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Deadly? Only if you’re an insect!

25 October 2013 by Lisa

False widow spider

False widow spider

Our Bug House Keeper, Laura Carter, is a fan of eight-legged beasties and she wants to set the record straight about a particularly misunderstood spider…

“The False Widow spider (Steatoda nobilis) has been getting lots of bad press lately. Touted as a “deadly, flesh eating spider attacking the nation by the thousands”, this spider is actually not a danger. 

The truth is, a handful of people who have had allergic reactions have needed antibiotics after they’ve been bitten by what might not even be a spider. None of the reported cases have been confirmed by entomologists as being spider bites, let a lone False Widows. Many of the pictures of bites we’ve seen could be from bedbugs, fleas, tick, lice, mosquitoes, midges and any number of other bugs living in your home or visiting from outside. False Widows have been in Britain since 1800 and the slow spread of their population is well known to scientists.

As a result of all the hysteria, people have needlessly rushed to hospital, and poor harmless house and garden spiders are being squished. Arachnophobes all over the country are fearing for their lives.

So, lets undo some of the damage done by bad journalism.

Spiders do not attack humans. They may bite to defend themselves if they are squashed or feel threatened. Wouldn’t you?

There are no confirmed deaths from spider bites in the UK, from any species of spider. After three days of research, I have yet to find the evidence that anyone has died from a False Widow bite anywhere else. So “deadly” is hardly an accurate description!

“Britain’s most venomous spider” hasn’t been studied for the toxicity of its venom in comparison to other spiders, so this is certainly an exaggeration.

The Bug House at World Museum has had dozens of False Widow enquiries this week, and they have all turned out to be about house or garden spiders. If you did find a False Widow in your house, you don’t need to do anything about it. If you’re not keen on spiders, put them outside (gently!) with a glass and a piece of paper.

If you’re bitten by an insect or spider, simply wash the bite, use some antiseptic and maybe take an antihistamine tablet. If after a few days it starts to look infected (goes red, feels hot, maybe oozes) then visit your local walk-in centre and speak to a doctor or nurse.

Don’t suck out the venom! They only do that in horror films. It doesn’t work and the bacteria in your mouth will cause an infection far worse than any spider venom.

In the meantime, do come and visit us at the World Museum Bug House, where we aim to de-bunk as many bug myths as possible!”

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