Whistling Spider
© UnknownA bird-eating spider found at a Bowen business
In a scene that could almost be out of a B-grade monster movie, giant spiders have invaded Bowen.

For about six weeks, residents have reported seeing huge bird-eating spiders crawling around their backyards and gardens.

Amalgamated Pest Control Bowen pest technician Audy Geiszler took this incredible photo of one of the spiders he caught wandering across the garden of a restaurant near the town's centre.

Mr Geiszler estimated its body alone was 5cm long, a specimen declared 'especially large' by the Queensland Museum. Most grow to be the size of a man's hand.

"It was found in a public area, just wandering around the garden areas. It's a bit scary for the people," Mr Geiszler said.

While at this stage there had only been about five sightings of the giant spiders, Mr Geiszler said it was unusual to see that many in such a short period.

"Normally they live in and around gardens and that type of thing," he said.

"They are very shy. They normally never venture out too far but obviously these ones have been flushed out for some reason.

"It's more than enough to scare a few people. It's not plague proportions or anything.

"That in itself is unusual because you don't normally see these species out in the open."

Queensland Museum spider expert Dr Robert Raven identified the arachnid in Mr Geiszler's photograph as the eastern tarantula, which is also known as the whistling spider (Phlogius crassipes) _ the largest spider in Australia.

The spiders whistle or make a hissing sound when aggravated, which can be heard about 2m away.

Dr Raven said the spider, an especially large individual, was also a male.

"The females remain in their burrows. Because of the nice rain that you've had, you've got plenty of food about with plenty of warmth," he said.

"The spiders have been getting fed and now they're out walking about looking for females to mate with."

Whistling spiders, which are found throughout North Queensland, are burrowing arachnids, living underground in burrows which can be up to 1m deep.

The spiders have been known to eat small birds, however Dr Raven believed it would have been stocking up on insects, small mammals and amphibians.

"They'll go for big insects. They probably feed on toads. They have no problem with cane toads and frogs _ anything big and slow-moving that comes their way."

The bite from a bird-eating spider is not known to be fatal to humans, however it can cause up to six hours of vomiting.

The spider's venom does, however, kill dogs and cats with death occurring within 30 minutes.

Dr Raven believed the spiders would soon return to their burrows.

"It's a little bit late in the season for them by my reckoning, which is probably just saying you've had plenty of rain and they've been locked up inside waterwells or something in the meantime and they're just getting loose," he said.