False widow bites: No need to panic, say experts
The risk from false widow spiders has been overstated: they’re very unlikely to attack
A FRENZY has erupted in the tabloid press, with stories of ‘killer, flesh-eating’ false widow spiders spreading across the front pages.
A more sober assessment suggests that although the bites may be unpleasant for those who suffer an allergic reaction, the threat from false widow spider bites is minimal.
Why are we hearing about them now?
Due to an extremely warm, dry summer the species has begun to spread across the southeast of England and begin to advance northwards. Dr John Tweddle of the Natural History Museum told the Guardian that the spread is “at least partly a response to a changing climate and as such we're expecting the species to continue to increase its distribution within the UK."
What do they look like?
The false widow, or Steatoda nobilis, has a bulbous midrift and a dark, shiny body with pale markings and a cream band. They tend to be found in dark places, such as sheds or garages.
Are they aggressive?
No. According to Tweddle, they are generally non-aggressive and “bite only in self-defence, such as when they are accidentally prodded or squashed, or trapped in clothing”.
How dangerous are they?
No deaths from the false widow bite have been reported in the UK since the spider first arrived here in 1879. Encountering the spider is “no more dangerous than eating a peanut”, Greg Hitchock from the British Arachnological Society told the Epsom Guardian. The unlucky few who suffer an extreme reaction may need medical attention.
What are the chances of being bitten?
Very low. Bites are very rare – much less common than wasp or bee stings.
What should you do if you think you’ve been bitten?
Don’t panic and don’t call 999. The bites are not life-threatening and most people will not suffer a bad reaction. The standard treatment is antihistamines to reduce swelling, but if you are worried you are advised to visit your doctor. ·