Venomous false widow spider spotted in Hornchurch as numbers creep up in Havering
10:05 03 October 2013
A venomous spider with a nasty bite is creeping into Havering as numbers rise across London.
False widow spider facts
The false widow spider commonly occurs along the south coast of England from Devon and is spreading through London, Essex and Surrey.
They are between 16–32mm long, including legs, and have a distinctive cream pattern on the abdomen.
Adult spiders are capable of biting humans but are not aggressive.
Most injuries to humans are defensive bites delivered when a spider becomes unintentionally squeezed or pinched.
The venom can cause pain that radiates along the bitten limb or part of the body, and swelling.
Some people describe fever and feeling unwell. Symptoms may last for a couple of days but are unlikely to be serious.
Source: Natural History Museum
False widow spiders were thought to live mainly along the south coast but bites have been reported in recent months in Dagenham, south London and Kent.
In August, teacher Rachel Warry caught the creepy crawly in a school in Hornchurch.
She said: “I found it in a classroom but I didn’t know what it was at the time.
“I was surprised when I saw it because it was bigger than a normal spider – a bit larger than a 50p coin.
“I took a photo of it because I’d never seen one that looked like that before.”
No children were in the school but Miss Warry caught it in a box and moved it off the premises to be safe.
The false widow’s bite does not need medical attention in most cases but is known to cause pain, which radiates along the bitten part of the body, swelling, fever and feeling unwell.
Usually symptoms only last a couple of days but allergic reactions to the venom can be serious.
The Natural History Museum’s Insect Information Service hears of about 10 spider bites in the UK each year, although no one has ever died from one.
Around a dozen resident species have a nasty nip, including the false widow.
The exotic spider originates from Madeira, the Canary Islands and Africa but was brought to the UK more than a century ago on boats with imports of bananas.
Happy in the warm in conservatories, garages and sheds, the false widow has since multiplied and spread north from ports along the south coast.
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA advised people to treat any unusual spiders as dangerous and to leave them alone.
Let us know of any sightings by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting @RomfordRecorder.
For help identifying a spider visit the British Arachnological Society website or call the Natural History Museum identification and advisory service on 020 7942 5045.