The deadly funnel-web spider is expected to thrive in Sydney after recent wet weather followed by hot days created the perfect conditions for the arachnid.
The Australian Reptile Park, located on the Central Coast, 50km north of Sydney, has warned that in coming days the city could experience a “bonanza” of sightings.
There are more than 30 species of funnel-web spider but the Sydney funnel-web spider, atrax robustus, holds the Guinness World Record for the most venomous spider in the world and is only found in the greater Sydney region, in the moister forests of the upper north shore and Woronora Plateau to the south.
The expected uptick in sightings is welcome news for the park, which is the only supplier of funnel-web spider venom needed to make the life-saving anti-venom.
Prof Dieter Hochuli, a leading member of the Integrative Ecology Group at the University of Sydney, said that increased spider activity was due to a combination of factors.
“These warmer times of year are when the males, who are more dangerous to humans, wander about at night looking for females,” Hochuli said.
Not only is wet and humid weather ideal for invertebrates such as the Sydney funnel-web spider but “the potential for rain to flood burrows [can cause] an increase in their activity”.
According to the Australian Reptile Park’s keeper of reptiles and spiders, Jake Meney, the Sydney funnel-web spider “prefers to make its home in sheltered, shady spots, which are always cool and humid” and can often be found in “damp places like the laundry, garage or in shoes left out on the ground”.
The Australian Reptile Park’s anti-venom program began in the early 1980s, and there has not been a single funnel-web related death since.
As conditions become optimal for the spider, the park has urged the public to capture and send in any funnel-web spiders they see, as long as they are across the correct first aid and know how to safely catch the spiders.
Adults who feel comfortable doing so can safely capture spiders “using a big glass jar and keeping your hands away from the spider” and use a long stick to coax it in, Meney said.
“Funnel-webs cannot climb up glass or plastic so once you put the lid on tightly, the funnel web can’t get out.”
Captured funnel-web spiders can be taken in to the Australian Reptile Park or one of its drop-off points in Sydney, the Central Coast or Newcastle.
The park also advises that if you are bitten by a spider, to remain calm and apply the correct first aid, which is to apply a pressure immobilisation bandage and get to hospital as fast as possible.
For those who prefer to avoid interactions with the spider, Hochuli said: “At a local level, gardeners should wear gloves and be vigilant and people can also be careful checking shoes left outside before putting them on in the morning.”