BRITAIN’S most poisonous spider is spreading across the south east.
False widows, or Steatoda nobilis, which are about the size of a 50p, release a venom when they bite but will only attack if provoked.
Originally from the Canary Islands, they have been present in this country since the 1890s, but numbers are thought to be on the increase, particularly in the south east.
In the last few weeks, large numbers of the venomous arachnids have been found in areas of north Kent including Sidcup – where tattoo artist Alex Michael suffered a bite which caused swelling for five weeks and baffled doctors until he caught one of the spiders at home.
This week sightings of the venomous spider have been reported as far south as Ashford.
Recorded statistics from the Natural History Museum’s Insect Information Service show that there are an average of ten false widow bites a year – but that number could rise as the population spreads.
Stuart Hines of the Natural History Museum’s Insect Information Service said: “Steatoda nobilis (false widow spiders) - commonly occurs along a stretch of the south coast of England from Dorset to Sussex and continues to colonise the southern counties.
“Its original range includes Madeira and the Canaries, but It has been established near the south coast of England for over 30 years and is thought to have been repeatedly introduced through ports with imports of bananas over many decades.
“If handled unwisely or accidentally, adult Steatoda nobilis are capable of biting humans. Reports from those bitten describe a certain amount of pain and often a degree of swelling in the affected part. These symptoms may last for a couple of days but the total effect is unlikely to be more serious than that; however, if symptoms were to persist it would be advisable to seek medical attention.”
If you spot a false widow (pictured above) you are advised to remove it using a cup and a piece of paper rather than picking it up.
Have you seen a false widow spider? Leave a comment below or contact the Herald by calling 01303 851661 or emailing amy.woodland@KRNmedia.co.uk