Much maligned false widow spider found in Notts | News | Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
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Much maligned false widow spider found in Notts

Tuesday 20th September

Much maligned false widow spider found in Notts

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has today announced that the false widow (Steatoda nobilis), thought to be the most venomous spider in the UK, has arrived in Nottinghamshire following a steady northward shift in its range. It was found last weekend at the Trust’s Attenborough Nature Reserve by Tim Sexton of Attenborough Nature Centre. 

Originally from the Canary Islands, the spider first appeared on the south coast in 1879 - having been accidentally introduced via shipments of bananas. For many years it was restricted to the warmer southern counties however, it is believed that milder winters over the last decade have enabled the population to expand its range.

Speaking about the find Tim said: “Whilst sightings north of Bedfordshire are still infrequent, the false widow reached Leicestershire in 2014, so it was only a matter of time before they appeared in Notts. I’ve been looking for them at Attenborough for the last year, although before the weekend I had only found their smaller cousin, known as the rabbit hutch spider (Steatoda bipunctata).”

Tim continued: “The spider was found under one of our interpretation panels on Saturday night. I only managed to get a quick glimpse at first as it retreated back in to its web, but was certain it was a false widow. After coaxing it out with a piece of vegetation, I managed to get it into a pot to formally identify it."

"The following morning I was able to photograph it and confirm that it was indeed Steatoda nobilis, and in this case was an immature female. To be certain I emailed photographs to a local spider recorder, Howard Williams who forwarded my pictures to Peter Harvey from the Spider Recording Scheme. Both agreed with my identification and confirmed that it was a first for Nottinghamshire.”

The false widow has been referred to as the Daily Mail spider after much read reports in some newspapers of people becoming ill after being bitten by the spiders. Whilst they do bite, the Wildlife Trust is keen to allay people’s fears as although bites can be painful, being described as similar to a bee sting but lasting for up to 12 hours, they are not lethal.

Tim added: “False widows are mostly active at night and from my experience, would rather make a hasty retreat than bite you for the sake of it. It is unlikely you would ever see one on the Reserve during the day, unless you are really looking for it. This discovery is another example of how we are currently experiencing a change in our environment as invertebrates, and indeed larger creatures such as birds, are taking advantage of a milder climate to increase their range.” 

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