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Toowoomba funnel-web

Fact Box
Species:
Hadronyche infensa (Platnick)
(See note below)
Previous species name:
Atrax infensus (RM)
Family:
Hexathelidae
formerly Dipluridae
Body length:
female: 40 mm
male: 23 mm
Habitat:
In a burrow in well watered forests/gardens; males may roam above ground at night then hide in a moist retreat
Toxicity:
Highly toxic; male venom is lethal to humans; female venom is less potent but more voluminous
Hadronyche infensa
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Male, rearing up
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Mating
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Male, side view
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Spiderlings
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Spinnerets
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Web entrance
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Excavated burrow
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web in leaf litter

Note: This Toowoomba spider was first described by Professor V.V. Hickman in 1964 and named Atrax infensus but Rainbow and Pulleine in 1918 had already reported another funnel-web species from the same collecting region which they named Atrax valida. In 1976 B.Y. Main suggested these were actually the same species because they are identical in general appearance and this possibility remains open. If it is correct then Hadronyche valida will be the more accurate name for this spider.

In the vicinity of Toowoomba this species is mostly found along the edge of the range and on nearby hills (including those in the Lockyer Valley) and mountainous areas that receive above average rainfall. Its range is probably rather wider than this and there are said to be 6 recognized funnel-web species in South-east Queensland at the present time. Mature males usually appear during or after rain but only over the period late October to early February. They are active at night but seek a dark, moist shelter during the daytime. They quickly die when exposed to drying conditions and thus cannot live long inside houses. Having emerged from their burrows mature males inevitably die within the next week or two whereas adult females usually take close to 5 years to reach maturity and in ideal conditions can live for about 20 years.

The male Toowoomba funnel-web lacks the spur on the second leg that is a characteristic of the Sydney funnel-web. Toowoomba funnel-webs are distinguished from the common Darling Downs trapdoor species in that they are a glossy black colour (not dark brown) and have spinnerets with terminal segments that are longer than they are wide.

Funnel-webs rarely climb and so will usually be found at floor level in a part of the house where the humidity is high. When provoked, both sexes rear up (though they do not jump) and drops of venom appear on the ends of their fangs. This tendency to void venom is an important identifying feature of funnel-web spiders.

The neurotoxin in the venom of the Toowoomba funnel-web spider can cause serious illness in an hour or two, the male producing the more potent venom although the volume injected is usually much smaller than for the female. Envenomation can be prevented by the application of a compression bandage over the bite site. An effective antivenom is now available in districts where funnel-webs are known to exist. Surprisingly, virtually all domesticated animals are naturally immune to funnel-web spider venoms.

Spider(s) with a very similar appearance: Hadronyche formidabilis and Homogona pulleinei.


Email Ron Atkinson for more information.    Last updated 2 November 2009.