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False Black Widow Spider puts Britain on 'Web, er, Red Alert

Updated on October 13, 2013

A Nation of Miss Muffets!

Pass me the curds and whey!

Many people in the UK are rather fond of spiders, if a little nervous around the larger ones, like our "Giant House Spider," a creature of up to 4 inches in diameter. The arrival of one of these on a cold winter's eve is likely to set the kids screaming and running from the room, closely followed by mum, the llhasa and dad until he can grasp a little control, peering around the yard broom. By then, the immigrant, completely terrified himself, has hidden somewhere causing the house to be on alert all night.

(These visitors are completely harmless to us and are usually looking for a mate...perhaps the llhasa looked like a possibility).

We have not been accustomed to living with venomous arachnids in Britain, although we have heard tales of red-eyed and hairy monsters leaping from the bananas in Tescos and, alien-like, attaching themselves to someone's jugular. We have had a few of these banana spiders and they are occasionally one of the truly life-threatening species, like the Brazilian Wanderer, but no one has died yet, to my knowledge, unless it was from a heart attack caused by sheer can be unnerving to be trying to select that juicy banana off the shelf only to see a 1/4 pound Tarantula pulling on the other end!

The trouble with today's world, of course, are shipping containers and all the goods transported around the world. We may find in the not-too-distant future that many venomous creatures do make a home in the UK - if they can stand the climate. And many non-venomous creatures, too, like the many varieties of cockroaches now showing up in the shipping sheds.

I digress. Our little spider today is the S. Noblis, a member of the Steatoda genus, of which we know of 120 species world-wide. The arachnid is sometimes known as "The False Widow, or False Black Widow Spider," as it does resemble the far more deadly Black Widow, so well known in the Americas, (but rarely causing problems as it is quite inoffensive if left alone).

The S. Noblis arrives, not from the steamy depths of the Amazon, but from the sunlit shores of the Canary Islands well to the south of us, off the coast of Africa, from where it probably originated - after all, we all did!

For many years the tiny arrival stayed close to the south coast of the UK, but is now seen to be making its way north where nipping a Scott in a kilt, sans underwear, in the family jewels, might be a personal ambition.

This week, our news channels have featured several people being bitten by S Noblis, a couple have had a severe reaction to the venom, although the effects do not generally last more than a few days. The spiders are shy and non-aggressive and bites are caused by trapping or squeezing one accidentally, or even sticking fingers in the creatures web.

The spiders are Widow-like, very dark coloration with a white line and other marks - but no red fiddle shaped design on the underside like the true Black Widow; the body is round and bean-like. Curiously, although somewhat like the Black Widows, members of the Steatona actually prey on their more venomous cousins.

Doctors are calling the effects of the venom, "Steatodism," and are treating with topical agents and reassurance to the victims. The true Black Widow envenonation is called Lactrodectism and can, in rare cases, be fatal.

Most spiders have poor eyesight and the S. Noblis is no exception, identifying its prey - and dangers - by the vibrations it receives.

If you see one of these spiders, it should be carefully trapped under a glass and paper and put in a small box or jar and taken to a vet or your council health department as we really don't want a contagion of them. (Can I see readers grinning, "Yeah, right, and fingering the Hoover!"). I would probably take them to a wooded area away from houses and release them as I am an arachnophile, but the first option is the one of a good citizen I suppose.

A Coffee Bean with Legs!  A False Black Widow Spider
A Coffee Bean with Legs! A False Black Widow Spider | Source


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    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi AV: When you think of the quantity of containers coming into the UK, Europe and the US, it's no great surprise that little spiders get missed, although I suppose most die rapidly.

      Even illegals get through the net!


    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Great material. It is amazing that we manage to get creatures to our countries via product and crates. Perhaps shippers need to be more diligent, but I don't see how. Some animals/insects/etc. can hide very well in the most obscure of places.

    • profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago

      You make me chuckle kiddo

      R xo

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Like I said, I got my first teapot and there's been no need for more, unlike husbands who don't work out. With husbands it gets to a point where it's just too much trouble to keep collecting them.

      The photos are me. I'm pretty good at being assertive -- it surprises people sometimes. They think I'm a delicate flower, but in fact I can be pretty tough. Men don't always get what they want just because they want it, ya know? After standing up to a spider bigger than some dogs, believe me, men are a cinch.

      I keep the location of my door mum and I don't answer my phone. I've disappeared completely in the past. I know how to do these things, but aside from that, how do you know there aren't thundering knocks on my door?

