The truth about Steatoda nobilis the ‘Daily Mail Spider’ – is it the UK’s most dangerous spider?

Matthew Chatfield

The Daily Mail today* squeaks a warning about the inexorable rise of what it describes as “the UK’s most dangerous spider”:

Steatoda nobilis

 

Somehow avoiding a link to the forthcoming Spiderman movie the article begins:

Global warming has led to the rapid rise in numbers of a poisonous spider which is a close relative of the deadly Black Widow and is now thriving in Britain. Although the false widow spider accidentally came into this country 200 years ago after it arrived in a bunch of bananas from the Canary Islands, it is rare to find one. But our mild winters and have sent numbers rocketing. Experts are now warning gardeners to be alert after a couple stumbled across two of the biting black spiders, known as Steatoda Nobilis in Latin… Stuart Hine, insect expert at the Natural History museum, is now warning all gardeners to be on alert. He said: “Numbers of the Steatoda Nobilis have whipped up in the last ten years. There is no doubt in my mind that this is due to the milder winters caused by global warming.”

Now apart from the oddities in this text (would the eminent Mr Hine really have said ‘the Steatoda Nobilis’? The definite article is erroneous, as is the capitalisation) its really no more than a tired old story whipped up for the season (and an apparent rewrite of a 2006 story in the Daily Telegraph). If someone had actually been bitten by the spider and suffered ill-effects (a malaise known as steatodism) that would probably be news – as such an event is pretty rare in this country. There is one reported case in which Steatoda was confirmed to be the cause in Worthing in 1991, but the only other well-known incident was in 2006 in Dorchester, and of this the same Mr Hine says, in a Natural History Museum page on the subject:

In this case, the spider ran off and couldn’t be captured, so it wasn’t formally identified. The culprit spider was described as looking very much like one of the false widow spiders, Steatoda nobilis , but there are a number of similar looking species such as the black widow. The incident happened in a market, so it is possible that the culprit may have been an exotic spider accidentally shipped over in a fruit container from overseas. It’s quite possible it was an exotic spider, and if indeed these severe symptoms were wholly attributed to the spider then I would say they are a bit extreme for the bite of S. nobilis in a healthy adult.

So not much to worry about there then. Many other cases of reported spider bites turn out to be unproven, and as an adverse reaction is in itself unusual it’s hard if not impossible to say what species was involved after the fact – especially as the specimen responsible is usually a jammy smear by that time. As with nettles, bees wasps, and even peanuts and PVC, some people unfortunately are sensitive to spider bites and will suffer reactions such as flu-like episodes, palpitations and hot/cold sweats. But for almost everyone, the effect of spider bite in this country is an itchy lump for a day or so at worst. So actually, there’s almost no evidence of Steatoda nobilis or any other UK spider causing anything more than temporary discomfort to anyone. [Edit: Stuart Hine reads The Ranger’s Blog – he gives more detail of actual statistics in a comment below. Thanks Stuart!] What is clear, however, is that there are a good many people terrified of spiders, and this sort of alarmist populism serves only to reinforce this terror without any benefit to them. For example, the Daily Mail continues:

Michael Willis and his wife Pam, both 62, were terrified after spotting the shiny black creatures crawling up their garden wall of their home in Verwood, Dorset. Unsure what to do, Mrs Willis captured one in a jam jar and took it to an environmental health expert who confirmed it was a female Steatoda Nobilis.

Poor old Mr and Mrs Willis – terrified by a more-or-less harmless spider in their garden. There are probably thousands of the spiders there, and they’ve probably been there for decades. And yet nobody has been bitten, certainly not Mr and Mrs Willis. Despite this lack of notability, they were obviously upset, as this creeping menace merits the attention of the local Environmental Health, the Daily Mail, the Natural History Museum, and now us. So Steatoda may well be the UK’s most dangerous spider, but that position is only slightly more odious then being the UK’s most dangerous kitten. Far better, and more accurate, if the headline had been ‘Worried householders reassured to know that spiders are safe and good for your garden‘. Doubtless the sensible reassurance that Stuart Hine added to his statements was edited out along with his grammar and punctuation. Perhaps we should wait for the ‘Beware of Water Boatmen’ story!

*The article has been edited since publication

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

100 thoughts on “The truth about Steatoda nobilis the ‘Daily Mail Spider’ – is it the UK’s most dangerous spider?

  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Hello – We live in Salisbury, Wiltshire. My 14 yr old son woke up at 5am on Wednesday morning with a spider on his neck. He grabbed it and threw it on to floor but not before being bitten on the finger. He complained of a painful arm, armpit and chest and his finger was swollen and stinging. We found the spider alive on his floor. We looked on the internet and it looks like a false widow although it wasn’t shiny. It was black with the two longer front legs and it had faint copper coloured markings on its back and a copper coloured band between its head and back. My son received treatment at the doctors and was prescribed anti-histamine. After about three hours his arm stopped hurting and he now has a red,sore,swollen finger and a complete phobia about being is his room and it happening again. Can you tell me if the spider is likely to have come from outdoors or could they be under his floor? Also can you tell me if the plug-in spider deterrent really works?

