Rezonant's guide to funnelwebs: care, venom and other info

RezonantVoid

Hollow Knight
Arachnosupporter +
Joined
Jan 7, 2018
Messages
825
The Australian funnelweb spiders are arguably some of the most iconic spiders around the globe, famed for owning what's believed to be some of the most toxic venom to humans of any known spider group. I am making this thread to answer any questions people may have about them, and hopefully dispell a few misconceptions about them. I also believe it's important to have a care guide for any Australian individuals interested in keeping and studying such spiders, as these are what I would class as advanced keeper only species. I will split this thread into several sections;
1- General Information
2- Venom potency/medical significance/bite records
3- What to do if you encounter one in your home
4- Care Information

Disclaimer: the following information is gathered from various internet sources and personal experience with keeping them. I am not a professional arachnologist, just a successful hobbyist.


1. GENERAL INFORMATION

Funnelweb spiders belong to 3 genus: Hadronyche, Atrax and Illawarra, with 35 species in total. All of these are classed under the family Atracidae. All species are endemic to the east coast of Australia with 2 being located in Tasmania (H.Pulvinator and H.Venenata). The most famous of all these is undoubtedly Atrax Robustus, the Sydney funnelweb, which is located exclusively in a 160km radius around Sydney.
The size of Atracidae species varies from roughly 10-20mm body length to larger species with almost 40mm body lengths. The largest on record was a male Sydney Funnelweb handed into the Australian reptile park with a 100mm DLS. All species have a glossy hairless black/dark brown carapace with a black/dark purple-grey abdomen sparsely covered in hairs. The legs are always shiny black with short spiky hairs. The fangs are very large and noticeable with a patch of bright red hairs underneath them around the mouth which is visible when the spider performs a threat posture

Atrax sp.

The majority of Atracidae prefer to burrow in moist, sheltered rainforest areas. However, encroaching residential development means that several species often end up in suburban gardens. They will very rarely appear in open lawns or yards, most often choosing to setup camp in garden beds or next to a pond if one is in a backyard.
Funnelwebs are very often confused with trapdoor spiders because many Australian trapdoors don't actually build lids. The way to differentiate the 2 quickly is very easy:

Trapdoor- round, open hole with or without a thick white lining of silk. Little to no exterior silk or triplines. Can appear in lawns in large compact colonies.

Funnelweb- an often concealed burrow with 1 to 3 funnel shaped entrances leading to a central shaft usually under a rock or log or in a retaining wall. The burrow is surrounded in very noticeable, jagged, linear triplines radiating outward from each entrance which may have a false flap lid covered in a thin layer of soil. The burrows are nearly always dug horizontally into the side of a creekbed, embankment or exposed stretch of vertical soil, and sometimes surrounded by many other burrows.
Heres an example of some triplines and a false lid.

Hadronyche Cerberea, burrow is under the log.


Unidentified Atrax sp. or H.Lamingtonensis with a false lid slightly ajar. It is actually the ceiling of the burrow pulled downwards.

There are 2 species that prefer to live in rough barked trees, H.Cerberea and H.Formidabilis. The burrow entrance is the same as ground dwelling species, except on the side of a tree.

H.Cerberea newly rehoused.

When prey walks over these triplines, the spider rushes out and grabs it before returning to the burrow.

H.Macquariensis

The most commonly encountered species are probably A.Robustus, A.Sutherlandi, H.Valida, H.Infensa, and H.Versuta.
A.Robustus males normally mature during late spring to summer (November to February). They will wander around looking for females, particularly after rain and often fall into swimming pools during the night, where they can survive submerged for several hours. If you find a large black spider at the bottom of your pool, NEVER remove it by hand while swimming. The males of A.Robustus are thought to be 6x more potent than the females through lab testing, and will sometimes take shelter inside shoes during the day.

Female A.Robustus.

Males of most species have mating spurs on the front legs, which is a key identifyer with A.Robustus males. Here's an example of H.Infensa which is one of the few that dont. The male emboli with the red bulbs are clearly visible.



