Funnel Web Spider: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

Funnel web spiders are fascinating creatures known for their unique web structure. These spiders create large, sheet-like webs with a distinctive funnel or tunnel on one side. The web serves as an efficient trap for unsuspecting prey and a safe retreat for the spider itself.

Often found in structures such as grass, weeds, and ground covers, funnel web spiders are common in various locations, like Pennsylvania Grass Spiders – Penn State Extension. This species has a slim appearance with shades and stripes of gray and brown, closely resembling wolf spiders. However, they have notable differences in behavior and habitat.

Primarily, funnel web spiders play a vital role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations. Their webs are remarkable examples of nature’s engineering, designed for catching prey and providing safety for the spider. The complexity of their webs reflects their adaptability and survival skills in their environment.

Funnel Web Spider Overview

Species and Identification

Funnel web spiders belong to the family Agelenidae. They are closely related to the more dangerous Australian funnel-web spiders, belonging to the genera Atrax and Hadronyche. Funnel web spiders are often mistaken for wolf spiders due to their similar appearance, but they are generally slimmer in size. Some key characteristics of funnel web spiders include:

  • Red-brown cephalothorax with pale-yellow hairs
  • Abdomen with a pattern of gray to black patches
  • Body length of 6-11.5 mm, depending on the sex

Funnel-web spiders are mostly harmless to humans, unlike their Australian relatives, with the notorious Atrax robustus causing severe bites.

Habitat and Distribution

Funnel web spiders are common in various habitats, such as homes, gardens, and landscapes across North America, like Ohio. Their unique web structure sets them apart:

  • Sheet-like webs, often horizontal
  • A funnel leading to a shelter, such as rock crevices or dense vegetation
  • Web sizes varying, with the sheet extending up to 3 feet wide

These spiders are also found on grass, weeds, and ground covers. In contrast, some Australian funnel-web spiders are native to specific regions like New South Wales and Queensland.

Comparison Table: Funnel Web Spider vs. Australian Funnel Web Spider

Feature Funnel Web Spider Australian Funnel Web Spider
Family Agelenidae Atrax, Hadronyche
Appearance Slimmer Larger
Habitat North America Australia
Size 6-11.5 mm 1-5 cm
Human threat Mostly harmless Venomous, can be fatal

In conclusion, funnel web spiders and Australian funnel-web spiders share similar characteristics, but have differences in distribution, appearance, and potential risks to humans.

Physical Characteristics

Size and Coloration

Funnel Web Spiders are medium to large-sized spiders. The most common coloration ranges from light brown to black. Here are some key features:

  • Color: Light brown to black
  • Size: Medium to large

These spiders often have stripes or patterns, which can help camouflage them in their natural environment.

Fangs and Abdomen

Funnel Web Spiders have shiny black fangs that are used to inject venom into their prey. These fangs can be easily seen on close observation.

The abdomen of the Funnel Web Spider is also important for identification. It is typically covered in a fine layer of hairs, which gives it a slight sheen. Additionally, it has spinnerets located at the end of the abdomen, which are used for producing silk for the spider’s web.

Here’s a comparison of Funnel Web Spider features and an example of a common house cat:

Feature Funnel Web Spider House Cat
Size Medium to large Medium
Color Brown to black Various, incl. black
Abdomen Fine hairs Fur
Fangs/Teeth Shiny black fangs Sharp, curved teeth

In this section, we covered key physical characteristics of Funnel Web Spiders, including their size, coloration, fangs, and abdomen. These features can help identify and differentiate them from other spiders or animals.

Venom and Bites

Venom Potency

Funnel-web spiders are considered among the most venomous spiders in the world. Their venom contains neurotoxins, which are large peptide compounds, making their bites potentially dangerous to humans. Interestingly, male funnel-web spiders are more toxic than their female counterparts.

Symptoms and Effects on Humans

If bitten by a funnel-web spider, common symptoms may include:

  • Pain and swelling at the bite site
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle spasms

However, not all bites result in venom injection or severe symptoms. Some may have mild or no symptoms at all.

Antivenom and Treatment

Thanks to the antivenom that was developed in the 1980s, funnel-web spider bites are no longer considered as deadly as they used to be. It is crucial to seek immediate medical attention in the event of a suspected bite, as rapid treatment can prevent severe consequences or even fatalities.

