The Sydney Funnel Web Spider are commonly found throughout the greater Blue Mountains region, especially in the warmer months.
The Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) is a species of venomous mygalomorph spider native to eastern Australia, usually found within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of Sydney. It is a member of a group of spiders known as Australian funnel-web spiders. Its bite is capable of causing serious injury or death in humans if left untreated.
The Sydney funnel-web spider shares its name with some members of the genus Hadronyche. It remains, together with the northern tree funnel-web, the only Australian funnel-web spider known to have inflicted fatal bites on humans.
The Sydney funnel-web is medium to large in size, with body length ranging from 1 to 5 cm (0.4 to 2 in). Both sexes are glossy and darkly coloured, ranging from blue-black, to black, to brown or dark-plum coloured. The carapace covering the cephalothorax is almost hairless and appears smooth and glossy. Another characteristic are finger-like spinnerets at the end of their abdomen. The shorter-lived male is smaller than the female but longer legged. The average leg length for the spider in general is six to seven centimeters.
Where do they live
Funnel-web spiders live in the moist forest regions of the east coast and highlands of Australia from Tasmania to north Queensland. They are also found in the drier open forests of the Western Slopes of the Great Dividing Range and South Australia’s Gulf ranges. Funnel-webs of the genus Atrax have a much smaller distribution than do the more diverse members of the genus Hadronyche. The Sydney Funnel-web Spider, Atrax robustus, is found from Newcastle to Nowra and west as far as Lithgow in New South Wales.
The male factor
Only male spiders have been responsible for all recorded funnel-web envenomation deaths – why is it so? The answer lies in a combination of spider behaviour, venom chemistry, and even colonial politics.
During the warmer months of the year (November-April) male funnel-webs wander about at night looking for females in their burrows. Males wandering in suburban gardens may sometimes become trapped inside houses or garages, especially those with concrete slab foundations where entry points under doors are easily reached.
Sydney funnel-web spider bite treatment
- Keep calm. Don’t panic!
- Move only if absolutely necessary.
- If it is a limb that is bitten apply a pressure bandage much as you would to a snake bite. The bandage should be around the area and the limb towards the heart.
- Immobilise the limb with a splint.
- If possible, carefully catch the spider, even if squished. This is important for identification and further treatment.
- A bite from the Sydney Funnel-web should be regarded as a medical emergency. Seek medical aid as quickly as possible.
How to avoid being bitten
Obviously not being bitten is preferable to any form of treatment. If you are in an area known for these spiders the following precautions are advisable:
- Know what the spider and its burrows look like.
- Wear thick gloves when gardening.
- Wear fully enclosed shoes.
- If camping close tent flaps and shake out any shoes, clothing or equipment left out overnight.