FAQ: The False Widow Spider

October 10th, 2013
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The people of York have been transfixed with fear this week, after local news headlines revealed the venomous false widow spider (pictured above, crawling over human skin) has been sighted in our own homes, several times in recent months. 

Should we be fearing for our lives, forcing our young to dress in full body hazmat suits and coaxing birds into our living rooms to hunt and feast upon whatever arachnids they may find therein…?

Or is there any possibility, however slight, that the threat posed by the false widow may have been slightly blown out of proportion? 

Hopefully the answers to these frequently asked questions on the false widow spider will help to clear things up a little:

Q. Foreign invaders eating our flesh! Where on Earth did these things come from? 

A. Rumours abound that false widow spiders have only recently arrived on these shores. As it happens, the first reported sighting of a false widow in the UK was back in 1879. It is believed they were carried to the south of England on a ship from the sunny Canary Islands. Some scientists suggest that the recent rise in our false widow population is a result of climate change.

Q. Let’s not beat around the bush. Can it take my life? 

A. No one has ever been killed by a false widow spider bite in the UK. Bite victims tend to report swelling, discomfort and malaise lasting a few days after the incident. If you can handle a bee sting, the chances are you can handle a false widow bite – pain levels are similar.

Q. Still doesn’t sound particularly enjoyable to me. And they’re here in York…?

A. Several sightings have been reported in different parts of the city this year, from Acomb to Layerthorpe and further afield in Kexby.

Q. I’ll be on the lookout. How do I recognise one when I see it? 

A. False widows are dark and shiny, with pale markings on the abdomen and a creamy marking around the front. They’re roughly the size of a fifty pence piece.

Q. Call me pathetic, but I’m still quite scared.

A. Look on the bright side, at least you don’t live in rural China, where they have to contend with these devils:


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