Comparing with other venomous spiders:

Spider species Venom potency Antivenom available? Fatalities if untreated?
Funnel-web spider High Yes Possible
Black widow spider Moderate Yes Rare
Brown recluse Low No Extremely rare

Remember, it is essential to take funnel-web spiders seriously and seek professional help if bitten. Stay safe!

Behavior and Diet

Hunting Techniques

Funnel web spiders, such as the Sydney funnel-web spider, use their distinctive webs as a primary hunting technique. These spiders create sheet-like webs with a funnel leading downward to a shelter, often found in:

  • Rocks
  • Logs
  • Dense vegetation

When a prey, such as an insect, gets caught on the web, the spider rushes out from its hiding place to subdue and capture it.

Prey

Funnel web spiders have a diverse diet consisting of various creatures, including:

  • Cockroaches
  • Beetles
  • Small lizards
  • Birds (in some cases)

This varied diet allows them to thrive in a range of environments and adapt to changes in prey populations.

Predators

Sydney funnel-web spiders and other species of funnel web spiders face several predators in the wild. Some common predators include:

  • Birds
  • Large lizards
  • Trapdoor spiders

These predators may pose a threat to the spiders by invading their space or attacking their burrows. However, some funnel web spiders have developed defensive mechanisms, such as venom, to deter potential predators.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Mating and Spiderlings

Funnel web spiders mate during the mating season from May through July1. Males are often found on the female’s web during this time1. After mating, female funnel web spiders create a disc-shaped egg case and lay up to 200 eggs inside2. The egg sacs are placed in different locations close to the web, often suspended above the web from silk lines1.

Lifespan and Growth

Funnel web spiders have varying lifespans based on their specific species. However, some barn funnel weaver spiders are reported to live for as long as seven years, producing up to nine egg sacs throughout their life1. Growth occurs as spiderlings hatch from the egg cases and begin their lives, eventually reaching adulthood.

Here’s a comparison table of some of the of key characteristics:

Characteristic Funnel Web Spider
Mating season May through July1
Egg case Disc-shaped2
Number of eggs Up to 2002
Lifespan Up to seven years1
Number of egg sacs Up to nine1
  • Important Features

    • Mating occurs during specific season1
    • Female spiders create egg cases and lay eggs2
    • Possible long lifespan1
  • Characteristics

    • Males found on female’s web during mating season1
    • Egg sacs are strategically placed1
    • Spiderlings grow into adulthood

In summary, funnel web spiders have unique reproductive processes and lifespans. Mating occurs during specific months with males on the female’s web1, and female spiders lay up to200 eggs in each egg case2. The spiders can live for several years1, depending on their specific species, producing multiple generations of spiderlings1.

Safety and Prevention

Precautions

To minimize encounters with funnel-web spiders, here are some tips:

  • Wear gloves when gardening or handling objects outdoors
  • Keep outdoor areas free of debris
  • Use insecticides or pest control methods
  • Ensure shoes and clothing are free of spiders before wearing

Bite Treatment

An important first step in funnel-web spider bite treatment is to identify the spider (when possible). Keeping in mind the following characteristics will help with identification:

  • Funnel-web spiders are generally nocturnal
  • They are found primarily on the east coast of Australia
  • Their appearance is similar to wolf spiders but slimmer

If bitten by a funnel-web spider, remain as calm as possible to prevent venom from spreading rapidly. Seek immediate medical attention, as the anti-venom can take effect within 15 minutes.

Myths and Misconceptions

Below is a table comparing misconceptions with facts:

Misconception Fact
All funnel-web spiders are deadly Only the Sydney funnel-web spider is known to cause human fatalities
They are tarantulas Funnel-web spiders are not tarantulas; they belong to a different family of arachnids
North American species are as dangerous as Australian species North American funnel-web spiders are relatively harmless

It’s important to note that not all funnel-web spiders are equally dangerous. The Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus) is considered the most dangerous, and it’s found primarily in New South Wales, Australia. Other spiders often get misidentified as funnel-web spiders, such as black house spiders and mouse spiders. However, they do not possess the same level of toxicity.

In summary, understanding funnel-web spiders and their habitats, along with taking proper precautions and knowing how to respond to a bite, can help keep you and your environment safer.

Footnotes

  1. https://extension.psu.edu/barn-funnel-weaver-spider 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

  2. https://uwm.edu/field-station/funnel-web-spider/ 2 3 4 5

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Agelena naevia

 


this spider ran out of a crack in my bathroom ….

Looks like Agelena naevia, one of the larger grass spiders.

