Appearance - A large, bulky spider, with females reaching over 35mm in body length and males around 25mm
The head region is characteristically glossy black, while the abdomen is dark brown or purplish in colour. The body and legs are covered with fine hairs
Males reach sexual maturity at four years of age, females a year later.
The female produces an egg sac containing a hundred or so eggs and stores this in her burrow until the spiderlings hatch.
Males usually die some 6-8 months after reaching maturity, while females may continue to breed for several more years. Males usually die after mating.
Their main diet consists of insects, although items as large as frogs and lizards may also be taken
Funnel Web bites may be fatal to humans.
Danger to humans and First Aid Procedure
Funnel-web Spider antivenom
An antivenom for the Sydney Funnel-web Spider was first developed for clinical use in 1981 by Dr Struan Sutherland and his team at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. No deaths have occurred since its introduction. At the same time Sutherland experimentally established the effectiveness of the compression/immobilisation first aid technique for funnel-web bite. Much of the venom for this research was supplied through a funnel-web venom milking program at the Australian Reptile Park. This antivenom has also been effective against other dangerous funnel-web spider species. As well, it has been successfully used in cases of mouse spider envenomation. Antivenom is held at major city and regional hospitals. Other dangerous funnel-web species All suspected bites by any funnel-web spider should be regarded as potentially dangerous and treated accordingly. Besides Atrax robustus several other species have been sporadically involved in life threatening envenomations. They include the Blue Mountains Funnel-web Spider (Hadronyche versuta) and the Southern and Northern Tree Funnel-web Spiders (H. cerberea and H. formidabilis).
First aid for Funnel-web Spider bites
Despite the availability of an effective antivenom, correct and immediate first aid is still an essential requirement for funnel-web spider (and mouse spider) envenomation. The recommended first aid technique is pressure/immobilisation (as for snake bite) and this must be done as quickly as possible.The pressure/immobilisation technique compresses surface tissues and reduces muscle movement, greatly slowing the lymphatic flow.
Spider bites usually take place on a limb. A pressure bandage should be applied as soon as possible after a bite has occurred. This should be applied as tightly as for a sprained ankle, starting from the bitten area and binding the entire limb above the bite. A rigid splint should be bound onto the limb to prevent limb movement. The patient should be kept as quiet as possible and medical attention sought. If possible, keep the spider for positive identification.
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