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Risk from false black widow spiders is 'blown out of proportion', say Lincolnshire experts

By PWhitelam_LE  |  Posted: October 13, 2013


The false black widow spider Steatoda grossa

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Lincolnshire exotic pet experts say people should not be unduly alarmed about increased sightings of false black widow spiders in England.

Jim Tweedle, who runs JC Exotics, in Rosemary Lane, off Monks Road, says the venomous creatures - a cousin of the infamous black widow spider – are no strangers to these shores.

He said: “False widows have been in the UK for over 140 years and they are here in Lincolnshire.

"They have not suddenly just arrived.

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“But with more and more houses being built their habitats shrink and our houses become their habitats.

"There's always a risk of being bitten by a spider be it a wild domestic spider or a foreign one.

"Someone with a reduced immune system or allergy related to bites or stings could have a problem.

"But there's a lot of panic being caused at the moment about false widows which I think is being blown out of all proportion."

Rob Louth, from Ruskington, is one of a rare band of people licensed to keep venomous snakes and runs exotic pet workshops in schools.

He took 11 of his venomous snakes along to a display day at JC Exotics today including a Snouted Cobra, a Gaboon Viper and an Arizona Rattlesnake.

He said: "If you get bitten by a false widow it will hurt but take paracetamol and you'll be ok.”

John Tweddle, from the Natural History Museum’s Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, said false widow populations have rapidly spread, partly due to climate change.

Their venom is poisonous and will eat through flesh if victims are left untreated. No-one in the UK has died from a spider bite.

The false widow first arrived in Britain many years ago in crates of fruit from the Canaries.

Pet shop owner Mr Tweedle is celebrating a recent move to new, bigger premises, where reptiles can be kept separately from the mammals, including a skunk, meerkats, flying squirrels and naked rats.

Customer and exotic pet breeder Norman Dunbar, from Coningsby, said: “By breeding exotic animals we stop them being taken from the wild for pets.

“I would love to have a pair of skunks. I like reptiles and mammals but with mammals you get more of a response.

“Reptiles, once they get warm on you, just lie there.”

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  • Pete67  |  October 14 2013, 6:52PM

    bluetac - - - Why not put them outside where they can catch a few flies that tend to fly indoors. The great majority of spiders are totally harmless and do a wealth of good. You don't have to touch them - just get a glass over them and carefully slide a piece of card under, and you have them trapped. You can then put them outside somewhere. I always do this with very small or very large spiders (I'm still scared of the giant house spiders), but the rest I try entice onto my hand to put them out (it takes probably more time and patience than using a glass though). I used to be totally afraid of them, but after donkey's years I'm finally getting over it.

    Rate   1
  • bluetac  |  October 13 2013, 4:00PM

    Don't care what spider it is, the last thing its going to see if the sole of my shoe.

    Rate   2
  • JobWanted  |  October 13 2013, 12:29PM

    In Australia we call their cousins Redbacks. They have a red strip on the upper part of their abdomen. They ARE considered dangerous, and if you are bitten you should get checked out. In general, the redbacks are only lethal in a small number of cases, in particular the aged and infirm, and youngsters, in particular babies. But these spiders rarely venture inside a house, instead prefering woodpiles, or areas where we keep 'junk' in our gardens. In most cases, there will be reddening around the bite area, it will be painful, and as previously mentioned if you are worried, seek medical advice. Antivenene is readily available, and will generally be administered as a precaution. I have come across many redbacks in Australia, and when distrubed, they prefer to run for cover, than to waste their venom on something useless to them - humans. No doubt your false widow is likely to do the same. There are far worse spiders to be concerned about out there, think yourselves lucky you have just the false widow to contend with. The important thing here is education, as has been done in Australia. Teach your children of the hazard posed by these spiders, but do not instill fear in them. Teach them to leave them alone, and to tell you if they think they have seen some. Rememer, they like areas away from us, not living in our back pockets. Killing them is an option, but if there is no real danger, leave them alone, else call in an exterminator to deal with the problem as a whole, not on a one by one basis. I'm no profesional in this field, I have just gained knowledge from living around them with a young family. Remember, where you live belonged to many other animals before your house was built on their habitat. Think about how they just want to stay there, just like the farmer in the middle of the M62, and the house on the round-a-bout in North Wales.

    Rate   14
  • Yellabelly19  |  October 12 2013, 11:57PM

    Tweedle-Dee and Tweddle-Dum.

    Rate   -14