INCY WINCY NIGHTMARE

Australia gets quite a bad rap when it comes to things that want to kill you.

OK, there are the sharks, the snakes, the crocodiles, and the super toxic jelly fish. Plus the heat, the cold, the waves and rocks, the animals that jump out in front of your car and land on your bonnet or just in front so that you swerve and flip the car 1000 km from the nearest humans.

Yes, you might get caught in a bush fire (forest fire) that stretches 400 kilometres and burns 200 feet into the air and jumps over the road you are fleeing down, or the rivers might suddenly swell and sweep you away, but that doesn’t often happen in the cities. Unlike the small, but persistent, chance that you accidently offend a huge drunken rugby playing boof-head at the bar who’s had a few and wants to take you outside for just one punch to clarify their position (THIS is why we have the ‘one-punch’ laws in Australia…one punch from an Alpha-Australian is the same as several punches in the head with a chair in other countries). And that’s just the women.They build them big and aggressive in the wide brown land.

Upon reflection, surviving down under IS trixy, and this may be the secret reason so many Australians go abroad at a young age. It is a kind of celebration of making it into adulthood. Parents in Australia tell their young “ you’ve made it this far, run away for a few years and try and make it through the next bit with your remaining limbs”.

Growing up In Australia means you get used to the warnings, and the most common critter an Ozzie child becomes aware of are spiders. Australia has the widest selection of deadly spiders in the world to choose from. They are in every state and in most homes.

Mostly, spiders are shy and keep to themselves, but not these guys. This is the Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus)  and it is a little punk. Funnel-webs (which do actually build funnel shaped webs), are so darned aggressive that they will stand and take you on like a red haired businessman with small fingers on the political stage.

And speaking of red things, a new version of this spider was recently discovered in Tasmania, the island state at the bottom of the country that everyone forgets. Spiders often come with warning colours ( like the red-back spider- a relative of the Black Widow is the United States, but funnel web spiders were thought to be just black or brown and hairy. These red fanged ones have taken the time to mutate in a way that reminds you were the sharp end is. In case you might have thought that they were joking about the trying to kill you thing.

It’s not just that the venom they deliver is toxic, it’s the way they deliver it. Again and again. They repeatedly strike, even as their victim swipes them away. If you hit a funnel web, it will try and hit you back. Even if you are way big. It has no issue with your size. It’s a big hairy spider with fangs often measuring longer than those of a snake. For real.

In short, if you see one of these, run away and tell someone who has a gun….and a doctor, because in Australia there is a vaccine for spider bites that is manufactured from the venom of the spiders, so they will catch the spider and milk it. There’s a job you might not have thought of.

If you do get bitten, get help IMMEDIATELY. Within minutes of being bitten a victim may suffer extreme symptoms such as muscle spasms, palpitations, vomiting, confusion and swelling of the brain. In some cases death has followed in as little as 15 minutes after the bite occurred. If you get the anti-venom into you, it will be fine. If not….

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