An investigation is currently underway about how a former baseball hopeful died after being bitten 19 times by a black widow spider. Jeff Seale, 40, from Erie, Colorado noticed the bites on his foot but only complained of feeling ill two weeks later.
Due to their tiny size and global distribution, the black widow kills more than any other spider – with around seven people a year dying in the U.S. from black widow bites.
Fortunately the Black Widow is not native to the UK and no one has ever died of a black widow spider bite in the UK. There are 640 recorded species of spider in the UK. Only 12 of these have been known to bite humans in the UK and this includes two Steatoda species, S. grossa and S. nobilis
Overall, Great Britain is lucky to have very few pests which are venomous enough to kill. Adders are the only venomous snakes found in Britain, although they are absent from Ireland and there is evidence that they are in decline. Although an adder’s venom poses little danger to a healthy adult human, the bite is very painful and requires urgent medical attention. The NHS said about 100 cases of adder bites are reported in the UK every year. Since records began in 1876 only 14 people have been reported to have died from adder bites – the last in 1975.
All of our native species are protected by law so it is an offence to kill, injure, sell or trade one in any way. It is against the law to disturb them or their habitat. If you’re walking in an area where adders are known to live, it’s wise to stick to paths and keep dogs on their leads to minimise disturbance, especially during their most active season from March to October.
We are about to enter into the height of the wasp season, which if you are severely allergic can present a serious threat. Wasps can sting repeatedly. The venom of a wasp sting contains a pheromone which signals other wasps to become more aggressive when a wasp has stung something or been killed, so it’s best to leave wasps alone when its mates are around. Wasps are not normally aggressive to humans, but towards the end of summer nests can become hot and overcrowded, making wasps bad tempered.
In late summer the worker wasps stop building nests and feast on sweet foodstuffs like sticky drinks and sometimes getting drunk on fermented fruit. This is when wasps become a major nuisance and are at their most likely to sting. For more information on wasps please visit UKWaspWatch.
On the whole us Brits are lucky to live in a country which is home to few life threatening pests such malarial mosquitoes or venomous spiders.