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False Widow Spiders

False Widow Spiders in the UK






  • Two genera of the tangle web spiders have venom which is known to be medically significant.
  • One genus, the widow spiders of genus Latrodectus, has caused more human fatalities than any other.
  • The other genus, the false widow spiders of Steatoda, has a far less serious bite.

The False Widow spider is one in the small number of larger species of spider capable of having fangs that puncture human skin. Any spider can bite you but often it will just cause pain and discomfort rather than poisoning, do not allow yourself to be in this position.

The 'False Widow Spider' is a cousin of the deadly venomous Black Widow Spider, these spiders are somewhat native to Britain however in the past few weeks we have encountered DEVASTATING numbers of them increasing. The places most affected are the South of England by the Coast, Dorset, Devon and many other areas have been affected.

The False black widow spiders (also known as false katipo, false button spider, cupboard spider, and in Australia, brown house spider) are spiders of the genus Steatoda. They resemble widow spiders in size and physical form, due to being members of the same family. While the bite of Steatoda spiders is nowhere near as serious as that of true widow spiders, several of these spiders do have medically significant bites. The bite of Steatoda grossa, commonly known as the cupboard spider, is known to cause symptoms which have been described as a very minor widow bite; the medical community now refers to the symptoms of Steatoda bites as steatodism. Other spiders in this genus known to be problem biters include two chiefly European varieties, S. paykulliana and S. nobilis, and a species found mainly in New Zealand and South Africa, S. capensis

The correct and full English name for Steatoda nobilis is "Noble false widow". Media coverage usually abbreviates this to "false widow", although Steatoda nobilis is strictly speaking one of the false widows. Steatoda grossa and Steatoda paykulliana are other examples of false widow spiders.

The single most useful tool for locating a widow is knowing the feel and look of their web. Black widows create webs that appear haphazard and are much stronger than most other spider webs (Please note that black widows MAY BITE if you use your fingers to test the strength of the web, especially if this is done at night when they are out and most responsive to struggling pray. Instead, please use a stick or tool to touch the web if are unsure of its inhabitant.) The exception to this, however, is the web of the Steatoda species which creates similar if not identical webs and is similar in shape to the black widow, so you cannot rely on the web alone for identification. As a general rule of thumb if you find a strong cobweb on something you need to handle proceed with due caution. (By the way, Davefoc, those Steatodas you've seen may be another reason you don't find widows in your house, as Steatodas aka "false widows" are predators to black widows. In fact, when I moved into my house 14 years ago it was easy to find widows in the garage or outside the house, and then a few years later all I could find were Steatodas. I haven't found a black widow here since 1997).

false+widow+spider
by cobaltfish

Did you know that there are around a dozen species of spiders in Britain that bite? Even if you are one of those people who are terrified of spiders, you have probably consoled yourself with the thought that at least in this country they don't bite you. Luckily, although some of the British spiders may give a painful nip, their bite is unlikely to cause any real problems unless you are allergic or extremely frail. However, there is an invasive spider species that has made its home in the UK that has a bite that packs a bit more of a punch and that is the noble false widow spider or Steatoda nobilis.

Many spiders of the genus Steatoda are often mistaken for widow spiders (Latrodectus), and are known as false black widows; however Steatoda are significantly less harmful to humans. Steatoda are shaped similarly to widow spiders, with round, bulbous abdomens. However, not all Steatoda species resemble widows – many have distinct coloring, and are significantly smaller than Latrodectus specimens. Some species of Steatoda will actually prey on widows, as well as other spiders which are considered hazardous to humans.

Think you have a False Widow Spider in Your Home or Business!!!

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