Funnel Web Spider

funnelweb1Approximately 40 species

Family: Hexathelidae
Order: Araneida

Identification:

Do not confuse with Wolf spider or Black house spider.
Funnel-webs are large black spiders (body more than 5cm long in the largest species), with the head/thorax shiny. Females are more stocky than males, with shorter legs and bigger abdomen, which may be brown or bluish. The eyes are small and closely grouped, the fang bases extend horizontally from the front of the head and the long fangs lie parallel underneath. (Don't check this on a live spider!) The burrow is lined with a sock of opaque white silk, and several strong strands of silk radiate from the entrance. Burrows in the soil are in sheltered spots, never exposed in open ground.

Distribution:

These spiders are found in Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Main occurrence is coast and mountains from Gladstone in the north to southern Tasmania. Isolated species occur in Mount Lofty Ranges and Eyre Peninsula of South Australia, and in mountains of North Queensland. In the tropics and subtropics, they favour rainforests and higher altitudes, but in southern states they also live in drier eucalypt forests and woodlands, as well as snow country. The Sydney Funnel-web is found within about 100km of that city.

funnelweb2Life history:

Funnel-web spiders live in burrows in the ground, or in stumps, tree trunks or ferns above the ground. Females are long-lived-possibly up to 20 years, and sedentary. They pass their entire lives inside the burrow, only venturing out momentarily to grab passing prey, which consists of insects and small vertebrates such as lizards and frogs. They raise their young inside the burrow. Females are rarely seen except during treefelling, excavation or landscaping work. Males mature at 2-3 years then vacate the burrow to search for mates.

Pest Status:

Funnel-web spider venom is highly toxic, and all species should be considered potentially dangerous. Bites by males of 2 large species, the Sydney Funnel-web and Northern Tree Funnel-web have caused death.

Management:

If you are in a known Funnel-web area, wear gloves when gardening and know what a burrow looks like. Males wander at night, especially during or after rain, and may enter houses. Wear shoes at night, and if camping, close tent flaps. Footwear, clothes and sleeping bags left on the ground overnight should be carefully shaken out before use, since the spiders hide during the day.

First Aid:
Keep calm and move only if necessary. If a limb is bitten, apply pressure bandage to bite area and around limb towards heart. Immobilise limb with a splint. Collect spider specimen (even if squashed) and seek medical aid.

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