"Spiders, why did it have to be spiders?"
And in Australia, the spiders are notoriously massive. Most recently, the Australian Reptile Park showcased their most recent find -- a giant male funnel web spider. The funnel web spider takes the mantle of being the most toxic spider in the entire world.
The team that captured the male funnel web spider even gave it a perfectly fitting name for its massive size -- Colossus. Colossus stretched out to an impressive leg span of 7.8 centimeters (3 inches). Most male funnel web spiders only make it between 1 to 5 centimeters in leg span.
But just how toxic are the funnel web spiders? Well, the bites are lethal to small children within minutes to possibly hours, if a child is lucky. For adults, death can come after 24 hours without treatment. The deadliest of the 35 funnel web spider species -- the Sydney funnel web -- can quickly kill an adult human.
The Australian Reptile Park even posted this warning alongside a recent Facebook video:
"After the recent rainfall, funnel web spiders are out in big numbers! And this is the biggest of them all! Meet "Colossus" - he is the BIGGEST male funnel web spider we've ever had handed in here at The Australian Reptile Park! Please remember to keep safely catching funnel webs and bringing them to The Australian Reptile park so we can continue our lifesaving antivenom program!"
However, there is a positive to this story. Since the funnel web spider is one among the most studied spiders in Australia, there have been no Australian fatalities after researchers developed an anti-venom.
And that's precisely how the team at Australian Reptile Park leveraged their new find. Rather than killing the spider on sight (like many people naturally do with terrifying creatures), the team brought it in to be milked.
Colossus isn't the largest official male funnel web spider on record though. The title belongs to the appropriately named "Big Boy," who was found and dropped off for milking in January 2016. Big Boy certainly lived up to his name as he came in at an impressive 10 centimeters in length (4 inches).
How exactly does the venom that could kill a small human child or even an adult get transformed into a life-saving antivenom? Researchers put the venom into animals that are relatively unaffected by the toxin. In this case, rabbits will receive a dose of the venom and naturally produce antibodies. The researchers then harvest the antibodies from the rabbit to synthesize them for transformation into antivenoms.
For reference, one of the most popular and problematic eight-legged troublemakers is the Brown Recluse. Compared to the funnel web spider, it only causes minor issues. Fewer than 1 percent of Recluse bites become systemic.
And, as the Australian Reptile Park pointed out on its Facebook page, only attempt to catch these spiders if you know what you're doing -- regardless of the type of toxic spider that made its home nearby. Call pest control in any other situation.