. once a true trapdoor spider makes a burrow and completes it, they’ll be there for the rest of their lives. Wandering males probably account for the majority of bites in your region
A lantern will probably keep them at bay.. mygs [sic] hate light, especially trapdoor spiders.’
When I asked to qualify about funnel web spiders and if they would behave similarly I got this response…
‘Nope! you touch that webbing, they’ll kill you and your children’s children!’
Image: Alexandre Roux via Flickr
I do agree with your general premise, and am not one to care too much about bugs or things, but when there are animals that are known to be aggressive and can unleash a lethal venom dose when you’re miles from any hospital…I thought it sensible to at least get an idea of exactly HOW bad or HOW likely this is to occur. Typically fires and smoke and sensible things will keep most larger critters inc snakes away, but these seemed to be a different problem.
I agree that I would also not find another campsite in the dark…this was the general point because all the people I’ve asked previously have just said things like ‘avoid them’ and ‘move on’ and ‘don’t camp there’ but often, it’s not possible.
I figure from this that funnel webs are to be avoided at all costs, but they’re also more likely to be in trees or undergrowth, or one or two on the ground, so I’m sure a decent tent site, would not be a decent web site anyway, so avoiding them should be straightforward, and the trapdoors will pretty much leave you alone.
Thanks for bringing up the ants. My wife (a Queenslander) often goes on about how blasé I am about ants because the ones in England won’t really bite so I don’t tend to care about them much, but obviously there are (as always) bigger issues in Australia.
So over to you dear readers
Have you any advice for Andrew? (and others dropping by here)
What experiences can you share about spiders and other creepy crawlies you have encountered while camping?
Shoot us a comment below, we would love to hear from you.