The Find-a-Spider Guide

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Blue Mountains funnel-web

Fact Box
Species:
Hadronyche versuta (B. Brunet)
Previous species name:
Atrax versutus
Family:
Hexathelidae
formerly Dipluridae
Body length:
female: about 40 mm
male: about 20 mm
Habitat:
A burrow in the ground with threads radiating from its entrance
Toxicity:
Male venom of this species is lethal to humans (female venom less so)
Hadronyche versuta
Click to enlarge
A female

The characteristics of this funnel-web species are mostly the same as for the ground-dwelling Darling Downs species, Hadronyche infensa. Only an expert taxonomist can distinguish between these two species but there does not appear to be much overlap in the areas of Australia in which each species is found. When provoked, both sexes of the majority of funnel-web species 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.

Mature males usually appear during or after rain but only over the period mid-summer to autumn. They are active at night but seek a dark, moist shelter during the daytime. They quickly die when exposed to drying conditions and will not live for long if they wander into a house or some other similar construction. Having emerged from their burrows, mature males inevitably die within the next few days whereas adult females usually live for more than 5-10 years.

Funnel-webs are distinguished from the more common 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. The Blue Mountains also have some 'false funnel-webs' that are somewhat similar in colour to a funnel-web (though not so black and less glossy) and these spiders also have longer spinnerets like those found on true funnel-webs. Fortunately, their venom does not appear to be as toxic to humans as that of the Atrax and Hadronyche species.

The neurotoxin in the venom of funnel-web spiders 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 infensa.


Email Ron Atkinson for more information.    Last updated 30 January 2013.