    The Ranger responds: sounds like it was probably Steatoda – they do vary in colour and markings. These spiders live outdoors mostly but like sheds and outhouses. If the room is usually warm and dry they won’t stay in there for long, but can always wander in. I’ve no idea about a plug-in spider deterrent – I’d be very surprised if it worked, but if someone sends me one I’d be happy to test it and report.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Hi, we have just found one of these! I live in Devon, in Chudleigh, and am not sure if it was living here or if I somehow brought it home in my luggage – I came back from La Palma in the Canaries last week where I stayed with my Neice in her house in the middle of a banana plantation! I bought my daughter a sarong from a local market, and she just unfolded it to find the spider inside… eek – A little research identified it for us. I am NOT a spider fan, but neither do I find them beautiful, or even fascinating, I am just glad none of us were bitten by it. Of course, the question is … is the garden full of them or is it an illegal immigrant!
    Jackie

    The Ranger responds: there’s probably loads of them, and there’s nothing to worry about. Have a look on your shed eaves.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I got bitten by this spider in bed on Sunday night! Within 5 mins my hand was swollen and extremely painful. Within 5 more mins the pain had gone all the way up my arm to my shoulder. I don’t know if I was just unlucky, but the pain was more considerable than the time I broke either my foot or wrist.

    I found the dead spider in my bed and although it has been identified as the Noble False Widow from pictures I sent the British Arachnology Society I am sending the spider to them for proper idenification.

    The intense pain in my arm lasted for 3-4 hours and even now my finger is still painful around the bite site.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I’m from the Midlands, near Coventry and i’m petrified of spiders! So any that could bite me will scare me to the point where my severe anxiety will kick in! We have alot of spiders everywhere in my house/garden, it don’t help that we live off a field because we get even more. So what are the symptoms after this type of spider bites you? Is it just a bad sting pain with itching, numbness and swelling for a while? And what if you are allergic? Would it be really bad reaction? Well the spider is really small so i would assume it wouldn’t be life threatening. I’ve never been bitten by or wasp or bee but i must say when my kitten scratches me that hurts, stings, iches and it’s rather sore for a while, cos i’m allergic to cats a bit. Basically if you ever come across a spider that can bite just leave it alone, thats what i always have to think not that the spider is going to crawl over to me and start crawling on me, i’m such a baby.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Hi,
    Our conservatory currently has half a dozen steatoda nobilis in it and I now have one in the kitchen above the back door. I am absolutely petrified of spiders and usually run a mile if I see one. However, I have to say, I prefer these to the normal run of the mill spiders we get. These don’t seem to stray very far out of their own little patch of territory, nor move particularly fast (or have I just been lucky so far?!?)in fact, they seem to stay in the same place for months. How long is their life span? Even though I detest the horrible little beasties I suppose I’ll have to just put up with them cos I think they’re here to stay.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    My wife has just been bitten by this spider, but it appears to be the male of the species and the males dont bite apparently.
    We’ve caught the offending spider. It’s not well and barely moving.
    It appears to have bitten her more than once, as she a a small number of small lumps on her side where she was bitten.
    We believe that this spider became trapped in her clothing and bit her as a last resort.
    If this spider is a Steatoda nobilis could this be the first reported bite in Wales?
    We live in cardiff.
    We’re hoping to get the spider formally identified soon.

    Darren
    Cardiff

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Our House is currently teaming with these spiders – and they really are pretty acrobatic… they seem very happy travelling up walls – across ceilings, and absolutely love abseiling down on a strand of gossamer. While I know not to worry, the times that I have been caught off guard have given me a fair old fright.

    They seems to range in size quite a lot, but all seem quite inquisitive and nimble. I’ve been capturing and transporting any I’ve found in the house to the end of the garden…

    (southampton)

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Another news scare yesterday:

    “A window cleaner has told how he was attacked by a relative of the black widow spider as global warming brings more of the creatures to Sussex.

    The false black widow, whose Latin name is steatoda nobilis, can cause a heart attack by injecting venom into its victim’s central nervous system.

    ATTACKED!!?? More like defended itself from getting squashed to a pulp, and as for having heartattack, I would suggest the shocking reporting of this incident may have many an arachnophobic dialling 999 for an ambulance immediately on reading it!

    Even poor Mr Skilton, the Victim of the “ATTACK”
    ticks off the press in the comments box..

    “by the way these spiders are NOT aggressive, I rolled over on one so I properly deserved my bite, the Argus report is off the mark, I was only bitten ONCE and the other THREE spiders were caught in the house and one in my van over the last week! these spiders move slowly and have poor eyesight they are not out to get you! and no I have not developed any ‘super-hero’ powers but I my legs are a bit hairier and I’m having roast bluebottle for tea tonight.”

    Ttttt!..LOL!

