Sydney Funnel Web Spider

Female Funnelweb spider

Male Funnelweb Spider

The Sydney funnel web spider is mostly found near Sydney (from Newastle to Nowra and as far west as Lithgow) but it has been seen as far north as Brisbane. Related species are found along the eastern coast of New South Wales.

It is a large (6-7 cm), black, aggressive, ugly looking spider with massive fangs. These are large and powerful enough to easily penetrate a fingernail. When disturbed it tends to rear up on its hind legs, a defensive posture that exposes the fangs. They don't jump. During a bite the spider firmly grips its victim and bites repeatedly; in most cases the experience is horrific. The venom is highly toxic. Before an effective antivenom was developed, significant bites usually resulted in severe symptoms and death was not uncommon.

The venom of the slightly smaller male spider is five times as toxic as the female. This is unfortunate, as male funnel webs tend to roam about, particularly after heavy rain in summer, and often wind up indoors.

For some strange reason, human beings (and other primates and monkeys) are particularly sensitive to the venom, whereas toads, cats and rabbits are almost unaffected!

The bite is usually immediately painful, and if enough venom is injected into the victim, symptoms commence usually within a few minutes. These symptoms include:

* sweating
* muscle twitching
* increased production of saliva
* watering eyes
* increased heart rate
* increased blood pressure
* vomiting
* airway obstruction
* unconsciousness

After about 2 hours the muscle twitching and most symptoms start to subside, and are replaced with insidious but profound hypotension, primarily due to severe cardiac failure.

First Aid:
The pressure immobilisation technique MUST be commenced as soon as possible. Any delay risks the rapid onset of symptoms affecting the entire body. There have been no reports of deaths when effective first aid had been instituted.

Medical attention should be saught immediately so that the anti-venom can be administered as soon as possible. Bandages MUST NOT be removed prematurely.

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