A good treatment for False Widow venom

Ireland, like most of Europe has become home for species of spiders that can be venomous to human beings. Almost all spiders can potentially bite because all use venomous fangs to subdue prey, and sometimes defend themselves, but False Widows have a venom that has a bigger effect on people.

There are two species known in Ireland and both are believed to have originated in the Canary Islands and/or the nearby island of Madeira. However, these islands were stop-off points for trading ships travelling around the world in the Age of Discovery, from the 1480s onwards for ships rounding Africa or travelling to the Americans, so there is a small possibility they might actually have originated from elsewhere, but a this stage it’s highly likely we’ll never know for sure.

 

An average-size adult Steatoda grossa of the black variety, although the classically marked variety is beautiful by comparison. This spider looks very like a Black Widow or Australian Red-back Spider. However, none of these spiders is naturally aggressive and can be handled without biting, but care should always be taken.

Steatoda grossa, the smaller one, was first recorded in southern Ireland (and southern England) in the 1870s. Here is was largely confined for over a century but gradually spread northwards. Much later, in the early 1990s the larger Steatoda nobilis appeared, and it has spread all over the east coast and into the midlands now, where it is a very common species. False Widows are so-called because there are many species and most are completely harmless to humans, but they look almost identical to the true Widow spiders, the Latrodectids, such as the Black Widows, Brown Widow, White Widow, Australian Red-back Spider and New Zealand Katipo. There are actually MANY species and several are found in Europe, but not naturally in the British Isles or Scandinavia.

The irony is that of all the False Widow Spiders the two that have arrived in Britain and Ireland ARE mildly venomous to humans. But they are NOT aggressive spiders in any sense, and mostly like to be outside, although they do get into sheds and houses which do not have regular cleaning routines.

The venom of False Widows and Black Widows is a type of acid, so I hypothesised that cures and treatments used successfully on other acidic toxins, such as bee stings or nettles should also work with some degree of success on False Widow venom. Recently a friend was bitten by a small Steatoda grossa. The sting was quite powerful, but I’m happy to announce that treatment of the bite with crushed Dock leaf worked brilliantly and with almost immediate effect.

A leaf of Broad-leaved Dock photographed today...works great on nettle stings and False Widow bites. It SHOULD work on Black Widow bites too, as the venom is very close to that of False Widows. Baking Soda might work even better, but I haven't tested it yet.

Dock leaves can still be found outdoors in Ireland, but the frosts are starting to damage them. However, ordinary baking soda should also work to counteract the acid. HOWEVER, the Ph Balance in all human skin varies, so be careful as there are some people who could find their skin has a reaction to Baking Soda and to a lesser extent, Dock plants, although I’ve never encountered anyone with such problems. Paradoxically people who do have more acidic skin Ph will probably not suffer quite so much from acidic venom on their skin.

Always try treatments a little at a time, unless the pain is severe.

I plan to write more about False Widows soon, to help make identification easier, but there are few native Irish species like them. But do not be too worried because they are mainly outdoor spiders and the venom is not dangerous in its own right. The danger is that it could cause symptoms like other, more serious ailments. Mild muscle cramps in an area near the chest could cause someone with a heart problem, or their medic, to think they were in danger of cardiac arrest, so always record a bite or sting if you suffer one from any animal or plant no matter where in the world you happen to be when you suffer it.

72 thoughts on “A good treatment for False Widow venom”

  1. Thanks for your question! Your spider is almost certainly a female Steatoda nobilis. They are very common here now, and they generally stay put once they’ve found a good spot. As your spider has been there for 2 years then she will stay for the duration of her life. If you do intend moving her make sure to use a glass jar. These spiders are not aggressive, and I often handle them albeit carefully, with no bad results (I’ve never been bitten) but they are venomous so better safe than sorry. If you dry clothes on a washing line or anything, do make sure to shake it out before you bring them in.

    If you’ve any more concerns feel free to ask.