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    We live in Rustington and have been living with these spiders since about 2002 when Tesco had the ‘grape scare’. One of these spiders appeared in our kitchen above the window. We were worried it was a black widow and managed to catch it and send it to a spider expert called Ian Dawson. He explained that it was a Steatoda Nobilis. He also said that the female remains in the same place with the web and doesn’t go wandering, which was a great comfort to me as we both have a fear of spiders. I would go to sleep with a female SN in the room but not a garden spider! We now have various gadgets for humanely catching them and are both a lot less panicky when we come across a spider now! We have had 3 residents at the kitchen window over the years, the first we posted away, the second we caught and released and the third sadly died a couple of weeks ago. We noticed that she didn’t look herself. Instead of hanging upside down with her legs outstretched, she was all bunched up died overnight, presumably from old age. I believe they can live for a couple of years. She had 3 lots of spiderlings while in residence, which we hoovered up so as not to be overrun with them. No doubt another resident will move in when they realise the window has been vacated!

    The Ranger responds: well done on coming to a sensible arrangement with your ‘guests’. I hope you live in peaceful co-existence for many years to come!

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    LOL.. “Nobby the Nibbling Nobilis” is set to be released in November..LOL..with a title like that I’m not sure what certificate it will be though..LOL

    The Ranger responds: I think we’ve had quite enough releases of that thing already, thank you!! πŸ™‚

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I think I came accross this spider about 3 years ago, I was gardening and all of a sudden I felt a huge sting, equivalent to a wasp’s sting and incredibly painful. The bite started to bleed, nothing too serious and the pain lasted for a couple of days. I carried on gardening and I tried to find out what had actually stung me and then I saw this spider, it reared up on its back legs and became quite aggressive. I am now extremely careful when gardening and always wear gloves.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Got bit in the garage yesterday by one, confirming that theres no need to be overly concerned. A small one got squashed in the crook of my elbow whilst i was moving some stuff and defended itself before me instinctively brushing it off rather quickly.

    Immediately the symptoms were itching and burning, an area around the bites the size of a cup, and then the lumps appeared within 2-3 minutes, this pic being taken immediately afterwards within that timescale, i knew i had been bit as soon as i felt the itching and burning after seeing the spider.

    Fifteen minutes later after using antihistamine cream right away,there were no symptoms whatsoever, other than redness.

    Would compare it to a nasty nettle sting. A bigger one, a well grown adult might give more distressing symptoms, i can imagine, having experienced the bite of a smaller one in a fleshy part, difficult to bite, but I wouldnt be concerned having experienced it. Had to happen sooner rather than later, I have loads down here where I live on the South Coast.

    Pic of the NOT SO DRAMATIC BITE in the link.

    The Ranger responds: blimey! Glad you survived your ordeal! I can’t wait for the film.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Great thread on this fascinating little spider going on here. I live with my parents and brothers in Wimborne, Dorset south West England and have been finding the Steatoda nobilis very frequently for the past 2 years or so. Not being a gardener or anything i dont know how much they live in my garden but i have seen some really stunning examples of this spider in the porch of my house and in the dusty dark corners of the living room, though they dont seem to venture much further than that. At first i have to admit i was a little scared of them after hearing of a couple of local cases in Dorchester and Verwood regarding these spiders. These spiders from what i’ve noticed are very shy and not aggressive. I have always been a bit of a panicker and raised the issue of these guys living in the house with my parents who didnt seem too bothered nor did my 9 year old brother so i left the issue and decided to let the spiders get on with it. I moved out of home in September 2007 to go to Uni in london and came back today to visit the family and of course our Steatoda nobilis friends. In all of the time i’ve been away no one in my family has had an issue with the spiders and no bites have occured. They rarely venture out of their homes in this house unless disturbed. Interesting to note though that i have never seen one in my house in London and from what i’ve read it seems they dont venture out of the South west and south coast of England very often. Sorry for the ramble but i felt like defending these spiders as they arent aggresive and are really quite stunning and exotic looking little creatures! Just dont piss them off i guess!

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    My dad has been bitten and has now got blood poisening and is being kept in hospital. Ive been told its infected but could it of come off the spider


    The Ranger responds:
    sorry to hear about your dad, hope he’s ok soon. No, blood poisoning cannot come from a spider. Any wound can get infected, but blood poisoning is normally an infection rather than any kind of response to a spider bite. So it’s more likely to be an unfortunate co-incidence. Your Dad’s doctor will know much more about this and explain it better than I can!

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Hi, I live in Poole, Dorset and first encountered this breed of spider early last year. I wouldn’t say I’m petrified of spiders; I can get them with a glass and throw them out – but certainly get scared when they turn up unexpectedly!

    I started moving them down the end of the garden, more than happy for them to take up residence in the shed, however they favour the porch eaves and my sash windows on the front of the house. There’s dissention in the ranks at the moment as the second generation are growing up and there’s a lot of fighting going on.

    My question is how can I stop them over running the place? There were 14 on just one window at last count yesterday evening and I’ve started finding them inside (only the babies though – normally squeezing through the windows).

    My partner has a histamine allergy (although couldn’t care less about them and thinks I’m obsessed) and my cat obliviously hunts down and eats anything that moves ” naturally I am concerned for them both!

    Basically, when is enough, enough and what should I do about it?

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    The above link is of a gravid Steatoda nobilis I came across in my garden the other day. I have had it identified. She is quite large about 1.5 cm and full of eggs. She is paler in colour due to her distended body. She is no doubt going to give me plenty of opportunity to take some more pics of her brood in the summer, if she doesnt get eaten by a bird!

