Does NZ have funnel web spiders?

Answered by John Hunt

New Zealand does not have funnel web spiders. However, it does have a similar species called the tunnel-web spider (Porrhothele antipodianna) which is often mistaken for the Australian funnel-web spider. These spiders are found throughout New Zealand, typically hiding under logs or in burrows they create in the ground.

Tunnel-web spiders belong to the same family as tarantulas and are considered a harmless close relative of the venomous Australian funnel-web spider. Despite the resemblance, tunnel-web spiders in New Zealand do not pose a significant threat to humans. It is important to note that while they are not aggressive, they may bite if provoked or feel threatened.

Having spent a considerable amount of time in New Zealand, I have come across tunnel-web spiders on several occasions. One particular encounter stands out in my memory when I was exploring a forested area and lifted a log to find a tunnel-web spider scurrying away. It was fascinating to observe its dark, robust body and strong, hairy legs. It quickly disappeared into a nearby burrow, showcasing its natural instinct to seek shelter.

Unlike their venomous Australian counterparts, tunnel-web spiders in New Zealand are not known to cause serious harm to humans. However, their bites can still cause localized pain, redness, and swelling. It is always advisable to exercise caution and avoid disturbing these spiders in their natural habitat. If you happen to come across one, it is best to observe it from a safe distance without causing any harm to either yourself or the spider.

To help you differentiate between tunnel-web spiders and the potentially dangerous funnel-web spiders found in Australia, here are a few key characteristics:

1. Location: Tunnel-web spiders are native to New Zealand and are not found in Australia. Funnel-web spiders, on the other hand, are exclusive to Australia and are not naturally found in New Zealand.

2. Habitat: Tunnel-web spiders are commonly found under logs or in burrows they create in the ground. Funnel-web spiders prefer moist habitats such as rainforests, swamps, and gardens, where they build silk-lined burrows with a funnel-like entrance.

3. Appearance: While both tunnel-web and funnel-web spiders have dark-colored bodies, tunnel-web spiders in New Zealand are generally smaller in size and less robust than their Australian counterparts. Funnel-web spiders are typically larger and more intimidating in appearance.

4. Venom: The venom of Australian funnel-web spiders is highly toxic and can cause severe reactions in humans, including potential fatalities. Tunnel-web spiders in New Zealand, on the other hand, have venom that is less potent and usually only causes localized symptoms.

New Zealand does not have funnel web spiders like those found in Australia. Instead, it is home to tunnel-web spiders, which are harmless relatives of the Australian species. While tunnel-web spiders should be respected and left undisturbed in their natural habitat, they do not pose a significant threat to humans.