False Widow Spiders in the New Forest

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

By Russell Wynn, 09 August 2016

In the last few years there has been increasing media interest in False Widow Spiders in the UK, mostly because of their reputation as our most venomous spider. The majority of publicised records of False Widow Spider appear to refer to the Noble False Widow Spider Steatoda nobilis, a non-native species that is thought to have arrived in southwest UK with imported produce from the Macaronesian Islands over 130 years ago. Sightings have traditionally been centred on southern England, but the species is expanding its range northwards with recent records extending into Wales and East Anglia.

 

The False Widow Spider has a dark shiny body and reddish-brown legs, with a distinctive pale band running around the front of the abdomen.
The False Widow Spider has a dark shiny body and reddish-brown legs, with a distinctive pale band running around the front of the abdomen.

 

The larger females are responsible for the rare instances of humans being bitten, but this is simply a defence mechanism when the spider is at risk of being harmed. Symptoms are similar to a bee or wasp sting, but can potentially lead to secondary infection. It’s worth noting that other spiders found in our region can occasionally inflict a painful bite – I once took a nip on the shin from a large Garden Spider after accidentally walking through its web.

In the New Forest the False Widow Spider is now one of the commonest spiders to be found around houses and outbuildings. The web is an untidy framework of strong threads, termed a ‘scaffold web’, quite different to the dense hammocks of House Spiders, and most often found in high corners. At our Brockenhurst property, the species favours cracks in external brickwork around the top of the porch and conservatory, but they rarely enter the house itself. The largest numbers of mature adults are seen in summer and autumn, although last winter some of the larger resident females were visible into January as a result of the mild conditions.

Further information on the species and its identification can be found at the links below:

http://srs.britishspiders.org.uk/portal.php/p/Summary/s/Steatoda+nobilis

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/community/identification/blog/2014/12/23/fact-sheet-false-widow-spiders–steatoda-spp?fromGateway=true

And a couple of recent media articles on False Widow Spiders here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24636116

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/25/spider-false-widow-arachnid-poison-bite