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    i think the spider is a bipunctata he proudly walked around for me tonight showing off i think, not sure what the others are though they have no markings and are darker in colour, i also did see a noblis tiny in comparison to the others but had orange marble markings on the back, would these spiders co inside with each other? my kids are taking in the photos to school for show and tell, they think their great.

    The Ranger responds: probably these spiders won’t be too friendly to each other once they are adults, whatever their species, but they can be quite closely packed in the right habitat.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    sorry i forgot to say the female has a white band across its abdoman also its size (abdoman) is the size of a large marble its lighter in colour then the other spiders and 2 sizes larger it hangs upside down and has a misshape web it is also surrounded by dead normal looking spiders, it also seems to be in the same spot (at night) 4 ages

    The Ranger responds: Steatoda isn’t usually that big at this time of year and doesn’t make a big web. In the UK two species are commonly mistaken for black widow spiders. They are Steatoda bipunctata, or the rabbit hutch spider (which it sounds as though you might have), and the one that most resembles the black widow species, Steatoda grossa. Anyway, there really isn’t any sensible way to get rid of them – they will just come back.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    i have spiders on my chlds play shed there is a large no of them 1 (which is the largest)is i think definitly a noblis a female and i have a smaller one with no marking and a much darker brown infact it looks black, there now is 3 more all dark brown not nearly as big as the female,who sits in the same place every night hanging upside down in my childs shed, the problem is (not my fear of spiders)they hide under the felt (i think) during the day so i can’t remove them (not me) and my child who is 3 is a very allergic child so i don’t want him bitten, they are very beautiful and shiny but i want them off his shed god knows how many there is actually inside, any ideas?

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I work as natural history curator at Southend Museum. My first encounter of Steatoda nobilis was in 1983 when I was viewing my present house just before buying it. I noticed that a very large female had built a web across the sash window in the bathroom. Subsequently I discovered several had taken up residence in sash windows throughout the house. A local expert identified them for me and my house was the only spot on the map for this spider in Essex for some years. Sash windows suited this spider well as it moved indoors in winter and outside during the summer, keeping the same retreat out of reach inside the sliding mechanism of the window. At that time it seemed absent from the garden except for an ivy covered wall at the bottom of the garden (incidentally this wall adjoins a college which used to be a banana warehouse). These days, double-glazing has made life more difficult for them, but they are far commoner in the garden, especially amongst pot plants. I inadvertently re-introduce them indoors whenever I bring pots in during the winter. However they have been no trouble and are very good at catching blue-bottles. Only once in 25 years have I found a female away from her web and this is when I discovered one on my sofa, which was a bit disconcerting. males, on the other hand regularly turn up, especially in the bath. Since the 1990s, these spiders have regularly been brought to the museum for identification, and there are now records for many places around Southend and beyond, including high up in blocks of flats!
    I have only one definite record of someone being bitten (I identified the squashed culprit as a large female S.nobilis). The ‘victim’ came into the museum and I took notes of his symptoms. He was working in the bin room of a block of flats when one fell down the back of his collar. He felt a ‘pin-prick’ as the spider bit him, followed by soreness and a burning sensation. Within 20 minutes he felt nauseous and his face started swelling including his lips and tongue though not enough to prevent breathing or swallowing. He also started sweating and felt ‘light-headed’. In addition he had a stiff neck and had difficulty turning his head. His pulse rate slowed down to 45 b/min and his blood pressure was high (he was on medication for hypertension). He went to A&E at the local hospital and received anti-histamine which produced recovery within an hour but symptoms of nausea and a lack of energy persisted for 6 days. These days, another Steatoda, S.grossa seems to be increasing in our area. I have 2 other reports of spider bites in Southend, one from Dysdera and another from Segestria florentina.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Hi I have recently witnessed a bite from the false widow.It was thought a first to be a tropical spider as the person had just come back from OZ,but on closer inspection the creamy markings allowed it to be formerly identified as the false widow.It was a large spider with a huge abdomen,very glossy but a definite cream band around it and a cream pattern on it. it was still alive and with its legs was approx the size of a 50p piece,is this large? this incident took place in Cornwall ,have there been any more reports in this area?

    The Ranger responds: it’s certainly possible that you’ve encountered S. nobilis in Cornwall, Gillian. The size you describe does sound pretty big though – it might possibly have been something else. And don’t rely on the markings, they vary hugely from specimen to specimen.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I woke up a few days a ago with a numb and itchy leg thinking it was a second case of shingles i got up and stared loooking at my leg at this point a black blob in my bed cought my attention on closer inpection it was a spider.I had obviously crushed it in my sleep and it had bit me in deffence.It took 2 days and antihistemines for the numbness to go.I have kept the body of the spider which is identical to the one pictured at the top of this page.I live in surrey and dont think their recorded as being here.should i send it to someone and if so who?

