Watch out for false widow spiders

LNPS Regional Manager Mike Bailes is recommending homeowners, school maintenance officers and property managers to be on the look out for false widow spiders following an increase in callouts.

In the last four weeks, LNPS has noticed a considerable increase in the number of callouts relating to the false widow spider, including infestations at four schools and, over the Jubilee weekend, a large wedding venue in Essex.

With schools on a six-week break during the summer, many authorities are now completing necessary maintenance work, making it the perfect time to ensure buildings are free from nasty pests such as false widow spiders.

What is a false widow spider?

The first thing to know is that they are not related to the harmful black widow spider (Latrodectus sp.).

False widows are actually a species in the genus Steatoda. There are currently six species in the UK, with the most common being the rabbit hutch spider (Steatoda bipunctata), cupboard spider (Steatoda grossa) and noble false widow (Steatoda nobilis). You are most likely to see the latter, which probably came to the UK in the 1870s aboard a cargo ship from its native Madeira or Canary Islands.

Where do we find them?

They can be found in a number of different places but in schools we often find them in lighting assemblages – especially outside lights. The larger females will use these for warmth and shelter, making them the ideal place to lay eggs. Lights also attract other insects, making them a great place to source food.

Mike: “We often don’t see them as they are hiding but two things give them away. Firstly, the egg cases. Secondly, the webbing. Unlike other spider’s webs, which have a pattern, false widow spider’s webs are random, very fine and they are often on the south-facing side of the building. We’ve noticed they get dirty very quickly, after which the spiders seem to abandon them. Through experience, we’ve learned a clean web shows it is being used and the spiders are probably multiplying.”

Other places where false widow spiders can be found include wooden sheds, play equipment and gazebos. Wood retains heat, making it an ideal place for spiders to live.

Are false widow spiders dangerous?

The bites, while not pleasant, are not particularly dangerous. The spiders do have a venous bite, but it is not very potent to humans and the pain usually only lasts between one and twelve hours. It is comparable to being stung by a wasp.

Lurid stories about rotting flesh following a bite have never been formally verified and it is probable that any extreme reaction is a result of secondary infection, likely bacterial when the wound is not kept clean.

What should I do if I have a spider problem?

The advice from experts is that false widow spiders won’t attack unless provoked or threatened.

However, obviously you cannot have an infestation in a school or risk having your wedding guests bitten and therefore removal must be considered. Treating the spiders is not something you should do without the correct equipment and therefore, if you have a spider problem, we advise you call a professional pest control company like LNPS.

If you have a spider problem, look at our brochure or call 020 8430 4133.