Professor Adam Hart: 'False widow spiders are apparently Britain's deadliest spider - they haven't killed anyone'

Spiders Web

Friday, October 5, 2018

An entomology professor has said false widow spiders, which caused four London schools to close, are actually "harmless".

Ellen Wilkinson Primary School, Star Primary School, Lister Community School and Rokeby School in Newham, east London, have been closed since Wednesday after Newham Council's environmental team spotted the arachnids.

Appearing on the Matthew Wright show, Professor Adam Hart, an entomologist at the University of Gloucestershire, said there was no need to be scared of the spiders.

"They've been here over 100 years, and until about five years ago I don't think anyone had taken any notice of them, or been that bothered. Then we get a nice front page on one of the tabloids of someone with bacterial septicaemia in their leg claiming it was a spider bite," Professor Hart said.



"False widow spiders are apparently Britain's deadliest spider. They haven't killed anyone. At worst they nip, it's not really a bite because their jaws aren't capable of getting very deep into you.

"I do feel for Newham Council. They've gone in, found some spiders, maybe someone has made a compaint, then against this background of mass hysteria in the media, front page news about some spiders that are harmless, they're already amped up.

"No pest control company is going to stop themselves earning money so they're going to suggest that they've got a problem they need to get rid of."


'I have Australian colleagues of mine that just laugh at the UK'

Professor Hart described the feeling of a false widow bite as "nowhere near as painful as a wasp sting", and dismissed claims that their venom was "necrotising".

"If you want to give yourself a scare google rattlesnake bite - that's necrotising venom and you know you've been bitten by a rattlesnake when it happens," he said.

"I have Australian colleagues of mine that just laugh at the UK.

"If we don't interfere with it and just sit back and watch what they do, spiders are quite fascinating and interesting and very important. If you start handling them and squashing them then of course you might get nipped by one or two but we have no life-threatening spiders in this country."