Letter 2 – Agelena naevia or Grass Spider

 

Grass Spider or Hobo?
My wife spotted this unfriendly looking spider today outside our home in lower Michigan and as far as I can tell, it is a common grass spider. I think it is a bit large, though. It is about 2" in length and moves extremely fast down its funnel web, which is 7"-8" deep (maybe more).
thanks,
Shawn
Battle Creek, MI

Hi Shawn,
Agelena naevia females are the largest members of the genus and adult females can have a body length of 1 inch and legs that span two inches easily. They act exactly as you describe. They are Grass Spiders or Funnel Web Spiders.

Letter 3 – Funnel Web Spider

 

Brown Spider
Hi,
I caught this spider in my house in Los Angeles, CA. It is the second one I have caught. I thought I would take a picture of this one before I released it in case it is poisonous. The body is about 1/2" the legs extending about 3/4". The legs are striped a darker brown and beige with little barbs sticking up. The abdomen is elongated with 2 little protrusions at the back, it is a lighter brown in the middle. The head is light in the middle with 2 dark brown striped, also an elongated shape. It also has two little pincer like extensions in the front, almost like a 5th set of legs. They are dark brown at the end. It is not a hairy spider, rather smooth apart from the barbs. I tried to identify it, I do not think it is a wolf spider, maybe a funnel web spider?
Thanks
Julie

Hi Julie,
You are absolutely correct. This is a Funnel Web Spider in the Genus Agelena. We always love hearing about people who release spiders instead of squashing them.

Letter 4 – Another Male Grass Spider

 

Subject:  Spider
Geographic location of the bug:  NS, Canada
Date: 09/24/2017
Time: 11:52 AM EDT
The girls found this spider in the bananas at work. Wasnt sure what kind this was.
How you want your letter signed:  Makayla

Male Grass Spider

Dear Makayla,
This is a harmless male Grass Spider in the genus
Agelenopsis and it is the third example we have posted today.

Letter 5 – Definitely Male Grass Spider

 

Subject:  Concerned about Brown Recluse
Geographic location of the bug:  New Hampshire
Date: 09/16/2017
Time: 10:05 AM EDT
Thanks for taking a look and getting back to me.
How you want your letter signed:  Brendan

Male Grass Spider

Dear Brendan,
We are sorry about the delay.  Your request has been on our back burner for over a week.  We really only have time to respond to a small fraction of the requests we receive.  Since we just posted an image of what we believe to be a male Grass Spider, we hunted through unanswered mail to locate your request as your individual is definitely a harmless male Grass Spider in the genus
Agelenopsis.  See this BugGuide image for comparison.

Letter 6 – Funnel Web Spider and our personal stance regarding profanity on the website

 

I think Nursery Web Spider? Southern NJ
Location:  Southern NJ
August 6, 2010 11:54 am
Hi Daniel, I’ve written before with miscellaneous ramblings (most in the vein of adulation) but I understand you’re busy folks. I took this photo of a spider in my garden in the beginning of July. I was trying to photograph raindrops in the web after a short rainstorm, and this guy showed up! I was giddy.
I see them all the time, but I never got around to fully researching what they are. The Nursery Web spiders seem to resemble my spider the most.
Now for the ramblings (abridged):
I love bugs, and I love you guys for loving bugs.
Within the last week I found a wheel bug nymph in my backyard, and rescued a gorgeous house centipede from the office where I work, two insects which I was able to identify at some point in my years-long love affair with whatsthatbug thanks to you and your dedication. Keep it up! No more squishing! (cept the bloodsuckers. they can #^*# off [edited for content])
Alison

Funnel Web Spider

Hi Alison,
This is not a Nursery Web Spider.  We believe, based on the eye arrangement, that it is a Funnel Web Spider in the family Agelenidae.  You can compare the eye arrangements for many families of spiders on BugGuide.  Thank you for your numerous compliments.  We have taken the liberty of “bleeping” a word in your letter, but we want to explain our stance.  Though we consider our website to be mature, and we respect free speech and freedom of the press, we also understand that our website is frequently used by educators, grade school students, and minors in general.  With that understanding, we have never shied away from adult themes, but we are always mindful of refraining from using unnecessary profane language.  Though the word we have edited resonates with us as well as many folks who have been plagued by mosquitoes, bed bugs and other blood suckers, discretion has prompted us to replace the word with symbols.  We hope you understand and that you don’t think of us as being overly prudish, which we are not.

