How weird weather is fuelling explosion of venomous false widow spiders whose bites are crippling Brits – find out if YOUR area is at risk

How weird weather is fuelling explosion of venomous false widow spiders whose bites are crippling Brits – find out if YOUR area is at risk

- in Usa News

BRITS are being left in excruciating agony because of life-threatening false widow spider bites, whose flesh-eating venom has left victims permanently disabled and even ended their lives.

And right now, experts are warning the threat from false widows is higher than ever before as the country is overrun with the lethal critters.

False widows pack a nasty a punch with their fangs – which are big enough to inject their dangerous venom into human flesh
Lewis Pearce can’t walk after being bitten five times by a false widow in his bed in Southampton
Solent News

Just this week one young dad was left unable to walk and suffered weeks of agony after being bitten by the venomous beasts in Southampton.

Lewis Pearce, 26, was bitten five times, and his three-year-old son Freddie was also bitten as they slept in their beds, leaving the family petrified.

And he’s not alone — other victims have had their wounds turn septic leading to full limb amputations, and even death.

Now worried experts are warning that the chilling false widow population has exploded across the UK in 2019.

And this Autumn — when the spiders creep indoors for warmth — looks set to see huge numbers of the terrifying creatures making their way into homes and schools all over the country.

The number of false widows is soaring as milder winters have allowed them to survive and breed in more places around Britain, with terrifying sightings logged everywhere from Cornwall to Orkney.

Unfortunately for the glamorous residents of Essex, the county had the highest number of spider bites last year.

And because of recent storms, nowhere is safe as false widows moved inside especially early this year to escape the rain.

Central heating gives perfect conditions for females to lay their eggs before hibernating, making our beds alluring for the eight-legged monsters when the weather outside is unpleasant.

Here, we reveal where and why the false widow bites are happening — and how you can protect yourself against them.


Even though they’re only around the size of 50p piece, false widows are the most dangerous spider in Britain and their small bodies make them hard to spot until it’s too late.

What makes them so dangerous is they are one of the very few species in the UK that can bite humans, and inject them with powerful venom.

While most people will feel the painful bite and see some redness and swelling around the puncture marks, false widows don’t normally do lasting damage.

But in some cases, the bite can trigger a severe allergic reaction or the wound can become infected — which can have potentially lethal consequences.


A female false widow hiding in a wooden shed – females are larger than males and have a more severe bite[/caption]

Lost limbs — and lives

In August last year, a man in his 40s was found dead just days after being bitten by a false widow.

Cops found the victim in his flat after he’d failed to turn up to an appointment to collect medication.

And other cases have been linked to false widows.

In 2014, grandmother Pat Gough-Irwin from Hampshire died days after being bitten by one of the spiders on her finger.

She went to hospital to have part of the finger amputated, but the 60-year-old’s condition deteriorated and she began to hallucinate, according to her family.

Mrs Gough-Irwin died of sepsis which may have been caused by the bite days before in her home in Aldershot.

And in 2018, 46-year-old Andy Perry lost his leg when he was bitten by a false widow on his ankle.

Andy Perry had his leg amputated last year after he was bitten by a false widow while doing a fencing job

He didn’t know he’d been bitten by Britain’s most venomous spider while working as a landscaper until 48 hours later when he developed excruciating back pain.

Andy was rushed to hospital in Leicester suffering from kidney failure and sepsis.

Although the infection subsided, he was left with lymphedema — an agonising swelling of the leg which got so bad that he considered cutting off the leg himself with a chainsaw.

Eventually, he had an above knee amputation and now needs daily treatment.

He said at the time: “I literally just brushed past it and it had a quick bite.

“Apparently the bite of the false widow feels like a bee sting but I didn’t feel a thing.

“The spiders are an awful lot more common than people think.”

Andy’s leg before the amputation – the swelling was so bad the skin fell off

Nine schools shut in city-wide scare

Although individual cases of bites are frequent, mass infestations of the dangerous arachnids are on the rise.

And last year, a truly terrifying outbreak of false widows gripped the capital.

In October, nine schools across London were closed because of terrifying infestations of false widows.

Naomi Bryan, who lived near one of the quarantined schools in Newham, east London, described the widespread terror about the arachnid invasion.

She said at the time: “Everyone is petrified that they could end up being an infestation in their homes, not only the schools.

“There are a lot of very worried mums around. These spiders are very dangerous after all.”

Fumigators in hazmat suits were sent into the schools to get rid of the venomous spiders.

A fumigator working in Rokeby School, Canning Town, when it was closed because of false widows
�2018 Gustavo Valiente / i-Images
Today John F Kennedy Special School in Newham, East London, became the latest to shut its doors
These were the schools which closed during the false widow epidemic last year

Creeping across the country

The false widow, also known as Steatoda nobilis or the Noble false widow, seems to have made its way to the UK hiding in imported plants.

