It's Funnel Web Season // WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
16 Jan 2019
We love summer in The Highlands. Stunning sunsets, lazy days by the pool, splashing about in local waterholes, sundowners on the veranda or at the pub, and funnel webs……wait! WHAT?!?
Yep, these weather conditions are drawing funnel webs out, so we caught up with local snake catcher and funnel web collector, Ray McGibbon to get some straight-shootin’ facts on what we need to be aware of when these arachnids are about.
Current weather conditions are drawing funnel webs out
Funnel webs are drawn out by certain conditions to eat and mate, and they are loving the current weather patterns. They like moisture and sudden temperature changes, so this hot weather, rain, cooler conditions and hot weather again is a cycle they thrive in.
The Sydney Funnel Web has made its way down to The Southern Highlands
The most common funnel web in The Highlands is the Sydney Funnel Web – unfortunately, it is also Australia’s most venomous spider (gulp!). There was a time when we didn’t have funnel webs down here, but as development has occurred over the last fifty years or so in the area, and turf has been brought from Sydney to landscape, funnel webs have travelled down in the Sydney turf and established themselves here in The Highlands.
Clear the area around any sort of hole in your garden
Funnel webs create small burrows in the ground for themselves lined with a funnel style web – hence, the name – at the opening of the hole. Funnel webs like moist, dense conditions so holes are normally found in damp, shaded areas like rockeries, dense shrubs, logs and leaf litter.
It’s difficult to differentiate between funnel web holes, cicada holes and other spider holes such as the mouse spider who sets himself up in a similar way. So if you find a hole in the ground, clear the leaf litter away from the hole and make sure its all open and clear. This will dry the holes up, and funnel webs are vulnerable in dry conditions.
Sydney Funnel Webs are walkers not climbers
Well, they can climb but they prefer to stay on the ground, and they can’t climb on smooth surfaces – good to know! They can climb on rough surfaces such as logs, brick walls or steps but they’re not great at it, so they tend not to climb a long way.
Protecting yourself from funnel webs requires some basic knowledge of their activity
It all comes down to education. If you know where and how funnel webs move around, you can bring in some simple strategies to minimise the risk of being bitten by one. Funnel webs can happily climb up and over door thresholds, so always keep exterior doors closed. Don’t put your washing basket on the ground when you’re hanging washing out or taking it off the line.
When you’re outside gardening, wear good quality gloves and boots. Don’t leave boots and shoes outside. If you have, then give them a darn good shake and bang before you put them on again. And no bare feet in the garden at this time of year. Covered shoes are best.
Their venom is precious so catch and collect a funnel web if you can
I’ve been collecting funnel webs for the last few years and sending them to Venom Supplies South Australia, who are collecting some pretty amazing research on uses for spider venom.
If you’re confident enough to catch a funnel web, the thing to remember is that yes, they will rear up at you, but they will also walk backwards at the same time. So get a wide mouthed jar, tub or container and place it behind the spider. Then with a long handled utensil – something like a wooden spoon or spatula – push the spider backwards into the container.
Remember, the funnel web can’t climb smooth surfaces, so place it upright immediately, then pop some cotton wool in the jar for moisture and place a lid or covering on the top with airholes. If you don’t have a lid, you can use something like Glad Wrap secured with an elastic band.
Then call me and I’ll come and collect it. If you have a fear of spiders, maybe call a neighbour or me or someone else that can catch the spider. You’ll just have to keep watch until we get there, though.
Awareness of first aid procedures for will minimise the risk of serious harm
Yes, funnel webs are deadly but thankfully an anti-venom was created in 1981 and since then, there haven’t been any deaths in Australia from funnel web bites. Follow the correct first aid procedure and get to anti-venom ASAP. Call 000 immediately. Stay calm and still, apply pressure to the wound area and immobilise the limb – most funnel web bites occur on limbs –by wrapping a pressure bandage around the area. Use a splint if you can. Anti-venom stores are kept in most city and larger regional hospitals. The ambos will know which hospital to take you to.
Ray McGibbon runs Ozstyle Reptiles: Reptile Rescue, Relocation and Awareness Southern Highlands and Surrounds. If you need him (and hopefully you won’t so much after reading this article!) call him on 0400 734 225.