2. VENOM POTENCY/MEDICAL SIGNIFICANCE/BITE RECORDS


Each species has varying toxins in their venom, but collectively they are known as Atracotoxins (δ-ACTX-Ar1, belonging to A.Robustus). This neurotoxin is an ion channel inhibitor that causes rapid, potentially fatal reactions in primates and humans. If a severe envenomation occurs, autonomic symptoms can occur in 10 minutes, including:
Hypertension followed by prolonged hypotension and circulatory failure. Dyspnea (shortness of breath, caused by inflammation of the airways and furthered by pulmonary oedema) and respiratory failure shortly follow, with muscle spasms, salivation, agitated/teary eyes, profuse sweating, and intense nausea and vomiting. If left untreated, a bite will likely result in death in less than 30 minutes. By comparison, Phonuetria sp. venom on average takes 30 minutes to produce symptoms. There are some very in depth and well sourced Wikipedia articles about how Delta-Atracotoxin works and it's molecular structure, if you are interested I reccomend simply searching it and reading up.
Antivenom has been available since 1980 and since then, no recorded deaths have occurred after envenomation by Atracine species. One dosage of antivenom requires 70 milking sessions of a male A.Robustus specimen, and for a serious envenomation between 4 and 12 doses are often required. Immobilisation and pressure bandages can also significantly delay symptoms until medical help arrives.

The venom of several different Atracidae species is being researched to find cures for Melanoma skin cancer and after-stroke brain damage. I will link an article discussing each.

Melanoma:
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.abc.net.au/article/10344588
Brain damage:
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.abc.net.au/article/10959032

The lethal dose of venom from A.Robustus males for humans is not truely known, but the average venom yield per milking is 176mg, and the lethal dose for adult Macaca fascicularis is 0.2mg/kg. The venom has the same effect as on humans so it's safe to assume that the ratio is probably similar, if not even lower. 14 deaths have occurred as a result of Atracidae bites between 1927 and 1981, and records show that 42% of severe envenomation occurred with children, and at least one case is recorded of a child dying in only 15 minutes after being bitten. In all death records where the sex of the spider was expertly confirmed, it was a male.

Out of all 35 species, only 6 have caused severe envenomations. Together with their envenomation rates, they are
- Hadronyche Cerberea (75%)
- Hadronyche Formidabilis (63%)
- Atrax Robustus (17%)
- Hadronyche Macquariensis (17%)
- Hadronyche Infensa (14%)
- Hadronyche Versuta (11%)

Lab testing has shown the venom of H.Infensa from both sexes is marginally more potent than a male A.Robustus and becomes more toxic in summer after they fast over winter, and H.Formidabilis is even more potent again than H.Infensa. This places the Northern Tree Funnelweb as the current deadliest spider in the world.
Surprisingly, Atracotoxins have little effect on most other animals aside from mice and guinea pigs.

3. WHAT TO DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A FUNNELWEB IN YOUR HOME

Despite the menacing facts above, funnelwebs are actually not out there to kill you. Some rumours I have heard are that they will deliberately launch out of trees and bite your neck (most likely stemming from a single instance of a H.Cerberea or Formidabilis being blown out of a tree during strong wind), they can jump almost 4" high (no idea where that sprung from because they physically cannot jump) and that the babies are 10x deadlier than the adults (honestly I think that's just Australian humour that got taken way too seriously).
You need not fear because none of those are true. If you see a large black spider in your home, do your best to get as detailed photos as you can so it can be correctly identified either online or by hospital staff if you have been bitten (always try and bring the spider, dead or preferably alive to the hospital you are being treated at for correct identification). Once you have done so, get a sheet of smooth printer paper and a plastic container several millimetres thick, place it over the spider and slide the paper under the container. If it is rearing up in a threat posture, this is actually preferable because It is unlikely to start running away and will generally sit still. Once on the paper, flip the container the right way up and the spider will plop off and you just need to put the lid on. Funnelwebs and nearly all spiders with a similar appearance CANNOT climb glass or plastic, so you do not need to fear it quickly climbing out and running up your arm. Once captured, you can decide to either send it to the Australian Museum or release it. But please, even if you are morbidly fearful of spiders, do not simply murder it with a fly swap or RAID. As mentioned, such spiders are helping researchers potentially fix currently incurable conditions, so show a little mercy and simply release it in the nearest bushland if you don't know what to do with it. Or if it's a male Sydney Funnelweb, the Australian Reptile Park can use it for important venom milking.


4. CARE INFORMATION

If you are reading this section you are likely one of those genuinely interested in caring for and studying these amazing spiders personally. If that is the case, you need to be aware of one single rule that you're going to have to drive into your head very hard-
Complacency is death.
These spiders are not like a tarantula or a trapdoor where slip ups are simply a learning experience. If you get tagged by a funnelweb during a rehouse, chances are you might not be alive to learn from that mistake. Never assume that you know exactly how they behave because you have observed YouTube videos and have kept a few for a little while. They are fast, strong jawed and often have venom dripping from their fangs while wandering. They are not out on a murder mission, nor do they wish harm on humans, but you need to respect the fact that you will literally be keeping a biological weapon, and treat them accordingly.

