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Spiders found in Britain shouldn’t cause panic!

 

August 2017

spider

The word spider alone can send real shivers down some people’s backs. However much you love wild animals and insects, spiders definitely aren’t cuddly. Even worse, some can kill us or at least cause us real discomfort...so people’s general fear of these eight legged creatures is fully understandable.

As the weather begins to cool, here in the UK we will probably see more of these silent insects creeping into our homes. We are entering the time of year when you are more likely to find them in the bath or scampering across the carpet.

This is because house spiders especially usually spend the summer in webs they have created outside, often in sheds or garages around the home. But at the end of August onwards, as the weather cools, male spiders will be thinking about a mate...and start getting out and about on the hunt for a romantic liaison. This is when they might start appearing indoors.

We are lucky in the UK because we don’t have any spiders such as tarantulas and funnel webs that can kill humans with their bites. However it is probably a good idea to remember that all spiders are venomous because this is the system they have developed to catch their food. They inject their insect pretty with venom to paralyse or kill it before eating. However, of the 650 or so species of spiders in the UK, only a handful can actually bite humans.

Even better, unless we disturb them too much or threaten their eggs, spiders don’t generally go for humans. We are not attractive as a potential meal for them and our skin is difficult for them to get a grip on.

The most dangerous spider we have in the UK is thought to be the false widow spider. This is dark brown in colour and has a particularly large bulbous abdomen with distinctive cream markings. Its long legs are reddish orange.

You can find these spiders in the house, especially around the edges in dark places...the window frames, porches, lofts, conservatories and often behind kitchen cupboards. This spider is not native to the UK but is thought to have arrived here in crates of fruit from the Canary Islands in the 19th century. The first reported sighting of the false widow was in 1879.

You don’t want to get bitten by a false widow spider because their bite can cause feelings of numbness, discomfort, a severe swelling and even chest pains. But generally the bite is thought to be no stronger than a wasp sting and there have been no reported deaths from its bite here in the UK.

It is important not to confuse the false widow spider found here in the UK, and more commonly in Europe, with the black widow spider. A bite from the black widow spider can be dangerous, its venom is said to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s. Luckily though black widows and not found in the UK.

One of the spiders entering your home that might look pretty scary is the giant house spider because it is one of the biggest spiders we might encounter. It is a dark orange and brown colouring and big size...it can reach up to 12 cm wide including legs.  But this spider much prefers to escape rather than stay and bite, and it does not pose a threat to humans or pets.

There are many other spiders in the UK that we may encounter at this time of year. The missing orb spider has been named after its party piece...it spins an orb web with one full sector missing! It is only small and has a very pale body and legs and loves warmth. It is most prevalent in mid England and around Leicestershire, but it can be found anywhere. It is harmless to humans.

Lace web spiders may be coming in as autumn approaches to try and find a mate, or if we have had heavy rain which can damage their home outside. They can grow to 2mm and are brown with yellow markings n their abdomens. In recent years there have been reports of bites from these spiders, and while not dangerous these can be quite painful and cause some local swelling for a few hours.

If you do get bitten by a spider here in the UK, it is reassuring to identify it so that you can check the power of its venom.

A good place to identify our spiders found in the UK is at uksafari.com which also gives lots of general information too.


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