The Funnel Web Spider of Australia and Death

by BobinOz on December 14, 2012

in Australia's Bad Things

With the constant sound of Christmas songs playing on the radio (“It’s Christmas!!!” – Thanks Noddy, I almost forgot) you’d think for this Friday’s video post I’d have come up with something full of Christmas spirit.

No! They don’t call me Scrooge for nothing.

It may be cold and Christmassy where you are, but here in Australia we are in the height of summer, and it’s around this time of the year, October through to May, that one little black eight furry legged fiend can be found wandering around looking for a girlfriend.

The funnel web spider

sydney funnel web spider The Funnel Web Spider of Australia and Death

Image source: Wikipedia

I suspect you’ve all heard of this tiny little killer, and maybe you know it by its full name ‘the Sydney funnel web spider’. But as the name suggests, he only hangs around Sydney and the surrounding area, so unless you live there, you’re safe.

I live here in Queensland, so I’m safe, right?

I should be so lucky, as another Aussie famously said.

I’ve heard there are something like 30 to 40 different species of funnel web spider here in Australia and, of course, they are only native to this country. Europe get a thing called a tube web spider, looks a bit similar, but its bite feels more like a bee sting and has no long-term effects.

Anyway, in addition to the more famous Sydney funnel web spider, here in Australia we also have the northern funnel web spider, the southern funnel web spider, the Blue Mountains funnel web spider, the Tasmanian funnel web spider, the Toowoomba funnel web spider, the Flinders funnel web spider, the Adelaide funnel web spider and we even have an Eyre Peninsular funnel web spider.

The list is longer than that, suffice to say we have more species of funnel web spiders than you could shake a stick at.

Summing up then, we have funnel web spiders in the following states or territories:

  • New South Wales
  • Australian Capital Territory
  • Victoria
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Queensland

So, it’s not just Sydney, the funnel web spider is in every state or territory of Australia except two. Interestingly, they are Northern Territory, one of the places that DOES have crocodiles, and Western Australia, which is fast building a reputation as the deadliest place in the world for shark attacks.

Isn’t that funny?

Here in Queensland, we have seven known species and in Brisbane these spiders are known to hang around the foothills of Mount Coot-tha, which is pretty close to where I live. They can also be found around Daisy Hill Forest Park, Springwood, Capalaba, Kedron Brook and even in Newmarket which is only about 3 or 4 kilometres from the city.

Jingle bells indeed!

The female funnel web spider can lay around 100 eggs at a time, which then take just a few weeks to hatch. These spiders do not reach maturity until they’re about seven years old and can live as long as 20 years.

Well I’ll be Rudolph the red nosed reindeer!

There’s more…there is a rumour that these spiders can swim! Here’s that mad Doctor Mike Leahy again. This nutty Doctor is famous for allowing insects and other critters to bite him, but even he is not crazy enough to allow a funnel web spider that pleasure…

So, no, it can’t actually swim, but it can survive for a while in water thanks to all the bubbles that stick to its hairy legs. Doctor Mike made it sound a little like every pool has a funnel web waiting to pounce on the next swimmer, that’s not the case.

It always makes sense to check your pool before jumping in, and what you do have in there is easy enough to see and pull out with a net on a stick; leaves, maybe a dead fly here and there and perhaps a twig.

That’s normally about as dangerous as it gets.

The irony of it all is that the funnel webs venom is only lethal to us humans and primates, you know, me, you and monkeys. It’s sort of a freak of nature that his venom is so lethal to us, because a dead human (or monkey) is of no use to the funnel web spider. Their venom can kill within 15 minutes, but it may sometimes take as long as three days.

On a brighter note, cats and dogs and other animals are unaffected by their venom; chickens will actually eat this spider if it can catch one. Maybe that’s why so many Australians keep chickens in the yard?

And on an even brighter note, as I write this, nobody has died from a funnel web spider bite here in Australia since 1981, thanks to the introduction of antivenom.

Ho Ho Ho!

And finally, just to remind you that I really am not yet in the Christmas spirit, here is a rather X-rated video. It was posted by a YouTuber called mrrabbit10 who actually has another video where he says he had a funnel web spider run across his back. He then caught that spider and put it in a container to video it for YouTube.

