False widow spiders spotted in Gloucestershire
FALSE widow spiders have been spotted in Gloucester – and they could be coming to a home near you.
The arachnids are one of just 12 spiders capable of biting 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.
Several cases have been reported elsewhere in the country, triggering an allergic reaction in a minority of cases.
This week, they have been spotted in Newent and Gloucester. Annemarie Meredith, a teaching assistant at Harewood Infant School, was home with a friend when she discovered one lurking in her Tuffley home.
"I had not heard about these spiders until my friend came round for coffee," said the mum of three.
"She said she had seen the same spider on the news. My house is infested, the more I look the more I find.
"It's like a horror film – terrifying.
"I was in the kitchen and I could tell there was something else there. I looked up and there were two spiders above my head.
"I tried to sweep this spider up into a coffee jar with a paint brush but it jumped at me. I screamed and this man who was delivering leaflets freaked out.
"They are now in the bathroom and there was an egg sack in the garden.
"I only realised it was the false widow once I had looked it up on the internet.
"My husband and daughter are allergic to bees, and the website said the spider's venom is similar to a bee sting, so it is a worry."
The false widow spiders being blamed for a spate of bites in the UK are steatoda nobilis. They arrived in the country from Madeira and the Canary Islands at the end of the 19th century, possibly in a cargo of bananas.
The name immediately provokes fear, even though they are nowhere near as dangerous as black widows, according to the British Arachnological Society. They have rapidly spread throughout the south of England.
It is thought the spiders, whose abdomen is the size of a 1p piece, are now breeding and establishing colonies. There have been several other reports in Gloucestershire.
David Haigh, a county spider recorder, reported two sightings of the spider in Tewkesbury and Longney in 2007 and 2009.
At the time, he said: "The false widow is established in the county now. You would have to be very unlucky to get one on your body which would bite."