    The Ranger replies: Bad luck! I hope you’re OK now. I’m sure Stuart Hine would receive it if you sent it, but if it is Steatoda nobilis that wouldn’t be surprising as there are in fact plenty of them in Surrey and most Southern counties. However be aware that spider colours vary a lot within a species, there are several other species that don’t look dissimilar, and it’s not always possible to be sure of a species merely by looking at a photo.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Nasty experience, Nick. This could also be because you are particularly allergic to this spider’s bite, in the same way that a single wasp sting can kill certain susceptible people. My Dad was very allergic to the Rue plant (Ruta graveolens). His hand turned purple and swelled to twice its normal size if he touched one.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    What is it about Worthing? I live in Worthing with my wife in a terraced house. We have known about false widows, and have identified them on the back of our house for about the past six years. I’ve even sent one to the eminent Mr Hine in an old film pot!

    So about last night… My wife gave me a hug whilst I was tending to a shepherd’s pie, and I felt a tickle on my right side. I scratched it, and thought no more of it, until the pain became an itch and then a burning, and persisted. My wife sat down in the next room, and let out a scream. A spider was on her neck. She flung it off and my dog stamped on the spider, but not so much that I couldn’t identify it as yet another Steatoda Nobilis. I have it in a bag.

    The burning sensation began to affect my ribs, and felt as if it was moving internally through my torso. My right arm went numb, I felt sweaty and giddy, and that’s when I put two and two together – the spider had been inside my clothes, had bitten me when she was included in the (group) hug, then scampered onto my wife.

    I looked up the species again on Wiki to make sure, then called NHS Direct who called the national poisons centre who suggested I go to A&E. This was not because of the bite or the venom (although they were concerned about the proximity to my heart), but apparently skin necrosis can develop from the bite wound in some cases. I didn’t like the sound of that, so did what they told me to do.

    I have photos of the bite wound before I went to hospital (the batteries need recharging hence I cannot put it up here today). It was a white weal around an inch and a half long, with a scarlet surround about five inches across.
    Three hours later I was seen by a thoroughly incredulous doctor who didn’t care for my identification; didn’t take the latin name I’d carefully written down with her to look up what to do; and only came back sheepishly when another doctor (luckily also on duty last night) told her that his own wife (another doctor) had been bitten last year – he was also worried about skin necrosis and gave his wife an antihistemine pill and hydrocortisone cream. My doctor decided she’d give me exactly the same, as well as 1 gram (!) of paracetomol and 400mg ibuprofen. She even had the nerve to ask me when the symptoms appeared – before or after I looked them up on the internet!

    Today all the symptoms of giddiness, nausea, light-headedness and numbness have gone, but my ribs truly feel as though I have been hit with a baseball bat. I understand media and particularly tabloid hysteria-making very well as a media graduate, so do not want to add to any feelings of panic whatsoever. But they do bite, and it bloody well hurts!

    On a final note, I’d like to say that even in the case of you getting bitten, unless you’ve had previous serious reactions from bees or wasps, you will suffer at the most some nasty discomfort. See someone for hydrocortisone cream though, because skin necrosis is really quite horrible.

    So I missed my regular Sunday poker and couldn’t eat my sheperd’s pie until midnight, but I now have a great story to tell. The biggest danger, I believe, is from the snooty holier-than-thou attitude of doctors who think you must be mistaken, psychosomatic or hysterical.

    (PS – Keep Worthing and Southlands Hospital!)

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    In response to Mrs Gray..the above link holds a few photos of Steatoda nobilis, some I took this afternoon. You will see on the photos that one of them was a golden brown colour, very prettily marked. It’s a regular visitor to my garden, in fact the most common species I find oustide! It will not attack you..it’s a scared spider and will cage up and flee at the earliest opportunity. I have not handled them with my fingers because I don’t fare well with insect bites, but I regularly catch them in a jar or glass, have a nosy at them before letting them go. Dont be afraid of them. πŸ™‚

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I can vouch for centipede bites – I picked one out of a plant hole that I was about to fill with water so that it wouldn’t drown and it nipped quite furiously.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I have been teaching my very young son to handle the spiders found in our garden (we live in Hampshire), with the exception of the False Widow (which appear frequently outside and occasionally in) are there any other species that may be a threat to him? (the idea is that he grows up not to fear spiders, so avoiding bites, painful or otherwise is top of the agenda)
    Also are false widow spider bites a threat to small pets?
    Thank you for your help!

    The Ranger responds: good for you – a sensible policy. Many spiders, centipedes, and insects could conceivably nip a child’s skin. Most inverts are not strong enough to do any damage normally but on very soft skin, like a child’s, they could do so. Probably this might be the same for some small pets, but pretty unlikely. The fact that this so rarely happens demonstrates what a minor risk this is. How often do you hear of people warning their children about centipedes? Yet they have a poisonous bite, as do many other creatures. Almost all UK spiders and other inverts (except common wasps, but including bees), if properly handled, are most unlikely to bite or sting humans. I’ve handled many thousands of spiders over the years and never once has one even attempted to bite me. Ants though – that’s different. Little blighters. They’ll bite anything.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    All these spider stories and people telling us not to panic, thing is what about global warming? how long will it be before real killer spiders start taking over the garden? Like them big ones in s. America etc

    Come on everyone lets form a crowd and do something about it!
    If this was a horror movie I would say we should all light some torches and go burn down a castle in protest.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I have just found a black glossy spider that resembles the black widow but without the red markings.
    Has anybody found one of these? or knows what kind it is?

