If you are part of the 35.5 percent with arachnophobia, it might be time to close the tab or hit the back button.
That is because Australian Reptile Park has just welcomed a very big (and very unreptilian) funnel web spider into its midst. In fact, he is so big, he has been named Colossus. Scary.
Foot-to-foot, this beast measures 7.8 centimeters (3 inches), which is roughly the same size as a credit card. Your average male measures in at six to seven centimeters. Females, however, tend to be a little larger and bulkier.
Despite some media reports calling Colossus the largest male funnel web spider the park has ever seen, it seems he doesn’t quite match up to Big Boy, who was introduced to Australian Reptile Park in 2016. Big Boy was a whopper with a leg span of 10 centimeters (or 4 inches), according to this report in the BBC.
Colossus was found on the Central Coast before he was handed into the park. According to Liz Gabriel, head of Australian Reptile Park, “The beginning of the year is always the peak time when funnel web spiders are out and about." A recent spell of rainy weather has been particularly attractive to the creepy critters, she added.
In the wild, funnel web spiders inhabit Australia's rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests. Closer to home, they can be found lurking in cool, damp patches, such as a well-vegetated garden or laundry room.
The funnel web spider, named after its unusual-shaped web, might not be Australia’s biggest spider – that accolade goes to the giant huntsman spider, an absolute goliath in the arachnid world. However, the funnel web spider is the country’s deadliest. Its venom can take down a human in just 15 minutes. Luckily for Australia, no one has died from a funnel web spider bite since 1981, the year anti-venom became available.
As for Colossus, he has a very important job to do. He will be enlisted on the park’s anti-venom program, which involves 200 to 300 other funnel spiders. Males are milked for their raw venom, which is used to create anti-venom. Last year, the scheme oversaw 3,500 milkings. This year, they hope to do better and increase that number to 5,000.