Australia has several species of funnelweb spider, but the dreaded Sydney Funnelweb is the one most commonly refered to. It inhabits the coastal areas of NSW, but has been found up as far north as and into parts of south east Queensland. It prefers cool damp areas.
It builds it’s nest in the form of a silk burrow around the foundations of houses and sheds, crevices in rocks or similar suitable places.
The male is far bigger than the female, and 10 times more toxic. It is shiny black in colour, hairy, ugly and highly aggressive. Unfortunately, the male on maturity, leaves his burrow and wanders, looking for suitable females, in summer and autumn. This leads it into houses, sheds, garages and gardens.
When striking, they lunge forward and downward, gripping their victim with their front legs, and plunging their huge fangs into the victim over and over again. The pain is instantaneous. Correct treatment of a bite is essential. A presure bandage must be applied
immediately, and the limb immobalised, any movement can accellorate the spread of the venom. Do not wash the wound area, as any excess venom is useful for exact identification of the spider. Antivennene has been available for many years now, and since it’s introduction, we have not had any fatalities. But until it’s introduction, innumerable victims died. Strangely enough, not all animals are affected by this venom, but all primates, including humans, are particularly susceptible. Cat and dogs seem impervious to it, mature rats also, however young rats are vulnerable.
When mature, the male goes courting the females, locating their burrow by following their scent. Mating takes place cautiously, the male holding the female with his spurs to prevent her biting him, while he transfers his sperm sac with his palps.
The female once impregnated, builds a pillow shaped silk egg sac, and lays at least 100 eggs. She tends this sac carefully over the incubation period of 3 weeks, turning it and cleaning it. She defends this nest vigorously and aggressively. Once the eggs hatch, the young stay with
the mother for the next 2 months. After their 2nd moult of skeletal shell, they then leave the nest and set up housekeeping nearby. It’s not uncommon to find an infestation of more than 100 funnelwebs in one small area of house yard or bushland.
They take 2 – 4 years to reach sexual maturity, males then go wandering seeking the females, but do not live much longer than 6 months after mating. The females on the other hand, take the same time to mature, but can live for up to 10 years.
No death has ever been recorded from the bite of a female funnelweb. The males have been solely responsible, as their venom holds a different toxic substance to their female counterparts.