Funnel-Web Spiders – All you need to know!


Funnel web spider
Sydney Funnel Web Spider

Funnel-web spiders are perhaps the most feared spiders in Australia – the bite of the Sydney funnel-web can cause death in as little as 15 minutes! However, there hasn’t been a death from a funnel-web spider bite since the development of the effective anti-venom in 1981.

Given its status as the world’s most deadly spider, it is perhaps a good idea to know what a funnel-web spider looks like, what to do if you are bitten by a funnel-web and what you can do to get rid of funnel-webs from around your house.

Funnel-web spider information…

Funnel-web spiders – what do they look like?

There are actually at least 40 species of funnel-web spiders, split into two genera – Hadronyche and Atrax. The Sydney funnel-web is Atrax robustus. Not all funnel-webs are known to be dangerous, but they all look scary so it’s probably best not to encounter one! 

Where are funnel-web spiders found?

Funnel-web spiders tend to live in moist forest regions along the east coast of mainland Australia down to Tasmani. Often the different species are geographically isolated. Although most funnel-webs are ground dwelling, there are a few species of funnel-webs that live in trees.

Where do funnel-web spiders build their webs?

Ground dwelling funnel-webs build burrows or holes in moist, cool soil, often under rocks and logs. The burrows are lined with their web, with silk trip lines that radiate out from the entrance. The tree dwelling species build their webs inside hollows in trees – they have been found up to 30m above the ground!

Funnel-webs generally stay in their burrows. However, they will escape from flooded burrows during heavy rain, and males go wandering during the warmer months to look for a mate.

How to identify a funnel-web spider?

Funnel-web spiders are medium to large spider, with a “chunky” body. The different species vary in size with their body length varying from 1 – 5 cm, with the northern tree-dwelling funnel-web spider being the largest.

Funnel-webs vary in colour from brown to black, with a hairless and often shiny dorsal carapace (in front of the abdomen), which is deeply grooved. They have obvious spinnerets and very large fangs! They will raise up, ready to strike when threatened.

The male funnel-web is smaller than the female and has a spur, halfway down the second leg on both sides.

Which spiders can be confused with a funnel-web spider?

Mouse spiders – which can have a similar, chunky, shiny black appearance. They also have a dangerous bite.

Trapdoor spiders – which live in burrows, not necessarily with a trapdoor.

Black house spiders – which build dense, funnel-like webs (but don’t really look like funnel-web spiders) and are often found around windows, doors and eaves.

Funnel-web spider bite

Funnel-web spider venom

Funnel-web spiders get their reputation for being the world’s deadliest spider from the male Sydney funnel-web. Its venom contains a unique component called robustoxin that is particularly toxic to the nervous system of humans and other primates. The large population of Sydney affords many encounters between male funnel-web spiders and humans resulting, before anti-venom production, in a number of deaths.

Funnel-web spider anti-venom

The funnel-web bite anti-venom was developed in 1981 from the Sydney funnel-web, although it can be used in treating bites from other dangerous funnel-web species and mouse spiders.

Funnel-web spider bite symptoms

The funnel-web spider bite is powerful – they are known to bite through soft shoes and fingernails. After the immediate pain from the bite, a range of symptoms will develop rapidly:

  • Tingling around the lips and salivation
  • Sweating and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blood pressure increase and headache
  • Confusion and agitation
  • Fluid in the lungs and unconsciousness

Funnel-web spider bite treatment

A suspected funnel-web spider bite should be treated with a pressure/immobilisation bandage, much like a snake bite.

  • Keep the patient still and calm
  • Immobilise the limb and apply a pressure bandage
  • Call for immediate medical assistance

Although other spider bites should not be treated with a pressure bandage, if the spider cannot be identified, any bite from a large black spider should be treated as a funnel-web bite. Taking a photo for identification is useful for treatment.

Potential funnel-web spider bites need immediate hospitalisation and likely application of anti-venom.

Funnel-web spider treatment

Most people will only encounter the occasional funnel-web spider, often when it comes into the house when wandering. Using the PestXpert Spider Blast aerosol will ensure a fast, safe kill from distance.

For homeowners in hotspots or when a suspected funnel-web burrow is identified, direct treatment of the burrows with insecticide is required. PestXpert Outdoor Perimeter with its 1m spray wand means insecticide can be applied deep into the burrow without the fear of being bitten

Information on other spiders.

Recommended PestXpert Products


 PestXpert Spider Blast Eliminator

PestXpert Spider Blast Eliminator

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