The Sydney funnel-web spider, touted the deadliest of its kind in the world, is surfacing again as the weather heats up. But people are encouraged to capture them instead of leading them to their death.
There are less and less funnel-web venom and this could lead to a shortage in anti-venom, warned Julia Mendezona, head keeper of New South Wales’ Australian Reptile Park, the only place in the country that milks the feared eight-legged creatures for their antivenene.
In 2014, 65 suspected funnel-web bite cases were recorded in Australia including “a few near-death experiences,” said Mendezona. However, she added that antivenene has prevented any death from such bite in over 20 years.
Funnel-web spiders can be as short as one centimeter, favors “a shady suburban garden,” and can lead anyone to her death within 15 minutes if rubbed the wrong way. The signs of a bite – dubbed as “sudden and alarming” – include extreme salivation, loss of breath, tingling in lips, numbness in limbs, and even extreme abdominal pain.
Male funnel-web spider bites are considered seven times as toxic as those from females, but the expert called for only trapping the critter instead of killing it, delivering it to the park afterwards.
“[I]n the last couple of seasons we’ve been averaging 200,” shared Mendezona, saying that while that number is enough, they are targeting more than 300 animals to be ahead in their antivenene production.
However, people are advised to trap funnel-webs only if they are comfortable – never touch them and only coax them with a stick into a glass jar. Make sure to have air holes and moist soil in the container to prevent the spider from drying out.
Craig Adams, director of snake and spider safety education group SSSafe, the bad rap that spiders often get is undeserved. There are plenty of spider bites every year but most do not amount to much, he said.
He said snakes, which are more mobile, are more able to inflict a deadly bite.
“But that’s not to underestimate the risk of spiders,” he added, as it is likely to encounter a spider around one’s house.
At least 13 individuals have been killed by funnel-web spiders but none documented since an anti-venom was created in 1981.
Here is a listing of drop-off points for the spider anti-venom program of Australia.
Photo: Alan Couch | Flickr