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Havering residents warned to leave false widows alone

08:00 18 October 2013

A false widow spider

A false widow spider

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Since we reported last week how Collier Row dad Ricki Whitmore almost lost his leg after being bitten by Britain’s “most venomous” spider, the false widow, we have been inundated with messages from readers who say have seen the creature.

What to do if you find a false widow

People should not disturb the false widow spider if they can help it – the creature only bites when threatened.

The NHS says you can manage your bite or sting at home using antihistamines, but make sure it does not get infected.

Bites are seldom fatal; infants, the elderly and people with allergies are at greatest risk. A symptom checker on the NHS Choices website provides advice for people who have been bitten or stung, or call 111.

We have gathered some expert advice about what to do if you find one, or worse, if you’re bitten.

Wildlife expert Greg Hitchcock said false widow spiders are about as dangerous as eating a peanut – potentially fatal if you’re allergic to them.

There have been no reported deaths from bites in Britain.

The British Arachnological Society has a page on its website dedicated to enquiries. Its experts say the chances of being bitten are extremely low and most cases won’t result in serious injury. But if you are bitten, the effect is unlikely to be worse than a bee or wasp sting. The experts add that a more serious problem is only likely to arise if the victim has a severe allergic reaction or if they are already compromised by other health issues.

False widow spider facts

The spiders are so called because of their distant cousins the black widow, which is much more likely to be fatal to humans.

Only one of the false widow species has a bite which could be harmful to humans – Steatoda nobilis.

The spiders first came to the UK from the Canary Islands in the late 19th century and are mostly found in the south of England due to the warmer climate.

They are distinctive because of the white spots on their body, but there are a number of different species.

Despite an increase in the number of sightings this year, there has not been a significant rise in the number of bites reported.

Despite a surge in sightings, Paul Tanner, manager of Essex pest control company SX Supplies, said: “There has been a lot of people in the media talking about them, but I wouldn’t say that we have members of the public calling us up saying, ‘We’ve got a false widow spider in our house’.”

If you do find one in your home – like Amanda Armitage, of Collier Row, and Neil Holmes, of Romford, have, among others – Natural England says leave them alone. The organisation’s Ellen Softley said: “There are no concerns about their numbers and they’re no more dangerous than a bee or wasp.

“If you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.”

Most bites do not require medical attention but they do cause pain, which includes swelling and a fever.

Mr Whitmore was very, very unlucky.

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