It’s Funnel-Web Spider Season, So Be Happy You Don’t Live In Australia
Funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus), Australia. Photo: Robin Smith (Getty).
If you are deathly afraid of arachnids, we’d venture to guess you don’t spend a lot of time in The Land Down Under. If you do, we’d have to assume you’ve gotten yourself as used to spiders as humanly possible considering some of the deadliest ones in the world reside and flourish there.
But enough beating around the bush, as time is of the essence in just about every conceivable way. It’s mating season for the venomous funnel-web spider, and with a bite that can kill in 15 minutes without being properly treated, it’s best you prepare yourselves.
A news report out of Australia details a startling discovery by local New South Wales woman Bec Sheedy, who recently discovered a deadly funnel-web spider on a wall in her home. Describing it as “probably about 5cm in diameter, so smaller than an open palm,” these jet black nightmares literally have fangs powerful enough to puncture a human fingernail. Sheedy goes on to say that she’s “seen more redbacks this year than in the past but [she hasn’t] seen a funnel-web since [she] was a kid.”
Funnel-web spiders are common on Australia’s east coast and even extend from Queensland to New South Wales. However, due to the fact that it’s presently mating season, the odds have increased slightly that residents will bump into them, especially in the evening hours. According to Paul Hare, Invertebrate Keeper at Taronga Zoo, this is due to male funnel-webs going on the hunt for females. Considering the species thrives on cool, damp environments (often hiding in pools, bathrooms or the household laundry when detected), nighttime is go time.
And just to add an extra layer of anxiety, it should be understood that these ugly buggers can survive submerged underwater for a couple of days. Hence, why you should never reach into a pool filter or garden without a fairly thick pair of gloves on.
Of course, not all is as doom and gloom as it seems. Hare also makes a point to mention that “the reality is [funnel-web spiders are] just not as bad” as they used to be. “These days if you were to die from one, there’s something else going on,” he goes on. That’s because there hasn’t been a fatality since 1981 when Dr. Struan Sutherland created an antivenom.
Bottom line: If you’re bitten by a (mostly defensive) funnel-web spider, get yourself treated immediately and all will be well. Never go out of your way to kill one, either, as they play an important role in the ecosystem by killing more irritating bugs like cockroaches, flies and mosquitoes. Plus, as Hare puts it, due to their incredible resilience, they’re “alive until it’s proven otherwise.” So if you’re going to murder one, you’d better do a damn good job of it or they’ll hunt you down in the night.