A Lewes woman says she has been bitten by a false widow spider which walked across her bedclothes in the night.
The woman from Lewes High Street, who does not wish to be named for fear of alarming neighbours, contacted the Express to say she was woken up at 4am one morning by what felt like a sting on her arm.
She said: “I kept feeling it and decided there must be a partly dead wasp or bee in my bed. I got up, switched the light on and started shaking my bedding out. To my shock and horror I saw this great, big, fat spider running across my bed. I grabbed a cup and scooped it up.
“I woke my son up who has caught the spider and says he wants to keep it as a pet. Apparently it would be ‘cool’ to have the most venomous UK spider as a pet! I have to say I am fond of spiders and appreciate the service they provide but this experience has shaken me slightly.”
The woman’s son Googled the spider and the family now believe it is a false widow, generally considered to be the UK’s most dangerous spider.
She went on: “I don’t like killing spiders but I don’t only have myself to think about and I would hate one of my kids to be bitten. Bites are never pleasant but I think with spiders it’s the psychological effect which is more damaging - they are just more creepy than other things. I can understand why so many people have varying degrees of arachnaphobia.”
The name false widow comes from the resemblance it bears to the black widow spider, renowned as one of the world’s deadliest spiders. They are actually related but true widow spiders have much more medically significant venom. Widow spiders get their name from the habit the female has of eating the male after mating. While they have been known to be imported into the UK with cargo they have never become established owing to the damp climate.
There are six species of false widow spiders that are now considered native to Britain. Four of these are true natives and have been here for hundreds of years. The others are relatively recent introductions that gained a foothold in the UK ecosystem.
The false widow that has received most of the attention is S nobilis, the noble false widow, probably due to its slightly larger size and preference for a warmer indoor environment making it more likely to come into contact with humans. It is believed to have arrived in Britain in 1879 on a crate of bananas from the Canary Islands. It is only since the 1980s that it appears to have spread beyond Devon with sightings along the south coast but it has been recently recorded as far north as the Scottish border.
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