by Brigit Katz/Smithsonianmag.com
Heavy downpours in Australia recently offered some relief to the fire-ravaged country, which has been battling deadly blazes since last fall. But wet conditions have paved the way for another natural threat. As Amaani Siddeek reports for the Guardian, wildlife officials have warned that residents near Sydney could soon experience a “bonanza” of sightings of the funnel-web spider, an aggressive arachnid with a potentially deadly bite.
Funnel-webs are a family of more than 40 spiders, among them the notorious Atrax robustus, or Sydney funnel-web spider, which is native to eastern Australia. These critters, so named for the shape of their webs, burrow under logs and rocks, typically rushing out of their hiding spot to attack prey such as beetles, cockroaches, and small snails. But the recent climate has prompted male funnel-webs to surface for another reason.
“Because of the recent rain, and now, the hot days we are now experiencing, funnel-web spiders will start to move around,” explains Dan Rumsey of Australian Reptile Park near Sydney. “In particular, male funnel-webs as they start to venture to look for a female funnel-web spider to mate with.”
Unfortunately, male funnel-webs are of particular concern; their venom is six times more potent…