Falsehoods of the False Widow Spider

False widow spider © Jane Adams

False widow spiders have been getting some bad press recently, so we’ve decided to explain away some of the false facts about these creatures to put everyone’s mind at rest.

Not a new spider to the UK

Many might think that the claimed ‘infestation’ of the false widow spider (Steatoda nobilis) has only just happened, but in fact these spiders have been around for over 100 years. It is believed they arrived in the late 1800’s from the Canary Islands in banana boxes and have since set-up home in Britain, successfully breeding here for many years.

It is true that populations are increasing, and this has been put down to climate change. This time of year they are searching for a mate and shelter from the cold, which is another reason for their increased visibility.

The truth about their bite

The media have printed stories describing these spiders as ‘flesh eating’ but in truth if you are unlucky enough to get bitten, the majority of people will suffer symptoms similar to that of a wasp sting. Symptoms could include painful localised swelling but it will not last long.

The more serious cases which have been reported in the media may be a result of allergic reaction or a bacterial infection. There are no reported deaths from this spider’s bite and in many cases the ID of the spider can’t be confirmed.

How do you get rid of them? Just a glass and a piece of paper

False widow spiders are not fast moving or aggressive, so have no reason to bite unless they are provoked or feel threatened. Common sightings have been in greenhouses, sheds and homes as they search for warm shelter. If you don’t want to leave a suspected false widow spider in your house, simply remove it in the humane way you would remove any other spider, with a glass and piece of paper.

If you think you have been bitten and get significant swelling, numbness or nausea, seek medical assistance just to be on the safe side. Often the anxiety and panic from thinking you have been bitten can be more dangerous than the bite itself.

More information

For more information about false widow spiders, please visit the Buglife website

Female False Widow

Female False Widow

Male False Widow

Male False Widow