Britain’s ‘most venomous spider' on the increase as dropping temperatures attracts them into homes
An ‘alarming rate of migration’ has created a large rise in sightings of Britain’s most poisonous spider.
The false widow spider, which in the past has been spotted in Devon, is believed to be spreading across the country as dropping temperatures attract the spider into homes.
The spider which arrived from the Canary Islands 140 years ago, used to only appear in warmer parts of the country like Devon, Dorset and Cornwall but has been seen in London and Essex over the past few weeks.
More than 50 people have reported seeing the venomous arachnid, the cousin of the black widow, in the past few weeks.
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The purple and black spiders have an abdomen the size of a 1p piece and generally live in walls, fences and the barks of trees.
Symptoms of a false widow bite may include swelling of the bite area, pins and needles and minor chest pains, according to Tony Wileman, a conservation ecologist at the London Wildlife Trust.
“It is recommended that if bitten by a spider thought to be a false widow spider then medical attention (a visit to the A&E department or your local GP) should be sought informing the medical staff that you think you have been bitten by a false widow spider,” said Wileman.
The false widow spider bite can be deadly to humans
Environmentalist Matt Shardlow, of conservation charity Buglife, said both global warming and natural evolution could be to blame for the spiders’ alarming rate of migration.
He said: “The false widow has long been prevalent across much of the south-west because of the milder temperatures.
“They come from warm countries and are usually killed off by our cold weather.
“But climate change may have helped and the species would have also adapted and evolved to cope with the colder weather.”
John Tweddle, an insect specialist at the Natural History Museum, said: "False widow spiders tend to bite when accidentally trapped between skin and clothes.
"People should be careful when putting on gloves or boots that have been left unused for a while as these spiders may seek refuge and hide in those."
In 2008 Andy Nethercott, 58, suffered swelling to the back of his neck after the spider got into his shirt.
Mr Nethercott was clearing out his aviary on Wednesday when he came across around eight of the arachnids.
He didn’t realise that one had got into his shirt until he began to feel a strong itching sensation.
He said: “They seemed to be in some carrier bags. I don’t have a problem with spiders, so I shook the bags and carried on.
“I kept on looking for what I was looking for and then my shirt collar began to irritate me.
“Eventually it got to the point where I had to take my shirt off.
“One of the spiders had got inside — it fell out and onto the floor. I could feel three lumps on my neck. I looked in the mirror and saw the back of my neck.
“I could see I had been bitten or stung. The spider was the only thing it could have been.
“I put some cooling gel on it and the next morning went to see my doctor about it. The nurse did not think it was infected and suggested I take antihistamines.