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Aussie Redback spider numbers booming, crawling their way across globe

SYDNEY, Oct. 30 — Creepy crawlies are getting an early start to the season as the poisonous red-back spider attacks three to four people per week in Australia's Queensland.

However one of Australia's most senior arachnid experts has said it's the wider world that also needs to be weary of Australia' s endemic pest.

Dr Robert Raven from the Queensland Museum told Xinhua on Friday that he has seen a similar seasonal boom in red-back spider numbers almost a decade ago, where prolonged drought caused a fall but have now recovered following rains and flooding and increased vegetation.

"The driving force behind it all is spiders feeding on insects, which feed on the plants," Raven said.

The poisonous red-back spiders, so named due to their distinctive red stripe along their upper abdomen, are a common nuisance in Australia whose stinging and agonisingly painful bite has resulted in 13 deaths, though none since an anti-venom was developed.

What is most concerning to Raven, however, is the adaptability of the Red-back, which is endemic to Australia, preferring hot and dry conditions but has travelled into Asia and Europe.

"Because they are in a cold environment, they're actually being actively selected for cold adaptation," Raven said.

"Darwin's survival of the fittest is working at full steam here and only the cold adapted ones are surviving. "So, nothing much will stop these guys once they get going."

Red-backs were first found in Osaka, Japan in 1995, possibly unnoticed as juveniles, Raven said, but have now spread into Tokyo as of last year, while an incursion into Belgium may not have been contained. (PNA/Xinhua)

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