Thanks for the reply and the ID. I totally understand, I should have known anyway and edited it out myself. And despite my venom toward bloodsuckers, most of them are very beautiful. And it always ticks (haha, get it? Ticks?) me off when people say they serve no purpose. Hello? Food chain? Not to mention they spread disease, which helps toward population control. But then I’ve found people tend to scrunch their brow whenever I say that.
Have a great weekend 🙂
Alison

Letter 7 – Funnel Web Spider

 

Funnel-web Spider
Hi Daniel and Lisa,
Waiting patiently for your book to arrive soon!
Meanwhile, I’ve been walking in the Smokies almost daily, and it’s always an adventure.  This week, along my path, were four different Funnel-web Spiders working diligently.  All four webs were still intact this morning, though one spider has yet to show itself.
Ducking gossamer already,
R.G. Marion

Funnel Web Spider

Hi R.G.,
Unless you have taken a holiday, we are guessing that this photo is from North Carolina.  We are happy to hear you are excited about Daniel’s book.  He hopes to be receiving a review copy this month.  Thanks for sending your photo of a Funnel Web Spider.

Hello again.  Actually, I’m in Cosby, TN.  The North Carolina State Line is about ten miles from here, as the crow flies.  It is quite a bit farther by automobile.  Both being in The Great Smoky Mountains, East TN and western NC share their flora, fauna, and “bugs!”
R.G.

Letter 8 – Funnel Web Spider

 

Subject: Funnel Web Spider
Location: Powell, Ohio
July 22, 2015 6:01 am
This not so little guy has taken up residence in the transom window over our front door. I got the best pictures I could, given the amount of webbing built up around him/her. I told my five year old that I thought it was called a funnel web spider, now she says, “hi tunnel spider, bye tunnel spider”, every time she walks through the foyer. Lol. Enjoy the pics of our tenant!
Signature: Amber

Funnel Web Spider
Funnel Web Spider

Dear Amber,
The distinctive spinnerets are clearly visible in your image of this Funnel Web Spider in the family Agelenidae. 

Letter 9 – Funnel Web Spider

 

Subject: Spider is checking me out!
Location: Mount Lowe/Angeles National Forest, California
June 26, 2016 1:43 am
Dear Bugman,
I see these tunnel shaped webs all over Angeles Forest. I found this one at the tope of Mount Lowe, near Mount Wilson. When I began to edit the photos, I was surprised to see the spider made his way to the opening of his little cave, his many eyeballs staring right into my camera lens! Is he a trap door spider of some sort?
Signature: Jessica Chortkoff

Funnel Web Spider
Funnel Web Spider

Hi again Jessica,
This is NOT a Trapdoor Spider.  It sure looks to us like a Funnel Web Spider in the family Agelenidae.  According to BugGuide:  “For this family of spiders, the web is a horizontal, sheet-like web with a small funnel-like tube off to a side (or for some species, the middle of the web). This funnel is what the family is named for, and is used by the spider for hunting and protection. The spider will lay in wait in the funnel, and when an insect flies into, or lands on the web, the spider will rush out, very quickly check to see if it is prey, and if it is prey, bite it. The venom is fast-acting on the prey, so once the prey is subdued (within a second or two), the spider will drag the prey back into the funnel (for safety while eating, and to prevent other insects from recognizing the danger that lurks on the web…).”  Eye arrangement is one of the methods that one can distinguish the correct family for taxonomic classification, and upon enlarging your image, the eye arrangement on your individual appears to match the eye arrangement for the family of Funnel Web Spiders.  BugGuide also indicates:  “Like most spiders, funnel weavers are nocturnal. They are often seen when the lights are turned on, or at least the ambient lighting changes enough that the spider feels it must run for cover. There are approximately 1,200 species of funnel weaver world-wide, and a little over 100 of them are found in North America ((1)(accessed October 2012). Sometimes, if you slowly approach the web, and look around the funnel or down into the funnel, you might see the spider. (Sudden movements or changes in light (like your shadow) will cause the spider to retreat deep into the funnel so you most likely will be unable to see it).”

