‘Zombie’ funnel web spider found by G’bah toddlers

Three-year-old Ujjwala Sipe and her brother Matteo, 22 months, with the spider – believed to be a tree-dwelling funnel web – they found at their home in Goonellabah on Sunday.
Three-year-old Ujjwala Sipe and her brother Matteo, 22 months, with the spider – believed to be a tree-dwelling funnel web – they found at their home in Goonellabah on Sunday. Cathy Adams

A CLOSE encounter with a funnel web spider is scary, but worse still is when your kids aged two and three are playing with one.

On Sunday morning Robert Sipe was sweeping the yard of his Goonellabah home when he found his toddlers enjoying the company of a dying tree-dwelling funnel web spider.

"The kids were over near the barbecue, on the ground, looking at something and Ujjwala said 'dad, check this out'," Mr Sipe said.

"I went over to see what it was and it was that spider ... I told them to get away and Matteo was on his belly, looking at it up close."

Mr Sipe said it was barely moving and very close to death - reason enough to simply scoop it up and keep it in a bottle to identify later.

It wasn't moving when Mr Sipe took some photos of it but two days later an unsuspecting Jane Sipe, his wife, moved the bottle to find it had come back to life.

"I thought it would be in the bin ... when I went to move it thinking it was an empty bottle, I'm going 'it's not even dead and we still have it?'" She said.

"I called (Robert) and asked what's going on and how do you kill it."

Mr Sipe was at work when he got the call.

"I just cracked up because Jane was like 'it's still moving!' ... I wanted to joke about it being a zombie spider," he said.

The scariest part, the couple said, was it was the second time they had found a funnel web spider around their home and with curious kids it posed a serious threat to their safety.

"Both of them with bugs, the first thing they want to do is touch them, so if you're not watching them constantly you're just waiting to turn around and see one of them bitten," Mrs Sipe said.

Mr Sipe said the spider was probably dying from the insect spray recently applied to the outside of the house.

"We had a black funnel web in the house last year. I asked people to identify it and that's when I realised we had funnel webs up here," he said.

"We get someone to spray once a year. We do it for the spiders.

"It's under 100 bucks, which is a good investment when you think if that funnel web had bitten one of the kids, just the ambulance itself would have cost 400 bucks."

The Sipe's property overlooks bushland so it's not unusual to find snakes and spiders nearby.

Mr Sipe believes the spiders are particularly active at the moment due to nearby construction and excavation disturbing habitats.

Topics:  family funnel web goonellabah spider toddlers

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