This though, from the same guy, it’s not for the squeamish. When I say it’s not for the squeamish, I really mean it. This is the nastiest video on my entire website. Please don’t watch it if you are scared of spiders or you don’t like watching insects trying to kill and eat each other.

As mrrabbit10 himself says, “PLEASE do not watch if this offends you. i was not fighting insects, i was feeding a spider.”

There, I have warmed to you all. Now here’s the video, it looks great in full-screen HD…

Merry Christmas!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick December 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Hi Bob

me again… you said “it’s not just Sydney, the funnel web spider is in every state or territory of Australia except, interestingly, Northern Territory, the only place that has crocodiles.” But WA is not on the list… I was wondering because that’s where I’m going.

I think I read you were going to WA next month, is that right? I can’t wait to read about it, it’s a shame I won’t be there yet to offer you a pint…

Cheers!

Reply

BobinOz December 16, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Well spotted Patrick, you are absolutely right, the funnel web is not in Western Australia, way too far to walk. I will amend my post accordingly.

As for me going to Perth, it’s on my list to do next, and I was hoping to go in January. I may have to delay that’s slightly, but I still be going too early for you to be able to buy me that pint. Shame, I love a free pint!

Cheers!

Reply

Kym January 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

That’s an excellent vid! I had some bird eating spiders that I raised and I wish I had thought to video them!

Reply

BobinOz January 3, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Yes, that’s a shame, perhaps you should get some more?

Reply

BobinOz January 4, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Hi Kym, you’ll be pleased to hear you inspired todays post, Australia’s Bird Eating Spider.

Thanks

Bob

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Aussie August 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Just a note here: there has been only one case of a funnel web death in 15 minutes from memory, and it was a kid. While tragic, kids are usually more vulnerable to that sort of thing due to their smaller size.

Just putting things into perspective.

Reply

BobinOz August 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm

It’s also worth noting that that death would have been prior to 1981 and the introduction of antivenom as nobody has died from a funnel web spider bite since then.

That puts it even more into perspective. Cheers Aussie!

Bob

Reply

Greg Grehan December 31, 2013 at 10:44 pm

“…Northern Territory, the only place that has crocodiles”. Hi Bob, just a heads-up, but crocodiles are also found in Queensland (generally from Gladstone north, although they have been confirmed as far south as the Logan River) and Western Australia from Broome north.

As for the Funnel Webs, the Toowoomba funnel web (hadronyche infensa) – common around bushy/moist areas in SEQ – is now thought to be as toxic, if not more so, than the infamous Sydney funnel web. Hadronyche formidabilis (the northern tree funnel web) is also thought to be as toxic. It is also the largest of the funnel webs. Sleep well! B-)

Reply

BobinOz January 2, 2014 at 2:19 am

Wow! I can’t believe I wrote that. Yes, I know crocs are found anywhere in the northern third of Australia, I must have had a brain malfunction. Thanks for picking it up, I’ve now changed it to “one of the places”.

Thanks for the info about the Toowoomba funnel web too, I am just about to go to bed, so really thanks :-)

Reply

Alwen January 29, 2014 at 3:51 am

Hey! I was in Australia over August and spent some time hiking/camping in the Northern Territory. At one point we hiked up to Jim Jim falls in Kakadu National Park and spent some time in the water to cool off. I decided to climb along the rock face to reach another pool because the boulders in the water were too slippery and I climb better than I swim. At one point I noticed a small-ish, chubby spider roughly 3cm in size near my hand but being from Wales, UK, where we have harmless but larger spiders it didn’t set off any alarm bells so I didn’t think anything of it until I noticed a web to the left. It was exactly like a tunnel, cone or funnel and as soon as the word “funnel” crossed my mind I freaked out and threw myself backwards into the water! I looked into it once I got home and realised that they don’t live in NT but in that case, I’m really not sure what it was. Any ideas?

Reply

BobinOz January 30, 2014 at 3:13 pm

So, let me get this straight Alwen, to escape a nearby spider, you threw yourself into the water, where the crocodiles live :-)

Australia, such fun!

Glad it worked out for you, but as for identifying that spider, I’m really not sure either. Maybe somebody else reading this might know, anybody?

Reply

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