The species has a fearsome reputation as one of the few British breeds capable of inflicting a painful bite to humans — but is there really anything to be afraid of?
What is the false widow spider? Are they in the UK?
Steatoda Nobilis – commonly known as the false widow spider – is native to Madeira and the Canary islands, and is believed to have arrived on British shores via a cargo transporter before 1879.
It is thought to have thrived in the UK in recent years due to milder winters.
In 2017, reports revealed that the eight-legged beasties had begun making their way into British homes as temperatures dropped.
The spider is nocturnal and will normally spend the day sleeping inside a crack or hole close to its web.
False widows like dry, warm environments where they will be unlikely to be disturbed. This is often what brings them into people's homes.
The spiders are most commonly seen in the south of the country, but reported sightings suggest they are moving northwards.
In October 2018 eleven schools were forced to close for up to a month after invasions of thousands of venomous false widows.
Exterminators in chemical suits were seen at a London primary as parents said they were "petrified".
How can you spot a false widow spider?
- The false widow is a medium sized spider with a round, brown body and cream coloured markings
- Its legs are a reddish-orange colour
- Females range in size from 9.5 to 14mm while males are 7 to 11mm
- The spider's body and legs will have a glossy appearance
- The species closely resembles the black widow spider, aside from its colouring
Is the false widow's bite venomous?
Like most spiders, the false widow's bite is venomous, but it almost always only has a mild effect on humans.
Most bites result in symptoms similar to a bee or wasp sting.
Experts say the species are not normally aggressive towards humans and bites are rare, but if the spiders are caught in clothing, prodded or squashed they may attack.
The females bites are more severe than the males and typically result in intense pain radiating from the bite, along with fever.
Has anyone ever died from the false widow spider's bite?
There have been no reported deaths in the UK resulting from false widow spider bites.
But, there have been a number of incidents where people have had severe reactions and required hospital treatment.
A student was left with a one-inch hole in his leg after being bitten by a "false widow" in his sleep.
A 46-year old man lost his leg and suffered kidney failure after a false widow bit him on the ankle as he worked outside.
If you are bitten by the spider the first thing to do is wash the area with soap and water.
A bite spray or antiseptic cream will also help to prevent infection.
If your condition deteriorates seek professional medical help.
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