Female funnel-web spider.

Female funnel-web spider.

Funnel-web spider

Funnel-web spiders are some of the world’s most deadly spiders and are found in coastal and mountain regions of eastern and southern Australia.

  • 31 October 2008 | Updated 15 May 2012

Description

Funnel-webs are large black spiders with a shiny head/thorax. The body may range from 1.5 cm up to more than 5 cm long depending on the species.

Female funnel-web spiders are stockier than males, with shorter legs and a bigger abdomen, which may be brown or bluish. The eyes are small and closely grouped, the fang bases extend horizontally from the front of the head and the long fangs lie parallel underneath (do not check this on a live spider!).

Funnel-web spiders live in burrows in sheltered positions in the ground, or in stumps, tree trunks or ferns above the ground. Their burrows are lined with a sock of opaque white silk and several strong strands of silk radiating from the entrance.

Funnel-web spider venom is highly toxic and all species should be considered potentially dangerous.

Distribution

Funnel-web spiders are found in:

  • Queensland
  • New South Wales
  • the Australian Capital Territory
  • Victoria
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania.

They mainly occur along the coast and mountain regions from Gladstone in the north to southern Tasmania.

Isolated species occur in the Mount Lofty Ranges and Eyre Peninsula of South Australia, and in the mountains of North Queensland. The Sydney funnel-web spider is found within about 100 km of the city.

In the tropics and subtropics, they favour rainforests and higher altitudes, but in southern states they also live in drier eucalypt forests and woodlands, as well as snow country.

Life history

Female funnel-web spiders are long-lived, possibly up to 20 years. They are rarely seen except during tree felling, excavation or landscaping work.

Female funnel-web spiders are sedentary and pass their entire lives inside the burrow, only venturing out momentarily to grab passing prey. Prey consists of insects and small vertebrates such as lizards and frogs.

Young spiders are raised inside the burrow. After the first couple of moults female funnel-web spiders leave the maternal burrow, dispersing on foot to build their own burrow.

Juvenile male spiders remain in the burrow until their final adult moult. Males mature at 2-3 years then vacate the burrow in search of a mate.

Pest status and management

Funnel-web spider venom is highly toxic, and all species should be considered potentially dangerous. Males wander at night, especially during or after rain, and may enter houses.

Bites by males of two large species, the Sydney funnel-web and northern tree funnel-web, have resulted in death.

If you are in a known funnel-web area:

  • wear gloves when gardening
  • know what a burrow looks like
  • wear shoes when walking
  • if camping:
    • close tent flaps
    • carefully shaken out before use, any footwear, clothes and sleeping bags left on the ground overnight, as the spiders hide during the day.

First aid if bitten:

  • keep calm
  • move only if necessary
  • if a limb is bitten, apply pressure bandage to bite area and around limb towards heart
  • immobilise limb with a splint
  • collect spider specimen (even if squashed)
  • seek medical aid as soon as possible.

CSIRO no longer conducts research on funnel-web spiders. This fact sheet is provided for information only.

State museums and Canberra Connect in the ACT will usually provide identification and advice for the general public.

Find out more about CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences.