Venomous spider warning after 'perfect storm' of extreme weather events

Described as an 'exponential' surge, an average 20 funnel-web spiders a week are being collected.

Weather around Australia has been shocking in February, but those living in Sydney are being hit particularly hard, firstly with humidity, then rain, and now deadly spiders. Venomous funnel-web spiders are on the move, so visitors to the NSW capital are being told to check their boots and shake out their towels.

Funnel-web experts say a “perfect storm” of extreme weather events has led to a surge in reports of the tiny black critters. During quieter times, around seven funnel-web spiders a month are handed into the Australian Reptile Park which collects specimens so their venom can be milked to produce antivenin to treat bites. But humid weather and heavy rains have led to an "exponential" surge in numbers.

“We always see a peak during this time... but I've seen big numbers handed into the park. We’ve been getting on average of 20 a week,” the Park’s spider keeper Emma Teni told Yahoo News.

A woman from Australian Reptile Park collecting a funnel-web spider from a garden. Inset - a spider inside a boot.
Experts are warning Sydneysiders to check their boots for funnel-web spiders. Source: Australian Reptile Park

During funnel-web breeding season, gardeners and walkers in Sydney can expect to see male spiders on the move as they enjoy the humid conditions and search for a mate. “Males can travel a couple of hundred metres in a night and in the morning they’ll seek refuge. And that could be most likely into your garden, or even into your house,” Teni said.

Because of the heavy rains, females are being found flushed out of their burrows by flooding. “It's been the perfect weather conditions for them, paired with the fact that it is the right time of year,” Teni added.

Rows of funnel-web spiders at the Australian Reptile Park.
Around 20 funnel-web spiders are being handed in every week. Source: Australian Reptile Park

How common are fatalities from funnel-web bites?

Although funnel-web spiders are Australia’s most venomous spiders, there hasn’t been a confirmed human fatality associated with a bite since antivenin became available 42 years ago. If you are unfortunate to be bitten by one, the Park recommends you stay calm, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage and get to hospital.

Male funnel-web toxins are more deadly than the heavier females but both are venomous. If you spot one, the most important thing is to keep yourself safe, but if you feel able to catch one, the Park has multiple drop-off points around Greater Sydney which can be found here.

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