False Widow spiders
The Noble False Widow Spider is not native to Britain. It is believed it was accidentally introduced over a century ago, possibly in crates of fruit imported from the Canary & Madeira Islands. It was generally only found in the South West but recent mild winters have seen an increase in numbers in London and Kent.
They can give a painful bite which has been likened to bee or wasp stings. However bites are rare and usually result from handling the spider roughly or from a spider being trapped between clothing and skin. The symptoms are usually no more severe than a bee or wasp sting, but a handful of those who have been bitten have described more acute symptoms including throbbing pain, swelling and tingling in the fingers.
They have a glossy sleek outer surface with coloured markings on the back and abdomen. Females grow to 15mm. The web they spin is not the typical wheel formation but is made up of many short irregularly placed strands which sometimes hang like a hammock. They can be found in houses but are usually found in outdoor spaces e.g. sheds and garages.
The Natural History Museums Identification and Advisory Service has received no more than 30 confirmed reports of noble false widow spider bites over a 16-year period.
What should I do if I am bitten?
- Wash the bite with soap and water
- Apply a cool compress/ice-pack (care not to cause a cold burn; don't leave on for more than a few minutes at a time)
- If possible apply a bite spray or insect stick
- If necessary, take over-the-counter medication to control pain or itching (e.g. antihistamine cream and suitable painkiller)
- Antibiotics are not helpful unless the wound becomes infected
- Do not cut or apply suction to the wound
- Monitor the bite for redness, swelling, pain, or signs of infection
- Monitor breathing, sweating and general demeanour
- Re-apply spray or stick to control bite symptoms and help with healing
If redness, swelling or pain does not subside or there are signs of infection consult your doctor.
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