    Please help…
    s

    The Ranger responds: there are vast numbers of glossy black spiders – many dozens of species in the UK alone. If you’re in the UK, rest assured it won’t hurt you. If you have a picture, maybe I could hazard a guess at the species.

    Reply
  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    i have looked all over the interne totday since last night i had an encounter with what i believe was a false widow spider

    although i cant actually find a decent image on the net which looks enough like the one i saw
    so i’ll describe it to you and see if you think you can identify it:

    this spider was about the size of a small garden spider so 20-25mms maybe a bit bigger (just trying to remeber )
    it was definately shiny, thats what really struck me as abnormal
    and it had a very small round lower body area which had a yellow pattern of some description

    it was a golden colour in the light (the sighting was per chance and happened at night

    also i have such a fear of spiders that after inspecting and noting how it looked i made an attempt to squash it but failed…

    the picture of the spider at the top of your page looks similar but the one i saw had more of a zig zag pattern on it

    i desperately hope you can help as i am constantly looking for this particular specimen for fear it is deadly

    thanks for ur time

    The Ranger responds: 1. There are many UK spiders that look not dissimilar to Steatoda so it’s quite possible that the one you describe is one of several entirely harmless species. It’s also worth noting that spiders, including Steatoda do vary in their markings quite a lot, and so the colour and pattern will vary from individual to individual.
    2. Even if it is Steatoda you really have nothing serious to worry about – see the main article above.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I have just discovered two Steatoda nobilis under the guttering of my home Northam, n. Devon
    so clearly their range is spreading northwards.
    I have no problem with sharing house with them. My only experience of being bitten was as an eight year old when I “picked” a large garden spider reaching for blackberries. They have the same feel as a blackberry when you reach under the leaves;;.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    He he. I guess the crux of the matter is that ‘Worried householders reassured to know that spiders are safe and good for your garden’ just wouldn’t sell as many newspapers.

    Where I live, in a mountainous part of the Canary Islands, these spiders can be seen, but the difference is that I’ve never (yet, she says crossing her fingers) known one come indoors, so we live happily in mutual harmony.

    What I did find interesting is that, according to a local “bug” expert, they may not be native to here: were introduced and, that it is very unlikely that they were introduced to the UK from here in bananas, as is frequently reported. Whilst I am no expert, as I’ve said they exist in areas above the altitude where bananas can grow. I’ve lived on a banana plantation too, but there, I had never seen this spider, so it seems feasible.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Quite interesting to read about how really dangerous the most dangerous spider is in the UK (doesn’t seem that dangerous). I’ve got quite bad arachnophobia but despite that could never deliberatly kill a spider as I feel it unfair that I’m just killing it because of my phobia when in actual fact it’s not done any harm to me and is highly unlikely to. I go camping a lot with the scouts so I do have to put up with spiders alot though, the two worst times that I’ve had spider infestations were recently at the World Scout Jamboree in Essex and when I went to Auchengillan Jamboree in Scotland. Auchengillan was probably the worst as there was one spider that crawled along the top of my tent all the time killing any other spider that tried to take it’s perch, and at the World Jamboree we had some really strange black spiders with little white wing type things on the rear end and I had one that was really big which looked like a cross between a wasp and a spider, thankfully I only saw that one once. One of my main concerns was due to the amount of international people there, what if one of them had inadvertantly brought a deadly spider over with them, can spiders survive aircraft travel?

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Thankyou so much for your response, I’ve looked at the site, and I’ve ordered the book from ebay, altho in honesty, I’m not overly keen on reading it just yet, as my lifestyle at moment, means I’m a night time reader, (cant have them as my last thought before sleep).
    I have become quite ‘geeky’ and incredibly brave about spiders in the last few days, however, altho it was my daughter who pointed out my ‘geekiness’ she has also been helped my new found knowledge, as her fear, are the spiders with ‘white bums’ which I now know are wolf spiders carrying their egg sacks around.
    I wanted to write this, for others that also suffer this irrational fear, dont think that you are far more scared than I could have ever been, at 21,I fell down stairs cos of a house spider, I met it on third from top stair, it moved, I freaked, i fell! And even while I was in a heap at bottom of stairs, in intense pain from broken collar bone and bruises, I still managed to get open front door, and run. I let my fear of spiders dictate to what I did and where I went, but understanding does help, I still can’t say I like them, but you got to respect them, they’re amazing. UGGERRRRRRRRRRRLY but amazing.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I take it back, just reading comments on your cave spiders, and saw that it weren’t a wolf spider that i just took out, it was a Tegenaria duellica, see this education milarky seems to be payin off, altho i still think its a god awful nasty horrid thing, which is best suited at my moany neighbours garden. Would still like more understanding tho, so i can get a good nights sleep, so any websites, or any info you have Mr Ranger would be most appreciated.