  2. thx for the info, do you know how long they can live for, it was the fact it survived 2 winters especially with all the snow we had last year that had me wondering what species it was. Are yiou familiar with all local spiders, there was a lot of another species living in the rafters of my shed this summer which i hadnt noticed before i dont have a picture to hand but maybe you could tell by a description. their body was not round like most spiders it appeared tubular and was only a few millimeters long, their legs however were very long, adults maybe a couple of inches legspan , their legs were incredibly fine though, they would be hard to spot unless you went looking because they were so fine, colour a very light brown, they spun very light cobwebs, i saw them on more than one occasion walking about on a web occupied by a different species without beigng noticed because they were so light footed, i think its just because their webs met and not something they seek to do but it was a funny sight

  3. False Widows can live for a number of years, but nobody seems to have studied them to the extent that they can definitely say how long they will live. I’ve noticed females in the same place for about two to four years on a row, and then dead. They seem to mate in the second year. That’s S. nobilis, but I don’t know for sure about S. grossa. One thing I do know for sure is that they are not bothered by frost, snow or even extremely cold temperatures, contrary to the accepted wisdom. It was assumed temperature was the limiting factor in their spread, but I’ve found very large females outdoors in each of the last winters, and the population doesn’t seem to have been affected.

    As for the other spider you describe, you might want to keep those around: they’re the Long-bodied Cellar Spider aka Rafter Spider (Pholcus phalangioides) and the eat other spiders, of all sizes. The kill False Widows and the really big brown House Spiders, and I’ve watched them do it. They are harmless to man and can be handled easily. They kill by biting the leg of the prey species, usually catching it before it has time to fall to the ground, paralysed. I have to add that to the wildlife section. It’s normally found on the eastern side of Ireland, and why the spread is limited is something I don’t know. But I’ll publish it if I ever find out. I’ll put up some information about the Rafter Spider too. Just to add some confusion, Steatoda grossa is also sometimes referred to as the “Cellar Spider”. I’ve managed to get photos of them stalking larger prey, including False Widows.

    By the way, a third species of False Widow, known as the Rabbit Hutch Spider (Steatoda bipunctata) has recently been found and identified in Killiney, but it’s much smaller than S. grossa or S. nobilis, and not known to be venomous to humans in any way. I hope that helps you out. You can use the Rafter Spiders to control False Widows, if you like, just encourage them in your shed.

  4. Hi, i have seen some spiders in my shed recently and was wondering if you could id them, i haven’t got a picture but perhaps by description you could id them or if not i could get a picture at some stage, I have never seen one of these spiders in a web, they are always just wandering about on a wall at night, in size they are perhaps half the size and bulk of a full grown garden orb weaver, they would be about the size of an adults thumbnail, they have a flattened aspect and not a big round belly like a garden spider, they have stumpy legs, length of spider being half body half legs, in colour they are black as coal all over but with a very silky silvery sheen especially on the belly, very silky, they are a very nice looking spider

  5. Hi, those spiders sound like one or more of the lace-weaver species. Most have a faint pale horseshoe marking on their backs, but the stoutest and largest species, Amaurobius ferox, is exactly as you describe, particularly the female. A photo would prove it. They mostly rest in a small sock like web in a hole or recess by day and wander around walls at night.

  6. Hi there!! I just saw this thread and was wondering if you would have any idea what spider found around the Wicklow area is most likely to bite people, my boyfriend was bitten by a spider about 6 months ago and still has a large enough scar on his leg, it started off as a rash and then two large blisters which when burst turned into two craters in his leg!! Just curious if this fits any account of any bites you have herd of? We never actually saw the spider and only learned it was a spider bite from the GP. Any info you have would be great! Thanks!

  7. Hi Kimmy,

    That’s a good description of the spider bite because there are only two spiders known to deliver bites like that, and neither of them is found in Ireland, although specimens of both have been found in the UK. One is the Violin Spider, Loxosceles rufescens, which is found throughout southern Europe and further afield, and could easily make it to Ireland with tourism. Not a very big spider, and usually not aggressive and found outside, but that said, I almost got into a bath with one in Spain. The other one, and almost equally likely is its American cousin, the much more venomous Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) which likes the kind of temperatures we have here, but especially likes being indoors. the ulcerations can sometimes occur for years after the initial bite and require skin grafts, etc. They like being in houses and are not very big at all, certainly not big enough to make you see them as a threat. Usually the bite isn’t even felt, or the spider seen. There is also the possibility the bite occured even earlier than the rash appeared, even by a few weeks. Was your boyfriend abroad in that time?

