Press Release Spring 2006 |



PRESS RELEASE for Dangerous Spiders Public Awareness Project 2006


Katoomba Rotarian/spider authority Rex Gilroy with two preserved spider specimens.
Katoomba Rotarian/spider authority Rex Gilroy
with two preserved spider specimens.
Photo copyright © Rex Gilroy 2006

“Dangerous Spiders Public Awareness” Project


The Goulburn district is facing a very dangerous infestation of deadly Funnel Web Spiders, and home-owners must take every precaution to prevent these, and other dangerous spider species from entering their homes. This is the warning of Entomologist/Naturalist Rex Gilroy, who has had 50 years research experience with Funnel Web and other dangerous spider species.

Rotarian Rex Gilroy is co-ordinator of the Rotary Club of Katoomba’s nation-wide “Dangerous Spiders Public Awareness” life-saving community service project, currently celebrating its first 12 months of operation.

The project, which has the full support of District Governor Harley Tarrant, who says that it is a project that is badly needed in the community, aims to educate the community at large on the various dangerous, and not-so-dangerous spider species commonly met with around the home, as well as common-sense measures to prevent them from entering homes, and other important advice.

As part of the project the Club is offering a fully-illustrated booklet covering al the major species found around the home, both dangerous and not-so-dangerous, such as the Funnel Web, Red-Back, White-Tail, Eastern Mouse and other spiders together with their individual life-histories and habits, together with advice to parents of young children on how to teach them to avoid being bitten, including a fully illustrated step-by-step first-aid procedure for spider bite.

The booklet can be obtained by sending a donation to cover postage to The Rotary Club of Katoomba ‘Dangerous Spiders Public Awareness’, PO Box 54, Katoomba NSW 2780. All moneys raised from excess postage donations goes to Rotary charities within Australia.The Club also operates a “Dangerous Spiders Hotline” {Phone 02 4782 3441], where concerned home owners can contact Rex Gilroy for advice on any spider problems they may have.

“We also offer a travelling spider lecture service for clubs and a display for school fetes etc. We urge the public to take full advantage of our unique service”, says Rex Gilroy. Last year he received many phone calls from the Goulburn-Southern Highlands region, from people who found a large number of Funnel Webs inhabiting their properties. Ideal weather conditions have seen an increase in numbers of these, and other dangerous spider species, particularly around Goulburn.

Among these species, he points out, is the White-tail, whose venom causes serious skin necrosis. At present no antidote exists for this spider’s bit, other than the administration of antibiotics. It is important that these be administered as quickly as possible at the nearest hospital to avoid serious tissue problems.

Rex Gilroy saw the need some time ago for greater public spider education, when he noticed a serious lack of knowledge even among some hospital staff in the identification of various species. “A common problem is the confusion between the Funnel Web and Brown Trap-Door Spiders. Our booklet clearly shows the structural differences between both species.

Funnel Web Spiders [depending upon the species] have shiny black to reddish-brown bodies, whereas Trap Door Spiders are not shiny bodied”, he says. “Funnel Web Spider nests are covered throughout by a thick, glossy-white silken webbing forming a tube down to the base of the burrow, which can be over 30cm deep in soil. Trap Door Spider burrows extend up to 49cm in more exposed situations than the Funnel Web Spiders, with a circular ‘door’ of silk coated with dirt that often hides the opening of the burrow.

Funel Web Spider Rex Back Spider Eastern Mouse Spider White Tail Spider
Funnel Web Spider
Red Back Spider Eastern Mouse Spider White Tail Spider

The Trap Door Spider’s bit causes slight localised swelling and some pain. However, the venom of Funnel Web Spiders affects the Central Nervous System, causing respiratory problems, muscular spasms, blackouts, coma and death. Children have died within two hours of being bitten, whilst adults have died within 12 hours.

First-aid [ie the pressure-immobilisation technique] must be administered immediately and the victim rushed to hospital, where an anti-venom is now available for this spider’s bite”, Mr Gilroy added.

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