    The Ranger responds: hope you got to sleep Sarah – sorry I didn’t answer sooner! You’re being very sensible, because although an aversion to spiders is a pretty basic instinct, most people seem to agree that getting to learn about them is a good first step towards conquering the irrational fear. Here’s a great website from Wild Chicken that gives a nice overview and some non-threatening pictures. If you fancy reading a book I can do no better than recommend the book which set me off on my lifelong love of spiders (and indirectly to the job I’m now in) which is The Spider by John Crompton. It’s a really interesting, non-scientific, humanizing – if old-fashioned – read about the secret life of these creatures – and very few pictures in case you don’t like looking at them. Out of print now but loads for sale.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Hi everyone, I got to say I admire you all, I have had a fear of spiders since I was bitten by those big yellowy garden spiders when I was a kiddling, (I’m now 39 and still shudder at thought), I’ve bred snakes in the past, and a snake bite hurts worse than that spider bite, however, I’ve just moved 8 miles to a house near Hamble in Southampton, and I have alot of these false black widows, and they are freaking the hell out of me, so much so, its 1.26am, and because my windows have been open all day, I’m too scared to go to bed.
    I know knowledge is the best form of overcoming fear, so I’ve been attempting to educate myself, however, this has also instilled more fear, as there are alot of horror stories out there.
    Does anyone know of any ‘web’sites, that I can visit, that will help me appreciate these god awful bloody things that I have to learn to live with, This area is riddled, I’ve always tried to let a spider run alive, infact i’ve just taken a huge great wolf spider out in a pint glass 5 houses down, and put it in the naggy neighbours garden. But i’m still wiping tears of fear from my eyes.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Ive just found a load more babies in my washing line..theres a pic of a couple here

    http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=838001829&size=m

    if the Ranger would like to include it with this post. I might be moving further up north soon, so you never know, they may be introduced some time soon from my packing boxes from the garage!! :-))You can see the headlines already..”Britain’s Deadly Black Widow Bites Woman in Bucks!” LOL

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    my brother has been removing rubble and digging in his just purchased rural house in chester and has noticed some very unusual looking spiders! This morning he has swelling on his hand that seems to be getting bigger and itches. He has taken some antihistomine tablets but has not eased the swelling. Could this be a spider bite? The spiders he noticed have got a white mark on them!

    The Ranger responds: could be all sorts of things – lots of dubious things in old buildings. Steatoda is not known that far north, so I wouldn’t think that spiders are top of the list. Get a pic of the unusual spiders and I’ll see if I can assist…

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Fascinating to see how the rather diminutive S Nobilis achieves arachnid heavyweight status. I recorded the species in Warwickshire a couple of years ago and have since found them to be very widely distributed in the Southern half of the UK. Try looking at night with a torch, around window frames, sheds etc. In Devon they are very common around the Torbay area.
    No worries here- I do have a bee in bonnet about other biting animals, notably horseflies!

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    As a rule the S.nobilis dont usually come indoors, although I have found 3 in my house in last year, one in the bathroom on the wall, obviously came in the open window, one on the floor near the backdoor, obvious route of entry and another came in from the garage after a rucksack was brought in from there, obviously he’d got inside the rucksack. Ours are usually found living underneath the window frames, in the plastic washing line retainers on my washing carousel..babies usually… and inside the hollowed handle of a garden spade i have in the garden(they always come back there and I alway check to make sure theres none in there before using it) and in/amongst the garden furniture cover folds especialy after rain..best to be a bit more careful when removing covers.
    As for rehousing them..I usually put them in a glass with some card and tip them over the garden wall and tell them not to come back..they seem to be doing as they are told!:-)

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I am a supporter of spiders and have no problem with them in or around my house/garden etc. However, I have recently gained a new addition in my bathroom. It looks remarkedly like the steatoda nobilis but blacker. Do they usually come into the house or is this a different type of spider and do I need to be concerned? Can I rehouse a spider and if so how far away does it need to be placed as it is frightening my 4 year old!! Any advice would be greatly appreciated thanks.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I have just picked up a smallish (7/8mm) S. nobilis from the skirting board in my bathroom here in darkest Wiltshire (it’s sitting, alive and well, in a glass coffee cup in front of me as I write).

    I stumbled across the Ranger’s blog when I went online to confirm the identification of the critter – though I already had a fair idea as we have had a couple of stories about this “relative of the deadly Black Widow” in the local press.

    I was interested (though not surprised) to read Stuart Hine’s comments of his experience of the treatment his words got in the nationals. The tabloids do like a good scare story, don’t they, bless ’em!

    I should come clean at this point and own up to being a journalist (and no, I don’t work for either of the papers Stuart mentions), though I read zoology at uni and rather like spiders, which is why I’m going to keep schtum about this one and go and release it in a woodpile in the garden.

    Regards,

    Zeki

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Ok, thank you for your quick reply. I shall have to bin my woodlice outfit then! I will keep this in mind.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I have recently moved into a house in South Wales which suffers with woodlice in the attic room, front room and bathroom. I was sweeping the bathroom last weekend to find a curled up spider (the body was brown and the head/legs were red). I have never in my life seen a spider like this and was absolutely patrified – i go into a panic when i see a spider and because i saw this strange looking thing i didn’t know what to do – even though it was dead! Speaking to my brother last night he said it was a woodlouse spider and after doing some research this morning i have found that it is the spider which was in my house. Reading through the discriptions on this spider i will now probably have a panic attack if i saw one alive. Please could someone tell me exactly how big do they grow, will they run towards you if you’re standing still, if you’re cornered by one what’s the best thing to do, do they run fast and do they react to screams? I would be so grateful if someone could please get back to me because i am genuinly affraid and need to know what to do should the situation arise.
    Thank you πŸ™

    The Ranger responds: I think you mean Dysdera crocata. They are common all over the place, and they do eat woodlice, but not humans, so don’t worry. They are normally only active at night and won’t normally come into a house, as they like it dark and damp – like woodlice – but it wouldn’t be too surprising if one did.

