A MARRIED couple were left crying in agonising pain after repeatedly being savaged by false widow spiders at work.

Philip Oakley and Olivia Yip took over an old fruit and veg warehouse as a workshop in East Sussex for their lighting design and fashion work – but soon noticed that it was crawling with the eight-legged creatures.



In the five years they've owned the property, lurking spiders have sunk their venomous fangs into the pair three times – most recently biting 58-year-old Philip on the middle finger last month, leaving him crying in pain.

Olivia, 38, suffered ulcerated bites on her leg and waist that needed daily hospital dressing changes in 2018 and 2019 and took months to recover from.

Philip has fumigated the property every year for the last three years in a bid to protect themselves from any further bites.

But this time the agitated arachnids turned their attention to him and while he initially brushed it off as a splinter, Philip soon realised he'd fallen victim to a false widow spider bite when his finger ballooned and started throbbing painfully.

After two trips to Conquest Hospital's A&E department for antibiotics and pain relief, he was referred to Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead where he underwent two surgeries to scoop out the infected tissue.

Now recovering at home after a week-long stay, defiant Philip said he will not be 'scared away' by the spiders and vows to continue working.

Philip said: "We own an old fruit and vegetable warehouse that we use for work and it perhaps has false widow spiders that came over with bananas – that's probably why we have a lot of the spiders in the building.

"We've fumigated it three times but they still seem to be around.

"My wife had two ulcerated bites, one on her leg and the other on her waist, that took several months to get over.

"She went to hospital to get her dressings done every day for a month.

"They start as nothing. You don't feel it, you just have what you think is a spot starting that you think you're going to be able to squeeze and it doesn't ever develop a head.


"I'm not sure exactly when I was bitten because you don't really know they've bitten you.

"It felt like a splinter, a little bit tender to the touch but nothing major, then it became inflamed and swelled up.

"When it started on my finger I thought 'oh my god here we go I'm in trouble with this'.

"I had to go to A&E at about midnight on a Sunday with excruciating pain, I think the swelling was so great it was making my knuckle dislocate.

"I was crying with pain and they gave me morphine and said I had to go to a specialist hospital for treatment.

"It was all quite surprising really because I initially thought I was going to go to hospital and come home after an hour.

"I've not been scared away by them."

Philip believes he was bitten on April 19th but it was only five days later that he went to A&E unable to bear the pain in his red finger.

The following day Philip said the pain was so excruciating it felt like his finger was 'being dislocated from the swelling' and he went back to A&E where he was given morphine.

He was then transferred to a specialist hospital for further treatment.

Philip said: "My finger suddenly got so swollen that it was like it couldn't get any bigger.

"My finger was double the size it usually is, it was throbbing and it felt like my finger was being dislocated from the swelling.

"On Saturday I couldn't go to my GP so I went to A&E where they gave me some antibiotics and then the pain got worse and worse so I went back to hospital at midnight on Sunday.

False widow spiders

False widows are sometimes confused for black widow spiders. Both have a similar dark-coloured, globular body.

The name false widow is given to species in the genus Steatoda, with six of these species living permanently in the UK.

The noble false widow is most commonly reported and it is the largest of the three most common species. It reaches a body length of between 8.5 and 11 millimetres.

The noble false widow was first recorded in the UK in the 1870s – likely a stowaway on cargo ships from its native Madeira and Canary Islands.

Their webs are usually suspended at least 1.5 metres off the ground to allow the spiders to hunt flying insects.

In homes they often prefer to skulk in kitchens and conservatories. Their webs are a tangle of threads, a characteristic of all false widow species.

The pattern on their bodies is often described as 'skull-shaped'.

Source: National History Museum

"I was crying with pain and they gave me two lots of morphine, and then at 3am they said I had to go to the other hospital.

"I spent a week in hospital and it was just the most amazing stay. It's got this lovely aura because of its magical history.

"I actually feel like I had a holiday there because I lay there and had lovely people tending to me and it was quite interesting watching other patients come in, it was totally fascinating.

"You would have to pay a lot of money to have that same experience – you'd have to go and see a lot of plays to see these stories unfold, I just had a lovely time.

"I'm going to give the hospital £1,000 because I've decided I don't need a holiday this year."

Philip now does 30 minutes of physio a day in a bid to regain movement and grip in his right hand, and he hopes to be back at work next week.

Since his encounter with the fanged fiend, Philip said he'll consider wearing gloves while in the workshop more often but urges anyone bitten by a critter to seek medical help straight away.

Philip said: "I would advise anyone to go on the NHS website to look up their symptoms and get them checked out.

"I will definitely wear gloves a lot more in future and would advise others to as well, especially if you're working in the garden or moving firewood."


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