Funnel web spiders in high demand at Australian Reptile Park for antivenom milking

JAWS OF DEATH: Keepers are reporting a shortfall in funnel web spiders available to be milked for their venom. Picture: Australian Reptile Park
JAWS OF DEATH: Keepers are reporting a shortfall in funnel web spiders available to be milked for their venom. Picture: Australian Reptile Park

A MANUFACTURER of anti-venom for spider bites is seeking any funnelwebs caught to be handed in to help the program.

The Australian Reptile Park, on NSW's Central Coast, says it is experiencing low numbers in the park despite a surge in the arachnids' numbers in residential areas.

While there has been a spike in recent weeks, keepers say numbers are lower than usual despite the warm weather that has encouraged the spiders to be more active.

Reptile and spider keeper Jake Meney said the park, the only place in Australia that milks funnel web venom.

"Before the antivenom was developed 33 years ago, there were 13 recorded deaths in NSW by funnel-webs, but there have been zero fatalities since the development of the antivenom in 1981," he said.

"Summer is funnel web season, so now is the time people will be seeing funnel webs more and more.

"If you are an adult and feel safe to do so, please catch the funnel webs using a big glass jar and keeping your hands away from the spider, coax the spider into the jar and bring it to us or one of our drop-off points - you will literally be helping us save lives."

The Park has videos of proper technique to trap the deadly creatures:

Mr Meney said anyone bitten by a funnel web should remain calm and apply a pressure immobilisation bandage before heading quickly to hospital.

Visitors at the park can see first-hand as the venom is milked. The raw venom is sent to a Melbourne manufacturer, Segirus, where it becomes the antidote to the lethal bite.

This story How you can save lives by catching a spider first appeared on Newcastle Herald.