Niamh Crosbie looks at the false widow’s invasion of Ireland…
Thought to have originally come from Madeira and the Canary Islands, steatoda nobilis arrived in Britain around 100 years ago. Thanks to the effects of global warming, we are now seeing these “false widow” spiders in Ireland – in the south and east in particular. Chances are you’ve either come across one, or have read on Facebook where a friend has just found “a massive false widow spider in my garage OMG!”
Whether you’re a sufferer of arachnophobia or not, a new, seemingly harmful eight-legged friend in your home can appear to be a distressing thought no matter which way you look at it. In the midst of a constant buzz about the subject, this spider invasion in Dublin, now home to a significant population of the spiders, is something that cannot be ignored too easily. However, the professional media and word-of-mouth alone can blow a situation like this to ridiculous proportions and it can be difficult to know what to believe. There are some things that are important to know – if not for safety purposes, than simply to put a spider-hating mind at ease.
At the size of a 20c coin, the spiders are black, shiny, and have very faint markings. Irish arachnologist Myles Nolan has stated that they are very easy to distinguish from regular spiders, when he spoke about the new inhabitant on RTÉ Radio 1 with Derek Mooney. He declares that the spiders are nowhere near as dangerous as their lethal cousin the black widow, and makes it very clear, stating that, “they don’t leap at people from trees or anything like that.”
The severity of a bite from the false widow spider depends on the area that receives the bite and the amount of venom released. The spider is only likely to cause serious harm to those who are allergic to its venom, much like the stings and bites of numerous insects.
In fact, the spider has been said to be even less of a threat than the wasp.
Symptoms identified include chest pains, swelling and tingling of fingers, and medical attention is strongly urged as soon as a bite occurs. However, the people of Dublin can be somewhat reassured by the fact that no deaths have been recorded in relation to this spider’s bite.
Happily enough, the false widow spider will scuttle away at the first sign of a threat, just like a money-spider. They will only bite if they sense danger or are attacked.
It is at times like this that we can cling to the good old reliable “it’s more afraid of you that you are of it” rule. And some of us, I can say, are truly glad of it.