Care for most Atracidae is fairly easy. I keep 3 A.Robustus, 2 H.Macquariensis, H.Valida, H.Cerberea and 2 of another unidentified species thought to be a new Atrax member, and all 9 have been reasonably problem free to keep with enough caution.

For housing I strongly reccomend using SISTEMA brand containers. The plastic is clear, durable, easy to drill ventilation holes in without the plastic melting over the drill bits, and most importantly, is several millimetres thick so the spiders can't bite through it and each container has an airtight clip on lid which is quite strong. This is how I set mine up.


For ventilation I drill the following in the lids with a 2.5 mm drill bit:
- 3 holes in each corner.
- 3 holes along each side between the corners.
- 5 in the centre in the pattern you see on dice.
- swap to a 5mm bit and widen 2 corner holes so you can drop crickets in without taking the lid off.

For substrate I use Lithuanian cocopeat which you can buy online, it's already prepped and ready to go straight into the containers. You can also use Bunnings peat bricks but they are incredibly frustrating to break apart, require half an hour to soak up water and a good 10 minutes of squeezing out the water as hard as you can, and often the spiders don't like the feeling of it. If you are an experienced spider hobbyist, whatever substrate you have found successful so far will likely work just fine. I would pack the substrate down reasonably firm to around 10-12cm. I like to slightly angle the substrate to somewhat mimic natural conditions and make a starter burrow with my finger reaching almost to the base of the container. It's good to sprinkle a tiny amount of loose substrate into the starter hole as it appears to encourage them to start digging. After you have shaped the substrate how you would like it, it's time to decorate. I always think it wise to add a bundle of spagnum moss that should be kept damp in case they need some moisture. In general they get their hydration from the damp soil they live in but if it becomes too dry they may come and seek out the moss. After that you can add some pieces of washed and sun dried bark/wood or flat rocks. For finishing touches I like to use small pieces of birch tree bark and uncrunched birch leaves on the surface, the bark is mold resistant and the leaves produce tiny green mold tufts that don't spread which springtails absolutely love to eat, so if you want any food ideas for your springs then there you go.

H.Infensa immature male, happy in his new container.


H.Cerberea newly housed with just some random garden plant I found.

For arboreal ones like Cerberea and Formidabilis I reccomend just leaning a chunk of wood almost up to the top of the container and giving them about 5cm of substrate. Put a starter burrow in one corner underneath the wood and they should make a web column from the burrow up to the wood. If you want to, you can add a few 3mm ventilation holes to the sides of the container before adding substrate so they get some cross ventilation that mimics a treetop breeze, but not too many otherwise the substrate will dry out quickly.
A good rule of thumb is if you see a light film of condensation on the sides of the substrate in the container each morning, the moisture is good. If it looks dry just give it a heavy misting with a spray bottle, and use a skewer to poke into the corners of the substrate to let the water soak down evenly.
Being opportunistic feeders, they will take food almost as regularly as you offer it to them. Crickets are best and pretty cheap, for a small 2cm specimen I'd give 1 small cricket every 4-5 days, and larger specimens you can give a medium/large cricket every 5 days with any small escaped ones you find in between. Mist the container lightly at least once a week, and don't bother with a water dish as they will simply ignore it or fill it with dirt.

For starter species, I would probably reccomend a confirmed female Atrax Robustus or Hadronyche Valida as both of them are known to be less toxic than the majority of the others. Valida is a burrowing species native to south-east Queensland rainforests and is one of the largest funnelwebs with an adult body length of 37-40mm and around 60mm DLS. This is a species that prefers rocky forest floors and will often reside in small retaining walls along bushwalks.

H.Valida rehoused.

As for breeding, Ive never successfully done it as males die in only a few weeks after maturing so it's pretty difficult to get one in time, but should you end up with a pair I'd say it's as simple as adding the male in with an established female and let them do their thing. Spiderlings should probably be housed individually in seperate tiny containers or released where the mother was collected from if it's a wild caught specimen.



Thank you all for reading this, it took 5 hours to write on my phone so I really appreciate any feedback or questions that anyone might have. I hope this guide will help any would-be funnelweb keepers to take the plunge or answer any questions.
 
Last edited:

Rhino1

Arachnobaron
Active Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2019
Messages
482
Awesome man, you've just written the most detailed care guide for funnel webs that's available online.
 

mantisfan101

Arachnoprince
Active Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2018
Messages
1,345
Awesome, awesome work Rezonantvoid! Any chanc for this to become stickied/pinned?
 

