A spider arrived in Niue by boat from New Zealand with a carton of personal effects. It was identified, tentatively, as Lampona cylindrata (Araneae: Gnaphosidae), commonly called the ‘white tailed spider’, by the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy, Australia. It feeds on other spiders and is often found inside, under furniture and in dark places. It has a distinct stealy and creeping manner when hunting and capable of running very fast.
This spider is common in Australia, so quite likely occurs in New Zealand as well.
It is in the family Gnaphosidae. It does not build a web to catch its food, but hunts (usually at night) its food. It lives under stones and loose bark on trees, so is well adapted to settling in the small spaces between stacks of bedding, behind pictures on walls and other ‘flat’ spaces in houses.
It has a bad reputation (largely undeserved) of causing severe reactions to its bite. The truth is that its venom does cause local cell death, and on occasions this results in an open wound which becomes infected with a bacteria which occurs in its saliva. In people with poor circulation this can develop into a large ulcer, and the infection can spread away from the initial site of the infection.
SPREP – the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme mentioned that there are a number of good websites with photos eg:
This spider is unfortunately an unauthourised Australian export, i.e., it’s an invasive alien species, even in New Zealand.
Movement of household effects around the region – and the world – seems to be a major way that pests arrive in new places and, therefore, an increasing problem as human mobility increases.
It was also mentioned that a container load of furniture (belonging to a SPREP staff member) from Australia to Samoa included one full ant nest – queen included! This was despite the owner taking strenuous efforts to avoid transporting any pests. Likewise, a staff member moving back to New Zealand similarly, unintentionally, included a range of invertbrate and reptile species.