In the UK arachnophobia is the most common phobia. With their long legs, black bodies and unpredictable behaviour is it any wonder so many of us are scared of spiders? They lurk in dark corners then suddenly emerge as fast as their eight legs will carry them across the floor or up the walls, scaring the wits out of us. I know for a FACT spiders like me. If there are six people in a room, spiders will make a beeline for me. In my unfortunate experience they have run up my legs and dropped straight onto my head. This I do not enjoy, but I since working for Rentokil I have learned about the good spiders do around the home and am less inclined to slap the ugly creatures with a newspaper.
Luckily most native spiders in the UK don’t bite although there have been a handful reports of reports of arachnids which have caused harm to humans. The false widow spider is one such species which was first reported in the UK in 1846 and is commonest in the south east. Not deterred by the winter, the adult female are active year round and live in dark corners and outbuildings such as sheds. Their bite can be sharp, similar to touching broken glass, followed by swelling and redness. The body of the false widow is black or purplish brown, with a pale semi-circle and three spots on the abdomen. The male is smaller, less rotund and does not tend to bite.
There have been several reports last year of the black widow entering the UK. The female is densely black and can be identified by a bright red hour-glass marking on the underside. The bite of this tiny spider which is about the size of a finger nail can be significant, resulting in muscle cramps and sweating. The male is smaller and does not bite.
Another invasive species which enters the UK via fruit imports is the Huntsman which has unwittingly been plucked from its home in a banana plantation. Fully grown, the females can reach 30mm and deliver a bite which although not as severe as the black widow will not remain unnoticed.
So before you pull on your gardening gloves which have spent the winter in the shed make sure you give them a good shake. And if you wonder why you haven’t spotted any house spiders this winter check out this blog.