Killer spiders sparks warning for Somerset gardeners
GARDENERS beware: the climate change is thought to be behind a plague of 10 million venomous spiders currently rampaging across the South West.
Gardeners across the region have started to notice the rise of the so-called false widow spiders, the deadly cousin of the black widow.
Warmer temperatures mean the venomous arachnids - by far the most poisonous spider on our shores - are breeding faster than ever before, and gardens are currently filled with the spiders’ tiny offspring.
The spiders, which can have a distinctive “white skull” mark on their backs will only bite if they feel threatened. Although most people will only suffer localised pain and swelling, the bite may trigger an extreme allergic reaction - an anaphylactic shock - in some, which could prove fatal.
The spiders numbers initially surged in the South East in September, but within a few weeks have now spread throughout the West Country and as far north as Birmingham.
Steve Harris, a footballer from Dawlish, Devon, was bitten during a match for Elmore Football Club, Tiverton, and had to undergo emergency surgery.
Alex Michael, 36, a tattoo artist from Sidcup in London told News Shopper how his hand turned yellow and black after being attacked by a false widow spider, also called steatoda nobilis. Mr Michael was bitten in his sleep, and his hand remained swollen “like a balloon” for five weeks until doctors gave him a course of antibiotics.
The false widow spider first came to the UK more than 100 years ago in crates of fruit from the Canary Islands. It has been established in pockets in Devon for a long time but recently climate change has caused the population to spread.
The spider is likely to spread northwards in years to come, according to the Natural History Museum’s Insect Information Service (IIS). The IIS hears of about 10 cases of spider bites each year.
In 2006 a Dorchester man was hospitalised for three days after suffering a heart seizure following a spider bite believed to have been caused by a false widow.
Tony Wileman, a conservation ecologist at the London Wildlife Trust, told the Independent: "The severity of symptoms of false widow spider bites depends on how much venom has been injected and reports from false widow spider bites have included symptoms like chest pains and a swelling and tingling of the bite area.
"It is recommended that if bitten by a spider thought to be a false widow spider then medical attention - visit to the A&E department or your local GP - should be sought informing the medical staff that you think you have been bitten by a false widow spider. Do not ring 999.
"Nearly all spider bites come from attempting to catch the spider so it is highly recommended that this is not undertaken. However, If you must remove the spider from your home, please capture it using a jar and a stick or pencil and try not to touch the spider with your hands."
IT worker Dan Bagley from Guildford, Surrey, told the Daily Star he had seen more than 30 false widows in his garden.
He said: "Once you know what to look for they are fairly easy to spot. The webs can be spotted easily as they are shaped like a hammock.
"They move very quickly because they hide. I saw a fly land and then the spider nip out, kill it, and nip back in again.
"I have been doing a lot of work in the garden and I just started spotting them everywhere. The females are much smaller, but I have seen some pretty big ones as well."