Dean Academy closes after invasion of false widow spiders
VENOMOUS false widow spiders have forced the closure of a senior school in Lydney.
Dean Academy is shut today as a precaution after the discovery of an infestation.
Fumigation is taking place after the potentially-dangerous spiders were found in the information computer technology block on Monday.
As more spiders were discovered elsewhere, vice principal Craig Burns took the decision to close the school until tomorrow after taking health and safety advice from the county council.
In a letter to parents, Mr Burns said: "The health and safety unit and pest control feel that we have dealt with the matter quickly and efficiently and taken appropriate early action.
"There have been no reports of anyone being bitten by the 'false widow' spiders at the academy but if you have any concerns please seek medical advice."
A pupil at the school yesterday said: "Y block was off limits but now there's reports of them all over the school, so it is closed while they get rid of them."
False widows are one of just 12 spiders which can bite humans but are only likely to react if they are prodded, disturbed or caught in clothing.
Victims can experience chest pains, tingly fingers and swelling.
The incident at Dean Academy comes a week after a report of the spiders, which are related to the infamous black widow species, invading a house in Tuffley.
Teaching assistant Annemarie Meredith reported finding several false widows in her home.
Experts have said warmer winters have encouraged the species to breed.
Gloucester spider recorder David Haigh said the hysteria over the recent sightings had been unfair.
He said: "There has been a certain amount of hysteria surrounding these false widow spiders. Although there must be a certain degree of caution when approaching these kind of spiders, they are not aggressive.
"Evidence to relate the injuries reported by some people who have been bitten is also inconclusive. They could have been caused by MRSA or septicaemia. Most victims do not see the spider but report to hospital.
"Once two puncture wounds are seen, doctors assume it's a result of a spider bite but that isn't always the case."
Mr Haigh, who works with the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, said sheds with rabbit hutches can provide an ideal place for the arachnids to hibernate over winter.
The county has two species of false widow. Steadoa nobilis is pale and patterned and seen as more dangerous than its cousin, the slightly smaller and darker Steadoa grossa.
Although nowhere near as toxic as their close cousins, the black widow, they can deliver a nasty nip.
Aaron Jones, a reptile and spider enthusiast from Newent, has also urged people to "calm down".
"The reaction to these spiders is over the top," he said. "They are more scared of us than we are of them."
Richard Angell, owner of Angell Pets in Abbeymead, said: "Try and find one case of someone dying from a spider bite in the past 50 years compared with the 12 people killed by dogs."