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
Staff member
Joined
Mar 7, 2012
Messages
3,793

CJJon

Arachnokrólewicz
Arachnosupporter +
Joined
Oct 28, 2018
Messages
544
"it took 5 hours to write on my phone"

I thought you might be a little nuts with your keeping of these super hot spiders in your bedroom, but this confirms it!

Joking aside, thanks for putting this together. It is excellent and a great addition to the AB knowledge base. Bravo!
 

mantisfan101

Arachnoprince
Active Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2018
Messages
1,345
Rather than pinning lots of different care threads, which can quickly overwhelm the board, I will likely make a sticky with links to care threads.
Ah, didn’t see that! Thanks and yes that’d be an awesome idea!
 

EtienneN

Arachno-enigma
Arachnosupporter +
Joined
Jul 15, 2017
Messages
990
I just love looking at your spiders! They are so unique and fascinating!
 

RezonantVoid

Hollow Knight
Arachnosupporter +
Joined
Jan 7, 2018
Messages
825
@Ungoliant yea that's fine. I do think there are a few redundant sticky threads pinned in true spiders, eg Latrodectus pics and True spider pics, and then 2 solifuge articles, so I'm down for a cleanup.
Thx so much for the replies they mean alot. Given the potency of these guys I think it's good to now have a detailed care guide for them online as I couldn't find any before
 
Last edited:

Chris LXXIX

ArachnoGod
Joined
Dec 25, 2014
Messages
5,669
You are a lucky man, for that you have an amazing 0.1 specimen of Selenotypus sp. Champagne Robustus: she is basically the Goddess* of Australia.

I genuinely envy you and this is a thing I've never said here :)

*0.1 Pelinobius muticus PBUH (Peace Be Upon Her).
 

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
Staff member
Joined
Mar 7, 2012
Messages
3,793
@Ungoliant yea that's fine. I do think there are a few redundant sticky threads pinned in true spiders, eg Latrodectus pics and True spider pics, and then 2 solifuge articles, so I'm down for a cleanup.
I'm thinking of removing the individual picture stickies and making one sticky of image threads for true spiders and other arachnids.
 

RezonantVoid

Hollow Knight
Arachnosupporter +
Joined
Jan 7, 2018
Messages
825
You are a lucky man, for that you have an amazing 0.1 specimen of Selenotypus sp. Champagne Robustus: she is basically the Goddess* of Australia.

I genuinely envy you and this is a thing I've never said here :)

*0.1 Pelinobius muticus PBUH (Peace Be Upon Her).
Do you mean my girl Flinger? :D


Also, thx @Ungoliant . I'm sure I'm not the only one who will appreciate the tidy up
 

Vanisher

Arachnoking
Old Timer
Joined
Oct 2, 2004
Messages
2,543
Nice, very intresting to read this. I really like the looks of those spiders, and the mouse siders of cause!
 

RezonantVoid

Hollow Knight
Arachnosupporter +
Joined
Jan 7, 2018
Messages
825
Nice, very intresting to read this. I really like the looks of those spiders, and the mouse siders of cause!
Yea haha I'll put a few up for people to see some they look similar

Female M.Bradleyi


Male M.Bradleyi

It's interesting to note that A Robustus antivenom is used to treat the bites of these guys even though they are seperate genus and behave so differently
 
Last edited:

Mydknight

Arachnopeon
Joined
Apr 21, 2019
Messages
9
honestly I think that's just Australian humour that got taken way too seriously
Yeah, we Aussies really love to push the whole "Everything in Australia wants to kill you." Shtick. Keeps the tourists on their toes.
Just gotta watch out for them drop-bears. :astonished:
 

RezonantVoid

Hollow Knight
Arachnosupporter +
Joined
Jan 7, 2018
Messages
825
Yeah, we Aussies really love to push the whole "Everything in Australia wants to kill you." Shtick. Keeps the tourists on their toes.
Just gotta watch out for them drop-bears. :astonished:
Nah the most dangerous animals here are definitely the women

Also welcome to the site mate
 
Last edited:

The Snark

Dumpster Fire of the Gods
Old Timer
Joined
Aug 8, 2005
Messages
8,225
Nah the most dangerous animals here are definitely the women
Well, if the guys would quit exploiting them. Topless car washes? Full front page news articles of violent sexual assaults? Dang!

But back on the subject, the study as in this post would really benefit from cross referencing with photos and some scientific nomenclature. Turn this from an interesting info bit into a go to reference source.
 
Top