    Anyhow, both spiders are small, drab brown with one distinguishing feature – a dark brown violin shape on their abdomens.

  8. Hi, I found this site because myself and my sister just had abit of a fright as I was sitting on the sofa relaxing and chatting with my sis when suddenly she screamed and I looked down to find on the seat beside me a spider that looked VERY like a black widow. Obviously I jumped up to move away as quick as I could ( my primeval reflexes kicking in!) I always try to catch a spider and put it out in the garden but this one was too like what we both were familiar with as being a poisonous spider.What worries me is that our spider seemed pitch black and if you can imagine it, a shinier and rounder back than your steatoda grossa,- which it seemed to carry up right on its black pin like legs. It could be that the lighting here is just 60 wts energy saver?I’m not sure but it certainly has us worried!
    This house is over 100 years old with three floors and many extensions and editions over the years. Wolf spiders are our usual visitor which scare the living daylights out of us; but this one, that seems to live in the sofa, is a different kettle of spider in terms of the concern its given us.
    About three months ago I was hoovering and decided to lift up the seats of the sofa to hoover inside and down to the ground as its a sofa bed with a sprung metal bedframe inside..well I screamed silently more out of fear of disturbing the creature than concern for my neighbours..what I saw was another black widow look alike clinging upside down to the underside of the sofa seat..I ran and got a glass and managed to knock it in to the glass with a postcard and brought it out to the garden where I threw it in a bush. I will confess that if it had been on the upside of the seat flat I would probably have put it out of my misery with a book! ..I wish I had gotten a photo so you could identify the species for us because for now we are not convinced its not the dangerous cousin black widow.
    My question is how do we get rid of a family of black widowesque spiders living in our sofa? is there a spray? what would you do? Thank you.. Nina, Athlone

  9. Hi Nina,

    Those photos are just examples, and might not give you a sense of how similar the false widows and black widows are. There are black forms of the false widows and they are virtually indistinguishable from the true black widows. The abdomens of the black form of false widow females, and black widows are like perfect orbs, very like black currants to look at. Black widows usually have bright red marks underneath them, and the underneath is the part of these spiders you’ll most likely see as they hang upside down from their webs. But even the black widows are not terribly poisonous, certainly not a major threat to an adult human being, and gardeners in America often get bitten and don’t bother with anything in the way of treatment, especially as the antivenom can only be used once. The Australian red-back spider is about the most venomous of all the widows and even it rarely kills people. There are several species of very poisonous widows found throughout Europe and they are barely considered a threat. Three in Spain alone.

    As for the one in your sofa, it could be just that, and if you are worried about it suck it up in the vaccuum cleaner. Athlone is actually one of those places where new species often arrive in Ireland, especially during the boom with the amount of trade going through there. As for wolf spiders, are you sure they are wolf spiders? The big ones that enter houses in late summer are the Tegenarias, known as House Spiders. False widows eat them. But the spindly-legged rafter spiders which you might have in your house will happily eat all of them. I’ve seen them kill various widow spiders.

    If you are terribly worried you could use any insect spray, just spray it directly into the sofa. Of course, it’s bad luck to kill a spider…and those sprays are nasty bringers of painful death. You need to make sure the chemicals are not let out into your house but trapped in the furniture. They’re all dangerous carcinogens. The spider would be safer. The low light would attract them too, but they like dark places in general. Spiders are mainly nocturnal seemingly to avoid bird predation. All widow spiders and false widows are generally calm spiders, certainly not aggressive. On the plus side, they do encourage house-cleaning. The more you clean the less likely they’ll set up shop. That said, God knows what’s living in my house!

