Venomous black widow spiders, capable of killing humans, have been found in different locations throughout Britain. Arachnid experts believe the eight-legged critters have arrived by ships from the United States.
The deadly spiders are most famous for their cannibalistic mating rituals where the smaller male makes a leap of death into the jaws of the female after the deed is done. She then devours the male for sustenance.
Ecologist Graeme Skinner said there have already been a few cases where black widows have survived the journey from the States and he added, on a reassuring note, that they are not capable of surviving the damp British climate.
“On two occasions it was just a single one but on another we had six black widows come in together,” Skinner said. “We had one batch come in stuck underneath a camper van from Arizona.”
A female’s venom is extremely potent and requires immediate medical attention. Expect severe pain, abdominal cramps, and muscle spasms if you’re bitten.
There is, however, a species so close to the black widow in Britain that it’s been dubbed the false widow. One of these plunged its cuspids into decorator Ricki Whitmore’s legs when he was renovating a school.
He had a violent reaction to the poison and lost most of his muscle in his thigh and may struggle another six months through physiotherapy before he will be able to walk properly again.
Greg Hitchcock, a member of British Arachnological Society, said it’s possible for people to have bad reactions from false widow bites, much in the same way as with wasp or bee stings.
“The risk of being bitten is very, very small. The reaction has been a bit hysterical. It’s unlikely they (false widows) have massively increased this year but there has been a massive increase in public awareness,” Hitchcock said.
False widows were first recorded in Britain during the 1870s after accidently shipped from their native Canary Islands. They have now become indigenous to their adopted region and have been spotted as far north as East Anglia.
Naturally it begs the question, if the false widows could get accustomed to the cold and moist of Britain, is it only a matter of time before black widows become part of Fauna Britannica?
It’s not likely that global warming will push up temperatures enough for black widows to live in the wild in United Kingdom, but an arid warehouse could provide suitable location for a nest.
Recently, exterminators had to dispose of a nest in a machinery plant in East Norfolk after more than 100 black widows hatched. The responsible female for the brood had already been sealed in an airtight container.