The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #59418   Message #1192702
Posted By: freda underhill
24-May-04 - 10:10 AM
Thread Name: BS: The Mother of all BS threads
Subject: RE: BS: The Mother of all BS threads
Funnel-web spiders are found in eastern Australia, including Tasmania, in coastal and highland forest regions - as far west as the Gulf Ranges area of South Australia. Gardeners and people digging in soil may encounter Funnel-webs in burrows at any time of the year. The Sydney Funnel-web Spider (Atrax robustus) occurs from Newcastle to Nowra and west to Lithgow.

Funnel-webs are large spiders (1.5 - 4.5 cm body length) with glossy dark brown to black carapace. The abdomen is usually dark plum to black and not patterned. The eyes of Funnel-webs are closely grouped. Male funnel-webs approach the females' hidden burrows, possibly by following the scent of their chemical attractants. During mating, the male must restrain the female from striking him with her fangs using the spurs on his second legs, while he transfers sperm via his palps into her genital opening.

The female then spins a pillow-shaped silk egg sac, into which she lays over 100 eggs. She cleans and turns the egg sac several times during incubation and will defend it vigorously if disturbed. The spiderlings hatch about three weeks later, and stay with the mother for a few months. After two moults, they leave her burrow, dispersing by foot to eventually make their own burrows. Juvenile males will stay in their burrows until their final adult moult, after which they will become wanderers. Funnel-webs mature in about two to four years, with the females living to ten or more years, and the males dying about six to nine months after maturity.

Bites are most prevalent during summer and autumn when males leave the burrows in search of females. Bites are dangerous and can cause serious illness or death. The venom appears to particularly affect primates (ie humans), whereas other mammals - such as cats and dogs - are relatively resistant.

The male Sydney Funnel-web Spider is more dangerous than the female. This is because the toxic venom component that attacks the human and primate nervous symptom so severely is only present in male spiders. Initial symptoms after a bite include local pain, mouth numbness, vomiting, abdominal pain, sweating and salivation, ultimately death, if antivenene is not administered.

I mention all this because Sydney is well populated with funnel web spiders, and also because weve got on to things to do with bugs in this thread. a friend found a funnel web spider on her verandah a few years ago. She put it in a plastic container in the freezer. When it was frozen, she dipped it in epoxy resin and made an earring from it.