The Sydney Funnelweb spider takes its name from the “funnel-like” appearance of its web. Unlike many spiders the Sydney Funnelweb lives on the ground and likes to live in moist, cool places along the east coast of Australia where it builds or finds a small tunnel. It then covers the tunnel with silk and runs special “tripwires” of silk out of the opening to detect the movement of its prey. When a cockroach, beetle or even some small lizards trigger one of these tripwires, the spider quickly runs out and ambushes its meal.
It is the most venomous spider on earth, but it appears that while both male and female spiders contain potent venom, it is likely that only the male Funnelweb is linked to fatal spider bites. It comes down to a mixture of chemistry and behavior.
The chemistry part is due to the presence of a particular chemical in the venom of the male Funnelweb that is different from that of the female and is especially effective against primates, which is especially interesting as primates are a fairly recent introduction to the Australian continent, with humans only arriving in the last 60,000 years or so. The behavior is due to the male´s habit of “wandering” in search of mates during the warm summer months, leading them to walk into suburban homes where they meet humans.
Quick treatment for a bite is extremely necessary, but due to the presence of antivenom for the spider in its home range since the 1980´s there have not been any deaths in recent years.