The largest spider specimen to be milked for its venom has been delivered to the Australia Reptile Park, where the deadly funnel-web spider named “Big Boy” will be milked to produce anti-venom in the country, the BBC reports.
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Big Boy has a leg span of 10cm (4 inches), even though the average length of a funnel-web spider’s leg is between 6cm and 7cm. This spider is more or less the deadliest in Australia and one of the most venomous in the entire world.
The Australia Reptile Park requests the public to capture any dangerous spiders they come across to the center so that they could be used to produce anti-venom for people bitten by the deadly spiders.
Someone who might not want his name mentioned caught Big Boy in a bushland in Newcastle, NSW, and gave it up to the park via a local hospital which acts as collection center. According to Billy Collett, program supervisor, Big Boy is the biggest spider they’ve had in the venom-milking program.
“There might be one at a museum, but this is the biggest one we’ve had in our venom program,” he said.
The spiders are milked for their venom by using a pipette to remove their poison, and the park requires to milk about 200-300 spiders annually, conducting about 3,000 milkings before enough venom can be obtained to produce the required antidote.
"We get them into a defense position and with a glass pipette we vacuum the venom right off their fangs," Collett said.
The milked venom is dispatched to Bio CSL, a laboratory, where it is injected little by little in rabbits which slowly develops antibodies to the venom.
The lab then harvests these antibodies from the blood of the rabbits to produce serum used as anti-venom for the public.
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Thirteen recorded deaths have occurred from funnel-web spider bites in Australia before the anti-venom program started. When bitten, the venom neutralizes the victim’s nervous system, affecting his intestines and causing breathing difficulty and heart collapse in many cases.