Creepy crawly goes under heel - Ruskington resident gets a shock as two venomous ‘false widows’ appear on his doorstep

False widow spiders like this one were spotted by David Harris in Ruskington. EMN-180910-131046001
False widow spiders like this one were spotted by David Harris in Ruskington. EMN-180910-131046001

A Ruskington resident had a shock when he was confronted by two venomous ‘false widow’ spiders on his doorstep last week.

David Harris, of Beck Close in the village said he had been reading about infestations of Britain’s most venomous spider closing schools in London recently, requiring authorities to go in and fumigate the premises, but had not realised the creepy crawlies were venturing this far north.

Although nowhere near as deadly as their black widow cousins, the creatures, which usually measure about the size of a 50p piece, can give a nasty bite, similar to a wasp sting which can leave individuals feeling unwell or cause reactions around the bite.

Mr Harris said: “Last week I had gone out onto the steps of my home to smoke a cigar and thought, ‘what’s that?’

“It was walking towards me and I didn’t like the look of it, so it got squashed under my heel. Then three days later I saw another one following the same path towards me and that got squashed as well. They were one of those things where you think, ‘you’d better be dead’.”

He said: “They were big and bright red, maybe up to three and half inches. You could not miss them. I don’t know whether someone from down south has brought them up on a vehicle or they are migrating, but the next day they were in the newspapers.

“I’m not sure how they got to me. We have fields behind the house but there is a brook in between. By all accounts they have a nasty bite. What if a kid had found them?

“I used to work in the greengrocer trade and the spiders that used to come out of the bananas were hilarious,” he recalled.

The creatures, which have a body length of up to 14mm, are believed to have first come to this country in 1879 in a bunch of bananas from Madeira and originate from the Canary Islands. They have mainly remained in the south west and south of England but have been noted to be spreading north more recently due to milder winters.

They are one of about a dozen species capable of biting humans, out of the UK’s 650 spider species. About one-third of bites cause localised pain and swelling, nausea, headaches and lethargy, but usually symptoms fade within hours.

In 2015, two schools in Tower Hamlets, London, were closed due to infestations of the spiders. Two primary and two secondary schools in nearby Newham are currently being fumigated due to infestations and are not expected to reopen after the treatment until after the half term holidays.

The school infestations are of noble false widows (Steatoda nobilis), the most commonly reported of the species.