    Dysdera crocata

    The biggest they grow is 15mm. They don’t move particularly fast nor would they come towards you deliberately nor react to any screaming – as they would be unlikely to be aware of you at all, unless you were dressed up as a giant woodlouse, which is pretty much all they would be interested in.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Dear oh Dear, nasty bites.

    We too have a heavy woodlouse and ant population that seems to attract them into our garden. They like living underneath my window sills and around my porch. I have seen at least 30 of these spiders in the last year or so..without going out of my way to look for them. I am cautious when it comes to gardening and going out at night in the garden without anything on my feet, mainly because i dont fare well with insect bites. A midge bite on my forehead had me in casualty with my eye swollen so much I couldnt see..I really dont fancy getting bitten by one of these.

    Ive had a couple in my house. Just the other day my husband picked up a pair of my son’s school trousers off the back of a dining room chair and one fell out of the waist band.. was lucky we saw that one, could have stayed there and bit my son whilst putting them on….that said though, I am not scared of them and it doesnt put me off getting some good pics of it, or carefully moving them out of harms reach…the female(the one who bites)often has lovely markings, great for macro shots.

    Hope the bites clear up soon Vort, and they avoid us both and go bite someone else instead! πŸ˜‰

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    My wife and I have had these in our garden in Worthing for at least a year. I love ’em, she’s terrified. They seem to be well established, and do a good job of chewing through the massive woodlice population.

    We have several in and around our garden shed, and I was careless enough to get one down my t-shirt a few days back. I must have pressed on it as it did a good job of munching on me – however no ill-effects other than a weird itching after taking some anti-histamines (I’m not allergic, obviously).

    http://wendigo.blog.co.uk/?tag=spiders

    Specimen I photographed was one of the lighter ones – they vary from muddy brown to near black, with the ring and chevron markings varying in opacity.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    What did I tell you? Common visitor to my garden.
    Took some more pics of this beauty this morning. Found her eating breakfast, a juicy greenfly, sat on my garden furniture cover.

    What’s all the fuss about? She smiled for the camera, didnt even make that much of a fuss when I scooped her up into a glass. Maybe I should have phoned Sky News and told them I had a giant killer spider sat eating breakfast at my garden table and to call in the Army! ;-))

    Here she is..

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Steatodanobilis5a.jpg

    More pics of her at Wikimedia under Steatoda nobilis

    The Ranger responds: thanks for the great pics, Brenda! And thanks especially for licensing them for others to use. Good on you!

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    having a shed converted to a summer house my husband and son notice a black spider with cream on it, last night while sitting outside the shed/summer house i was bitten by something as of today my ankle is very swollen and creeping up my leg and can see were i have been bitten but would like to know should there be 2 small holes or 1

    The Ranger responds: Unlikely to be the spider – sounds more like a horsefly bite to me. Most people are unaffected by most bites and stings. But a few unlucky souls can have an allergic reaction to a bite or sting from a wide variety of insects and spiders. If you are at all worried, try to capture the creature that bit you unharmed (a margarine pot is a very good temporary cage for it) and seek medical advice. In the case of a severe reaction go straight to A&E.

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    Ah – you beat me to it! You are probably more likely to be attacked by a Killer Water Boatman than this spider. Also, isn’t it quite difficult to annoy a spider so much that it bites you?

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  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    I am so pleased you have put this story into context. I am the photographer of the image you have above and more you can find on Wikimedia under nobilis. I wrote a comment on the story about stopping the scaremongering and the demonizing of this spider. But of course it hasnt been accepted. I wonder why?

    I regularly come into contact with this spider in my garden. It is not an agressive spider. It either tries to flee or sits very still and poses for a nice macro shot.:-) That said you mustn’t antagonise them just to get a good look at them, and please dont squash them, the rumours about her being a killer are just so over exagerrated its not true, unless, as Stuart says you happen to be allergic to the venom, then its possible you could need hospital treatment, as those who are allergic to wasp and bee stings do.

    The female has lovely marble like markings on her abdomen.She is a very “pretty” girl, and I am graced by her presence, in numbers, in my garden. Do you see me jumping up and down, calling Environmental Health, the National Museum, the Daily Mail and worrying myself sick about my kids playing in the garden..No..Because there is no need to get hysterical, I take a nice pic of her, collect her in a glass with a bit of card and put her over my wall and tell her not to come back.

    Global warming brought a new species of ladybird into my garden too the other year, the Harlequin. Embrace it is what I say!

    Well Done The Virtual Ranger on telling it as it is! Shame on the tabloids!

    Brenda

    Reply

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