The false widow spider – dubbed the most venomous spider in the UK – closed down a school in Gloucestershire so the infestation could be fumigated, shares the Huffington Post on Oct. 23. The Dean Academy was forced to shut down for a day to attempt to rid itself of the false widows, raising the question: Just how dangerous is this spider?
As it turns out, not much. The false widow, Steatoda Nobilis, gets its name because of its superficial resemblance to the black widow spider, but it is nowhere near equivalent in its venom output. The bite of a false widow typically has no long-lasting effects, and is said to be equivalent to a bee or wasp sting.
Nevertheless, sensationalist news reports in the UK have focused on its reportedly painful bite and have falsely accused the widow spider of such things as chasing children, killing humans and rotting flesh.
David Lalloo, a professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said the false widow is getting a bad rap.
“They're not aggressive spiders, they don't seek out humans,” Lalloo said. “Most people won't get much of a reaction. Some people may feel a bit unwell for a day or two, but that's very rare.”
Wired.com carried a debunking article that exposed the false widow spider for what it is: Like every other 8-legger, a venomous spider that likely won’t bite you and certainly won’t kill you.
“If you don’t follow UK news, you might have missed the entire island going completely bonkers over an invasive spider species… I’m not entirely sure why, but the British media suddenly decided that these little cobweb spiders are terrifying. After a month of frenzied headlines, a school was actually closed due to spiders this week,” says Gwen Pearson from Wired.
The chances of getting bit by a false widow spider just because you are near one have been compared to the likelihood of getting hit with a falling apple… just because you take a stroll through an orchard.
The false widow spider is not native to North America.