Warning over deadly funnel-web spider invasion after heavy rain

Sydney residents are being warned about a “plague” of funnel web spiders following days of heavy rain.

Parts of Sydney have been hit with more than 350mm of rain over the past week, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

While the sun came out on Wednesday in Sydney, people are now being warned there could be more funnel web spiders about.

University of Queensland’s Associate Professor David Merritt told Yahoo News Australia spiders are heading for people’s homes to escape floodwaters.

A funnel web spider is pictured.
Sydneysiders are being warned more funnel web spiders could be about due to the wet weather. Source: The Australian Reptile Park

Australian Reptile Park director Tim Faulkner said residents “are already seeing” increased movements from funnel web spiders.

“The upcoming warm weather and high levels of humidity is the perfect storm for a funnel-web spider boom in coming days,” Mr Faulkner said.

“Under normal circumstances, the humidity generated from warm weather after a rain event would see an increase in activity amongst funnel-webs. This situation is completely different.”

In Sydney, there are two species of funnel web spiders: the Sydney funnel-web spider and the Southern tree-dwelling funnel-web spider, according to the Australian Museum.

“In Sydney suburbia, funnel-web spiders mostly live in the moist upland forest areas of the Hornsby Plateau to the north and the Woronora Plateau to the south, where sheltered burrow habitats abound in both bushland and gardens,” the museum says.

“The dry, flatter areas of western Sydney and the Cumberland Plain have fewer funnel-webs, their numbers picking up again in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.”

Funnel-web spider movement will increase 'dramatically'

Zookeeper Dan Rumsey added warm conditions will see funnel web spider movement increase “dramatically” with the chances of them appearing in homes “increasing as well”.

Mr Rumsey said male spiders will begin looking for females to mate with.

“This is the time that they’re going to be out and about,” he said.

Sydney reached 29 degrees on Wednesday, and a maximum temperature of 28 is expected on Thursday.

“Not only are we seeing increased movement due to humidity, but we’re already seeing a plague of ground-dwelling spiders searching for higher ground, out of the floodwaters,” Mr Faulkner said.

“Usually, funnel-webs are found in damp, wooded areas, generally near a water source. With the incredible flooding that we’ve experienced across the Greater Sydney area, they have been forced out of their habitat and are seeking refuge in dryer areas.

“Unfortunately, this could mean that they’ll be finding their way into residential homes very shortly.”

A man walks across a flooded street in Windsor, northwest of Sydney.
A man walks through flood waters in Windsor. Source: AAP

What should you do if you come across a spider?

Mr Faulkner urged residents to be alert but not alarmed.

Professor Merrit said it is best to leave spiders alone “and let nature take its course”.

“I would hate to think anyone would spray insecticide on them or that sort of thing,” he said.

"They’ve only come into houses and human made structures because they’ve been forced to, so give them a bit of time and they’ll disperse back into their natural environment.”

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