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Sydney Funnel-web Spider
Female Sydney Funnel-Web Spider, Atrax robustus. Image: Stuart Humphreys
© Australian Museum

The Sydney Funnel-web is a shiny, dark-brown-to-black spider. The male spiders have a large mating spur projecting from the middle of their second pair of legs.

The Funnel-Web is infamous for ‘swimming and jumping’, but both of these behaviours are not true. Despite what many people say, they cannot jump and they don’t chase people. Not all Funnel-web bites are life threatening. The venom of juvenile and female Sydney Funnel-webs is much less toxic than that of adult males.

Male Funnel-webs are known to wander into backyards and fall into suburban swimming pools. In the water they are able to survive for hours thanks to its ability to trap small bubbles of air in its hairs around the abdomen. This aids both breathing and floating. So when swimming this summer don’t assume the black spider sitting at the bottom of the pool is dead!

After a night of mate-seeking the male Funnel-web takes refuge in a dark and moist location, such as a cavity under a rock or even in a shoe someone has innocently left outside.

It is true that the male Sydney Funnel-Web has one of the most toxic venoms (to humans) of any spider. The venom has a neurotoxin component that attacks the human nervous system and in the worst cases, can result in death.

Since the introduction of the antivenom is 1981, however, there have been no recorded fatalities. Deaths as a result of the spider bite are much less than both ‘Bull Ants’ and ‘Honey Bees’. This being great news to many arachnophobics.

There are also many cases of mistaken identity with the Sydney Funnel-Web. The Mouse Spider, Trapdoor Spider and even the Black House Spider are often thought to be funnel-webs.

So when out and about this Spring: be alert not alarmed.

Quick Facts –

  • We rate this animal as a 8/10 Danger Rating.
  • Has caused death, but there have been no fatalities since the introduction of anti-venom in 1981.

Interested in finding out more on Sydney Funnel-Web Spiders? Download DangerOz now.