Dean Academy, a school in the Forest of Dean in the United Kingdom, was shut down Wednesday due to the discovery of a nest of false widow spiders, the most venomous found in the British Isles. As BBC News reported Oct. 22, school officials felt closing the school's doors and fumigating the facility was the most prudent course after even more spiders were found in other areas of the English school.
"This will enable pest control to fumigate every area in the academy and ensure everyone's health and safety," Vice principal Craig Burns wrote in a letter sent to parents. "There have been no reports of anyone being bitten by the false widow spiders at the academy but if you have any concerns please seek medical advice."
Sky News' Isabel Webster reported that students at the school had exhibited a sense of "hysteria" when the false widow spiders were first reported.
Fumigators at the school told Sky News that they expected to be at Dean Academy almost the entire day on Wednesday.
Although the bite of a false widow spider is roughly akin to that of a bee or wasp sting, their bite is rarely deadly. However, authorities caution that at least 12 people die each year from bee stings, and although it is the most venomous of all the more than 650 species of spiders found in the United Kingdom, no deaths have been recorded resulting from a false widow bite. The false widow is one of only a dozen spiders capable of biting humans in all of Britain.
False widows are distinctive in that they sport a cream-colored design on top of their dark brown bodies, while their legs are reddish-orange.
Usually not an aggressive spider, the dime-sized arachnid will mostly bite defensively -- that is, if it is pinched or being crushed. Dr. John Tweddle from the life sciences department at the Natural History Museum, London, told BBC Breakfast: "The bite that it gives is mainly defensive, so it's not coming out to get you, it's not a horror movie."
In a follow-up article on the actual dangerousness of the false widow spider, BBC News noted that much of the fears prevailing in the United Kingdom about the tiny crawlers has been prompted by scaremongering and exaggeration.
In fact, the infestation dealt with, the Dean Academy opened its doors for classes Thursday.
Now, all school officials will have to deal with is a little residual arachnophobia...