It’s similarity to the notorious black widow spider (genus Latrodectus) means these arachnids can cause alarm when found in and around homes in the UK.
The false widow spider (Steatoda nobilis) can give a nasty bite and is regarded as the UK’s most venomous spider. That said, they are not naturally aggressive creatures and will only bite defensively, if they feel threatened or are being attacked.
Bites can be quite painful and cause localised swelling but in most cases the symptoms will ease in a few days. More serious reactions have been reported, but are usually due to an individuals allergic reaction to the venom. It is always advisable to seek professional medical attention if symptoms persist.
The false widow spider is not a native of the UK. It seems that they snuck into the country around 100 years ago hidden in bunches of bananas, imported from the Maderian and Canary Islands. These arachnids have established themselves in the Devon and Dorset area over the last century, only recently spreading along the South Coast and into the East of England. Milder winters may have helped their numbers to survive the colder months.
The females will hang upside down in what are known as ‘tangle webs’. These are typically built high off the ground in dark corners of garages, sheds, basements or outbuildings. Females will lay white spherical egg sacs from springtime through to autumn, with the eggs hatching within 2 – 4 months. In general these spiders can live from 1 – 3 years depending on food supply.
False black widow spiders have a glossy, tawny coloured body with a cream marking in the centre. The abdomen is a more bulbous shape than most spiders found in British homes and gardens.
To try and deter false black widows (or any other spiders) from frequenting your home:
- Ensure there is no build up of detritus (e.g. bags, bricks, logs, general clutter etc…) surrounding a property.
- Vacuum regularly, high and low to ensure cobwebs are not allowed to build up.
- Ensure your home is not a haven for woodlice, millipedes, centipedes etc… as these will encourage spiders to follow their prey inside.
- If you come across spider egg sacs then carefully remove them.
To put things in perspective, over the century these arachnids have been roaming our shores, there have been no recorded deaths from spider bites in the UK.