Skip to main content

Not-so-scary Spiders

By Sarah Campbell

Burn your house down! Save yourselves!

This was my response to a ‘spider’ residing in my log pile. In complete horror I thought how long had the ‘Black Widow’ Lactrodectus Mactans been residing in my living room? All those sleepless nights on the sofa, I could have been eaten alive.

I caught the imposter in a wine glass, popped a pierced letter over the top so it didn’t starve of oxygen (killer spider or not I didn’t want the blood of a murderous spider on my hands) and placed it on the window ledge to catch some warm rays from the morning sun hoping to replicate Australian heat.

I pondered for a while over my course of action, as my internal reaction was rather extreme. As I’d shimmied the spider into the glass I didn’t witness an attempted attack, or venom dripping fangs. If anything it seemed quite scared of me. So I went online for advice. I could not have made it any worse for myself: after 5 minutes I was petrified of this mini beast. People who were having their legs and arms bitten, were given antibiotics. Imagine a bite so serious you required antibiotics for survival. Was it a black widow spider (Lactrodectus Mactans) from Australia or a brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusac) from America or the False Black Widow (Steadota sp.) from Europe. I discovered contact details for The British Spider Society, some of whom are based in York. I spoke to the secretary who took my post code and a brief description of the spider as sightings in the North of England are rare. I was advised that the spider was likely a False Widow (Steadota sp.) and it was recommended I drove as far away as I could and pop him in a field. I wanted a second opinion, I read so many horror stories in newspaper articles about people being bitten by the False Widow spiders. I contacted Caroline at Askham Bryan College; the manager of the Wildlife and Conservation Park, and an expert in anything animal related especially things creepy crawly (invertebrates). Caroline explained to me the spider was likely a Steodata grossa and that they are harmless. Caroline also explained that if an individual was to be bitten by a Steadota grossa they antibiotics wouldn't help at all with counteracting the venom. I found this quite interesting, what I had been reading in newspapers made it sound as though the victim was so ill they needed antibiotics to survive this vicious attack, so I decided to look into it further, do some research of my own.

If you have ever required antibiotics you will be aware it treats infections. A spider bite is very uncommon in the UK and there are many nippy and bitty bugs for example mosquitos, ticks, caterpillars, wasps, bees and many more.

The majority of bites occur in the evening, their adventures begins and you’re going to bed, you feel a tickle and move too close for the bugs liking so they attack assuming you’re leg or arm is a predator. Most bites appear as tiny red dots, they may itch a little but after a few days they go. For some of us we discover we’re allergic to the sting/bite.

Speaking from experience, I had an allergic reaction, it wasn’t clear what bit me as it was in the middle of the night. My thumb looked like it had been given the BFG treatment and it became very itchy, I developed fluey symptoms and I was prescribed an antihistamine to help with the itching and a steroid cream. After a few days the itching had subsided but the tip of my thumb appeared creamy, bloodless and hard. My wound had developed an infection, for me it was most likely from the fact my body’s defenses were trying to fight off the cold/flu I had developed. I was prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection and it cleared up with-in a few days.

The point I am trying to make is don’t panic; don’t assume a puncture mark is a viscous attack by a false widow - or any other spider. Stories about spider bites in newspaper and on-line are blown out of proportion.  The juicer, the gorier, the more a paper sells. You get the sympathisers and the Chinese whisperers. The story-boy gets bitten, by the end of the month boy gets bitten leg falls off. Or someone with too much time on their hands creates a youtube video merging a trip to the Doctors with a scene from a horror film.

If you are scared of spiders, find a tub and a piece of scrap paper take a walk and pop it in your neighbours bush. Spiders are not like dogs and don’t follow your scent home, you're safe. Perhaps Dad and Grandad still live in your home, but the spider kicked out has not followed you back.

Spiders are so important to our survival, spiders eat flies, and flies carry disease. Be spider friendly. Watch Lucas the Spider he will change your mind, I can assure you.

Save our bugs and build a bug hotel using spare brick, tiles, twigs and stones anything you wish to recycle. For crafty ideas visit Bug-ingham Palace at Askham Bryan Wildlife and Conservation Park.

Finally: If you think you have been bitten by a spider try and catch it in a container and contact The British Spider Society so they can ID it.

If you are unsure it is always best to seek advice from professional - and not the tabloids!