By Shell on Oct. 13, 2020
As the weather hots up, finding creepy crawlies hitching a ride can trigger panic, accidents and bites. Whether it’s spiders, bees, snakes, ants, slugs or reptiles, we explain what to do, who to call and how to stay safe if an unexpected creature (venomous or not) is hiding in your vehicle.
Spider expert Robert Whyte says no matter the creature – winged, slithering four- or eight-legged – it’s essential to keep your cool. “It’s the fear reaction that causes people to do stupid things,” he says. “If you’re driving, find a safe place to slow down and then stop by the side of the road. Then, if you can, let the thing go out.”
Snake expert and director of fauna safety advisory SSSAFE Craig Adams agrees. “People freaking out causes the most problems,” he says. “Stay calm but also be prepared. Researching spiders, snakes and insects such as bees and wasps before you travel can be the difference between life and death.”
Despite their reputation, spiders (like most insects) aren’t designed to attack humans or even scare them. “They are not interested in you,” says Rob. “They want to live in the bush and eat their insects. They don't want to live in a car.”
Rob advises letting spiders, particularly venomous ones such as redbacks or funnel-webs, crawl away unchallenged. If you know the spider isn’t dangerous, carefully remove it using a glass and flat surface such as a piece of cardboard. Do not flick, spray, squash or pick up a venomous spider as this can prompt an angry arachnid readying to bite.
“Educating yourself about spiders is the best way to deal with arachnophobia,” says Rob.
Australia is home to some of the most venomous snakes in the world, including the inland taipan, eastern brown snake, coastal tiger snake and death adder. Since the development of anti-venom, however, only about two people a year die from snakebites in Australia.
If you find a snake in your vehicle while driving, find a safe place to stop and get out. Always assume a snake is venomous – leave it where it is and never try to pick it up. Don’t forget, too, they are protected from harm under Australian law.
Once safely away from your vehicle, Craig advises calling wildlife rescue organisations such as WIRES in NSW, Wildlife Victoria, Fauna Rescue SA or Wildcare in WA. “You can also contact a snake-catcher in your local area to collect the snake, sometimes for a fee,” he says.
Bees, wasps, ants and ticks
Stay calm, stop the car and get out. Observe the creature until it flies, crawls or can be carried out on a surface.
Who to call
Roadside services, such as the NRMA, RACV, RAC, AANT and RAA, won’t remove dangerous critters from vehicles, although they will offer advice through their hotlines.
Call a snake-catcher or local wildlife service for reptile removal. Call emergency services immediately for bites from venomous spiders or snakes, or if there is an allergic reaction from stinging insects such as bees, wasps and ants. If someone is bitten by a venomous spider or snake, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage and keep them calm until emergency services arrive.