Wildfires Help Create Perfect Breeding Conditions for Australia’s Deadliest Spiders

Eric Todisco
Wildfires Help Create Perfect Breeding Conditions for Australia’s Deadliest Spiders

As Australia continues to be devastated by deadly wildfires, residents are being warned by experts of a new danger: increased funnel-web spider activity.

Daniel Rumsey, spokesman of the Australian Reptile Park, explained in a recent Facebook video that the “current conditions” of the country, caused by drought and fires, encourage funnel-web spider breeding.

“Funnel- web spiders potentially are the most dangerous spiders on the planet in terms of a bite towards a human, so we have to treat it very seriously,” Rumsey added in the video.

The Australian Reptile Park has a “long history” working with the deadly spiders, Rumsey said, adding that the park has developed an anti-venom for those bit by female spiders.

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However, the park hasn’t yet developed an anti-venom for bites from male spiders.

Rumsey encouraged adults to, if they can, safely capture funnel-web spiders and bring them to the reptile park. Both male and female funnel-web spiders are often all black or all brown and grow to 1 cm – 5 cm in body length, according to the Australian Museum, but females are often a bit bulkier than their male counterparts.

“Funnel-web spiders are very dangerous, but they are quite easy to catch,” Rumsey explained. “Because they are ground-dwelling spider, they can’t climb smooth surfaces like plastic or glass, so you’ll need some tools.”

Rumsey recommended keeping your hand about 20 centimeters from a funnel-web spider at all times, and to use a steel spoon to push the spider into a glass jar or plastic container.

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In addition to the Australian Reptile Park, there are many drop-off centers in Australia that are also accepting captured funnel-web spiders, according to Rumsey.

If somebody is bitten by a funnel-web spider, Rumsey said that the treatment is the same one used for front-venomous snake bites.

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“It’s pressure immobilization treatment. You immobilize the limb, you apply a bandage and of course you seek immediate medical attention,” Rumsey said.

He also noted that there has not been a death from a funnel-web spider bite since the early 1990s.