      So there, yourself! ;) xox

    • profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago

      Teapots! Nooooo! I hate them! So bloody twee and British. Sometimes Missy, I think I am conversing with an 82-year-old! Of course, you're not serious and, like me, you'd say just about anything for effect and dramatisation...yes you would!

      If you do collect teapots (Ha! why am I even bothering!) you can get a container load here for about £5

      Now I am convinced those photos are either of another or of you many years ago...if they were up to date, you wouldn't be able to confine yourself to teapots - the thundering knocks on your door from libidinous suitors would break them all!

      So there!


    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I have no trouble dealing with spiders or much of anything else. I think you might be hanging from some low branches yourself if you saw some of the huge spiders that live here. Once had a wolf spider, legs and all, bigger than a dinner plate in my apartment shortly after moving here to TX. I was ready to go home about that time. It was bigger than my car! And I had a full size Cadillac!! ;) All true.

      Here I call a field spider an ordinary spider that is frequently found in the fields up north. Gets about the size of a quarter, though down here it probably gets much bigger. Dark brown, non-poisonous, and love to eat bugs -- don't they all? Garden spiders are very colorful, get quite large, and usually have webs that stretch between things. They can look quite formidable.

      If your spiders take a liking to human flesh, let me know, I have a list.

      I decided several years ago to leave some for the other women. Now I collect teapots. Oddly, only 1 teapot has been necessary, whereas finding a man that could hold up long term was impossible, so I just gave up and now my life is so much more pleasant without all the drama. ;)

    • profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago

      Hiya Miz Devyne...All well as can be expected here - the bar isn't set very high! I could bring my stabber and come and protect you from arachnids bigger than dogs!

      What is a "Field Spider?" a species to what I am not privy. Do you mean Garden Spiders?

      I have two large house spiders here and I am feeding them raw, I hope to introduce human flesh to them (hard to come by). Then, release them into the world to breed! Hahahahahahahahahahahahheheheheheheheheheheh. Boredon will do it to you.

      Have you got a mate yet?

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Spiders are safe so long as they don't enter my abode. I don't mind field spiders since they can keep the place clear of other insects and aren't poisonous, but recluses and black widows, which are plentiful here, are not welcome. I also object to those spiders larger than a small dog, and yes we have them here, though rarely in urban areas.

      Interesting hub, Bobby. Hope all is well . . . xox

    • profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago

      Hi Clark: Trip cancelled from "old age cowardice," or something like that. It is so far from here compared with from the US. I do love all creatures and my "sickness" is I hate most humans, especially the bloody British! Thanks for the Linkedin 'Link.

      Hope you are well


    • profile image

      Moonfroth 4 years ago

      BOB --

      Like you, I have some grudging respect for these critters....but I suspect you go a step further to AFFECTION. Have you sought any help for this aberrant emotion? I'll never forget one of the final scenes of an ancient sci-fi movie, "The Incredible Shrinking Man", where our hero--now about i/4" in height, kills a hungry spider with a pin-cum-spear. Harrowing! Nightmare city! Have you firmed up yourr Mexico trip yet?

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Moon...thanks for comment. I lived in Cuernavaca for some years in the 90's and had several Black Widow mums living round my inside water tank (The males are a lot smaller, but will defend the female with a much less harmful nip). I got so used to them I would have a chat with them when I had reason to be in that area..Never bothered me, very shy and quiet spiders


    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      We don't have venomous spiders here but we do have spiders that will bite. We lived in California where Black Widows were everywhere. The most dangerous thing was to put your hand in sleeve or something like that and black widow being inside. A friend of ours ended up in the hospital for three days from a black widow bite.

      Our baby son was once playing on the floor with his toys when I looked over and Black Widow was headed his way. She didn’t make it very far my foot came down on her. I did what was the fasted thing to do. Here I put them outside and let them go.

      I’m glad your False Black Widow Spider is not deadly. Voted up on your interesting hub.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Will: I am surprised to hear of Widows in Arizona as they prefer damp, cool conditions...they would do real well here!

      About to read a hub of yours


    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I once opened a fuse box late in the night to discover a shiny black widow waiting for my unwary fingers. Thank goodness I had a flashlight!

      Arizona is rife with poisonous critters.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Bob...

      Oh my...I don't know of any of my hubs that have disappeared. Which one was it?

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Deadly or not, all spiders give me the heebie jeebies. You did a nice job on this spider hub.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Genna...I was about to read a hub of yours yesterday when it disappeared! Sorry.

      Bob x

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      A ¼ pound tarantula? Ohhh…my heart would stop instantly. The S. Nobilis sounds like a Latin derivative of the word, “noble.” Very interesting hub, Bob. Although spiders still give me the willies. Voted up.


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