Woman’s unwanted, deadly house guest
THE world's most venomous spider has been spotted in a house in the Blue Mountains near Sydney - and it could be in yours, too.
Bec Sheedy was at home when her mum spotted a black creature with fangs on a wall towards the back of her house in Springwood, NSW, and quickly recognised it to be the world's most venomous spider - a funnel-web.
Funnel-webs are notorious for the venom - reports indicate death in humans have occurred after just 15 minutes due to the shutting down of the nervous system.
"It was probably about 5cm in diameter, so smaller than an open palm," Ms Sheedy told news.com.au. "We've seen more redbacks this year than in the past but I haven't seen a funnel-web since I was a kid."
Funnel-web spiders are extremely common around households on Australia's east coast but are rarely seen. They can be found from Queensland to New South Wales, but earlier this year a new species was discovered as far south as northern Tasmania. There were previously 35 known species of the spider.
They are known to be relatively large spiders in comparison to their arachnid cousins and have large fangs capable of piercing through a fingernail.
"If you do get bitten you will feel the effects very quickly, it can make you very, very sick," Paul Hare, Invertebrate Keeper at Taronga Zoo, told news.com.au
"Chances are you'll know you've been bitten, they've got big fangs and you'll feel the bite."
Mr Hare said a human would "know pretty quickly" if they were bitten by a funnel-web spider and urged those to "go to hospital immediately".
The result of a bite can lead to nausea, muscle cramps, profuse sweating and numbness around the mouth. The Australian Museum has recorded 13 deaths in Australia.
The most dangerous place to be bitten is said to be the torso.
Despite being primitive creatures they are attracted to cool, damp environments and when spotted, they are often found in pools, bathrooms or the household laundry. They can survive submerged underwater for a couple of days.
"It's alive until it's proven otherwise," said Mr Hare.
They are named after a characteristic "funnel" they create through their webs that surround the entrances to their burrows.
Mr Hare told news.com.au it wasn't a surprise that the spider was spotted at this time of year because it's mating season and the male was likely on the hunt for a female.
"This time of year we find the males in the evenings when it's cooler, walking around looking for females," he said.
"The females we tend to only come across if you've been doing gardening or you've had really heavy rains and they've been flooded out of their homes.
"The girls let the males come to them."
Mr Hare said the funnel-web spider is often misrepresented and that despite being the world's most venomous spider they tend to be "defensive" rather than aggressive.
The venom affects only three species in a lethal manner; insects, other spiders and primates. Blue tongues and birds "would happily munch on them" while if your pet dog or cat was to be stung it would be "highly unlikely" they would die.
"At the end of the day we are too big to be a food item for them. The only reason you're bitten is if a spider feels threatened.
"Admittedly you might come across one that's having a bad day but in my experience they're not what they're made out to be."
Yet despite the potentially deadly outcome of a funnel-web bite, Mr Hare said it was unlikely to happen; there hasn't been a fatality since an antivenene was invented in 1981 by Dr Struan Sutherland.
"The reality is they're just not as bad," he said. "These days if you were to die from one, there's something else going on."
But, Mr Hare warned: "I still wouldn't pick one up with your hand.
"If you're living in an area where they are known to be found, a little bit of caution goes a long way. Don't go leaving things outside that they can crawl into, if you're cleaning out a pool filter don't go putting your hand in and if you're gardening, wear gloves."
Advice to Australians is to "leave them alone" because "they do play an important part of our eco system" by killing cockroaches, flies and mosquitoes.
"The chances of dying from a spider bite these days is so slim, even if you get bitten by a spider, you're likelier to die from a car accident on the way to hospital."
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