False widows on their way into our homes in huge numbers after record heatwave

Brits are being warned for an influx of venomous false eidow spiders as outdoor temperatures start to drop.

This summer’s unprecedented heatwave has provided ideal breeding conditions for insects – and of course the spiders that feed on them.

Now, with the end of summer in sight, arachnophobes are being warned for an awful autumn as record numbers of spiders – including the feared false widow – start moving into our cosy homes to avoid the winter chill.

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The false widow has a fearsome reputation due to its association with the deadly black widow, which has a venom that can cause serious respiratory distress in children and the elderly.

But while false widows have caused severe allergic reactions in people who are susceptible, in most cases their bite is no worse than a wasp sting.

The term false widow is commonly used for three related species – the rabbit hutch spider and the cupboard spider as well as the noble false widow.

The noble false widow is the largest of the three most common species, reaching a body length of between 8.5 and 11 millimetres.

While the species was first observed in the UK as far back as the 1870s it was only in the 1980s that it became firmly established on the UK mainland, spreading north as average annual temperatures increase.

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Pest control expert Clive Boase said: “The population of false widows in the UK is growing all the time.

“People don’t realise just how common they have become. They can survive both indoors and outdoors.

“They are generally shy creatures and won’t come out into the open – but they could crawl into curtains or perhaps clothing left on the floor.”

It’s when the spiders get trapped inside clothing or under a duvet that they’re most likely to bite.

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Lab technician Carl Jones, from Milton Keynes, is convinced that a false widow was responsible for the mysterious flesh-eating infection on his arm that left him with a permanent scar.

Even as far north as Glasgow, the false widow’s web of terror is growing. Tracey Hamilton from Bishopbriggs in Scotland, initially assumed she had just been bitten by a midge.

However, her hand became extremely blistered and numbness spread up her arm. The surgeon that treated Tracey told her that she had been bitten twice by a noble false widow

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But Natural History Museum spider expert Jan Beccaloni says that for most of us there’s no need to be afraid: “I have, not surprisingly, met many people who are scared of spiders,” she said. “That’s a great pity because spiders are awesome creatures which are sadly misunderstood.

“Aside from their key role in feeding on pest insect species, their silk is being developed to make specialist clothing such as bullet-proof vests and their venom can be used in pain relief.

“So next time you find an unwanted spider in your house, please don’t kill it! Either leave it in peace, or humanely put it out in your shed."


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