Havering residents warned to leave false widows alone

A false widow spider

A false widow spider - Credit: Archant

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.

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.

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.

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“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.