They normally inhabit the Canary Islands and Madeira, but they’ve spread to other parts of Europe since the 19th century.

One theory claims the creepy crawlies first came to Britain in cargo shipped to Torquay in 1879.

Although most reports of false widows have come from the southern counties, they’ve been spreading increasingly north in recent years because of mild winters.

The spider is nocturnal and will normally spend the day sleeping inside a crack or hole close to its web.

False widows like dry, warm environments where they will be unlikely to be disturbed. This is often what brings them into people’s homes.

You can tell a false widow from their bulbous abdomens marked with a cream-coloured skull pattern and their reddish-orange legs.

Although the UK has 15 species of spider actually capable of biting humans, the false widow has gained a fearsome reputation recently for the gruesome pus-filled bites its venom can cause.

For most people, a bite from the false widow will be similar to a bee or wasp sting.

But other less fortunate people can have severe reactions to it venom and end up with much more severe symptoms.

Like unlucky granddad Shawn Summerfield from Essex, who developed a life-threatening case of sepsis when he was bitten last year.

Shawn Summerfields, 55, almost died after he developed sepsis when he was bitten in a garden shed last year
Mercury Press
Although he recovered from his horrific injuries, Shawn now goes through a 30-minute anti-spider routine in his house every day
Mercury Press


Despite their fearsome reputations, you can take simple steps to deter them from creeping into your home.

Brits should look out for untidy false widow webs, which are normally far messier than garden spiders’.

And you can also brush away cobwebs from the outside of your building to stop them coming inside.

Be on the lookout in places where false widows normally build their webs: cracks in walls, inside drainpipes and triangular frames inside houses.

In your garden, false widows are most likely found in sheds or on trellises, so make sure these are well tended to.

If you repeatedly destroy their webs they’re more likely to move elsewhere.

And because these are venomous spiders, it’s advisable to keep your distance by cleaning the cobwebs away with a broom.

‘I thought I was going to be sick’

Even if their venom is much less dangerous than that of black widows, it can still cause very nasty damage.

James Lowe from Gloucester went viral last month when he filmed himself using a paperclip to pop pus-filled infected blisters on his leg caused by false widow bites.

The dad-of-one can be heard retching and swearing in the background during the disgusting spectacle.

Despite doctors telling him not to, he took a paperclip to the horrid bubbles in his skin because he thought they would burst in the night anyway, but didn’t realise how awful it would be.

He said: “It was a mixture of pus and blood and a green, creamy substance.

“It had a weird smell like gone-off meat, and as I was trying to squeeze it was making me retch. I thought I was going to be sick.”


The false widow is a medium sized spider with a round, brown body and cream coloured markings.

Its long legs are a reddish-orange colour.

Females range in size from 9.5 to 14mm while males are 7 to 11mm.

The spider’s body and legs will have a glossy appearance and it has a distinctive skull-shaped pattern on its abdomen.

The species closely resembles the black widow spider, aside from its colouring.

The spider is nocturnal and will normally spend the day sleeping inside a crack or hole close to its web.

False widows like dry, warm environments where they will be unlikely to be disturbed.

They’re most commonly found in the south of the country, but reported sightings suggest they are moving northwards.

Bite after bite

With the frequency of false widow cases on the rise, some people have even suffered more than a single bite.

In July, a mum was bitten by a false widow spider for the second time in two months.
Sally MacFarlane described feeling “ticklish” when the first spider sunk its fangs into the flesh of her right leg when she was grooming her horse.

Within two days, however, her skin went bright pink, felt hot to the touch and had bubbled up in to huge blisters.

Incredibly, she was then bitten by another false widow in a field one month later on her left ankle, again suffering horrible inflammation on her skin.

Sally MacFarlane developed horrific blisters on her leg when she was bitten – only to be bitten again within two months
Kennedy News and Media

Experts’ warning

Professor Rainer Breitling, who has studied the spread of false widows, previously said the spiders like to move to an area with lots of vulnerable animals to attack.

“We think that it’s likely that these animals get about by hitching a lift on of ornamental plant trade or tourism, rather than banana imports as previously thought.

“So more careful monitoring of plant imports could be useful to control the spread of this species and other invasive spiders.”


According to the NHS, to treat a bite you must:

  • Remove the sting, tick or hairs if still in the skin.
  • Wash the affected area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold compress or an ice pack to any swelling for at least 10 minutes.
  • Raise or elevate the affected area if possible.
  • Avoid scratching the area or bursting any blisters, to reduce the risk of infection
  • Avoid traditional home remedies, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, as they’re unlikely to help.

If spider bites become infected or cause severe allergic reaction you must seek medical help immediately.

Alex Beer’s arm blew up and horrendously blistered when he was bitten in 2015
This map shows the spider bite hot spots in the UK – Essex has the most cases

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