Funnel Web Weaver
Funnel Web Weaver

Letter 10 – Funnel Weaver Spider from South Korea

 

Subject: What’s this spider?
Location: https://maps.google.co.kr/maps?hl=en&ll=34.294948,126.081762&spn=0.063889,0.13175&t=m&z=14
October 22, 2013 6:19 am
I shot this spider on the small island of Hajo-Do, at the far south-western edge of South Korea, in June or July 2011. From comparing it to images from google, it resembles a Wolf Spider, to my untrained eye, but I have also read reports that the Funnel Web Spider has somehow found its way here, and this spider had a funnel shaped web. (If it was the latter, I was courting disaster, as my hands were only a few cm away as I adjusted my lens…) So, I’ve supplied 2 photos – One from a little further back, showing the web, and a second, much closer, getting down to macro detail.
I’m a very keen macro shooter, and am especially crazy about bugs, although my knowledge of genus etc is very limited. Feel free to explore my blog posts on my macro work on insects, and any help with identifying them would be very much appreciated.
Relevant blog posts…
http://richarquis.blogspot.kr/2013/09/bongmu-bug-party.html
http://richarquis.blogspot.kr/2013/09/early-macro-work-with-sigma-105mm-f28.html
Signature: richarquis de sade

Spider from South Korea
Funnel Weaver from South Korea

Dear richarquis de sade,
We do not recognize your spider, and we do not have the time to research at this moment, so we are posting your excellent photos in the hope that one of our readers can provide a comment as to its identity.

Unknown Spider from South Korea
Funnel Weaver Spider from South Korea

Hi Daniel and richarquis de sade:
I believe your spider is a Funnel Weaver (Agelenidae), probably in the genus Allagelena. At least three species are native to Korea: A. opulenta, A. donggukensis and A. difficilis. All three species are highly variable in appearance but I did find several images posted by Daniel Ruyle of A. opulenta spiders from Japan that look very similar to richarquis de sade’s spider. Allagelena opulenta is native to China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.  I tried to find out if it was considered dangerous to humans but my search was inconclusive. One site did indicate that its toxin is “insect-selective”, suggesting that it is probably not dangerous. However, I would probably not be inclined to test this if I was ever confronted with the opportunity. Agelenid spiders are sometimes referred to as Funnel Web spiders but they should not be confused with the very dangerous Australian Funnel Web spiders, most infamously the Sydney Funnel Web, which belong to a different spider family altogether, the Hexathelidae. Regards.  Karl

 

Letter 11 – Funnel Web

 

Subject:  Web ID
Geographic location of the bug:  New Jersey
Date: 10/04/2017
Time: 09:33 AM EDT
I see these webs all over the ground in the field where I walk my dog. Do I need to worry about either of us being bit by what created it?
How you want your letter signed:  Susan L Gardner

Funnel Web

Dear Susan,
This is a Funnel Web, probably from a Grass Spider in the genus
Agelenopsis.  Of the Funnel Web Spider family Agelenidae, BugGuide states:  “For this family of spiders, the web is a horizontal, sheet-like web with a small funnel-like tube off to a side (or for some species, the middle of the web). This funnel is what the family is named for, and is used by the spider for hunting and protection. The spider will lay in wait in the funnel, and when an insect flies into, or lands on the web, the spider will rush out, very quickly check to see if it is prey, and if it is prey, bite it. The venom is fast-acting on the prey, so once the prey is subdued (within a second or two), the spider will drag the prey back into the funnel (for safety while eating, and to prevent other insects from recognizing the danger that lurks on the web…)  Depending on the species, the web may or may not be sticky. If the web is not sticky, the web will actually become tangled around the prey’s feet, ensnaring it in the web. Sometimes this may cause hardship for the spider later, because if the spider wanders across a web that is sticky… the spider may walk clumsily and become prey for another funnel weaver.  Web Locations:  The funnel web for the genera Agelenopsis and Hololena are distinctive, and often are noticed in bushes and grass, especially in the early fall mornings where the dew has collected on the web. The webs can be expansive, covering several square feet, or just small webs in the grass.”  Grass Spiders are not considered dangerous to humans or dogs.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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4 thoughts on “Funnel Web Spider: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell”

  1. I’m looking at all of these spiders that are being called “funnel webs”, how can you get those in America? I killed a huge funnel web yesterday at the beach and was trying to see what sub-species it was that I killed but I thought the deadly funnel web was only native to Australia?

    Reply
    • There can be confusion with common names. Funnel Web Spiders in the family Agelenidae are well represented in North America. They are not dangerous. Australian Funnel Web Spiders pictured on the Australian Museum site are from the family Hexathelidae and they are classified with Tarantulas and Trapdoor Spiders in the suborder Mygalomorphae.

      Reply
  2. “Funnel Web” Spiders are extremely venomous Spiders that are found in Australia. That picture LOOKS like a Funnel WEAVER Spider.

    Reply

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