    Anyway, sorry for the long reply but I hope that helps you somewhat. If there’s anything else feel free to ask.
    Sam

  10. Hi, thx for your earlier reply about the spider i was wondering about,i see many of those Amaurobius ferox at night, however this guy looks different as he has no markings at all, i have inspected him very closely and he definitely has no markings, perhaps the male and females look different, this guy seems a lot rarer than the Amaurobius ferox who i could find dozens of if i went looking, i rarely see this guy , it took me several days to find this guy who seems to be missing a leg, is this a lace weaver or Amaurobius ferox ?, maybe a particular sex

    http://i1258.photobucket.com/albums/ii521/bananayoghurt/spider.jpg
    http://i1258.photobucket.com/albums/ii521/bananayoghurt/spider2.jpg

  11. Well, they say a picture paints a thousand words, so a photo must paint ten thousand – it’s a female Drassodes spider, and judging by the size (very good of you to include a coin) it is almost certainly Drassodes lapidosus. There are many species but this is about as large as they get.
    I agree with you, these are very handsome spiders. Some people call them “flowerpot spiders” because they very commonly put their sleeping bags under the rims of plastic flowerpots. There’s a website on the internet that had a dedicated Drassodes section, with photos of all European species and identifying characteristics, which I’ll have to find again and post. But at least that’s one mystery solved.

  12. Many thx for the info, i looked online for ages and there are amazingly few resources for identifying Irish spiders, so it’s greatly appreciated, while i was hunting for the Drassodes last night I noticed a big rafter spider in my spider bros web, the Steatoda nobilis whom i posted a picture of earlier and who i have been watching over for years, i removed the rafter but it appears to have bitten my spider bro, she is very listless and hasn’t retreated into her hidey hole come daylight as usual, she is just curled into a ball at the ceiling wall joint and not moving at all, do you think it is possible for recovery, I’m actually pretty upset lol about the whole thing

  13. I’m glad I could help. As for your Steatoda, remarkably little is known about the ability to cope with toxins and it is possible she could recover. But let me know what the outcome is, as I’d be interested to know. But you can see how useful Pholcus spiders are for keeping other spiders out of the house. I’ve seen them eating even the biggest house spiders. But I can understand you becoming attached to your resident widow.

  14. Happily she has recovered and is running about without a bother, I’d love to see this spider reach 5 years old, never thought it could happen in Ireland, I am removing all the drassodes i find to a copse nearby

  15. That would be interesting to see, and could be only the tip of the ice-berg. Keep and eye on it maybe keep some photo records, and let me know if there are any interesting developments. The recovery from what seems to be another spider’s bite is extremely interesting, and that could lead to an interesting discovery some day.

  16. hi, there is an Amaurobius ferox walking on a wall out the back which is easily as large as a big garden/orb weaver, are they supposed to grow that big, ive never seen one so big, the largest maybe half the size of this one, it’s got a huge fat belly

  17. I have seen some huge specimens of A. ferox myself a few times. The most extraordinary of all was when I woke up one night after dreaming a spider was crawling on my face, and there was a peculiar feeling right between my eyes due to the apparent weight of something lying there. I reached up and lifted off an A. ferox of the size and consistency of a jelly baby. A very large and very pregnant female. Yet most book record their body size at only 15mm, this was 23mm. She wasn’t to upset by being picked up though, although I was holding the abdomen. I’ve seen a good few big ones since then, usually under logs.

  18. http://a.yfrog.com/img862/5685/1jyyj.jpg

    Hi,coming in a bit late to the conversation but really happy I have found this thread. Is there anyway you could identify the spider in the photo above? Much like your Steatoda grossa pictured above but with a khaki silvery ring around the front of its abdomen. The ring doesnt close fully around the back of the abdomen. There are three of these in my parents shed at the moment, and we have been trying to identify them for a while.

  19. Hi Louise,

    Thanks for the kind words. It’s definitely a Steatoda nobilis false widow, the larger and more venemous of them. But they are fairly easy to handle (with caution) and won’t bother you. Move them if you feel they will be a nuisance or you might need to sort stuff out. It does mean you need to be a little cautious when going through your sheds, but you have to be a little cautious everywhere these days. You will notice the webs are extremely stong compared with any other spider webs.

  20. Thank you so much.I have clearer more detailed photos if this would help, if you do plan to write more about this spider. The garden & sheds are well established (decades) and this is the first time we have seen spider’s of this kind, they appeared well before winter last. They are in a small shed which is acessed a lot during the day. They seem now only, to come out at night time whereas months ago they were out during daylight. The webs have a funnel which they utilise but also seem to use other hiding places in proximity to the web.From what they cast from the web once finished, they eat louse, other spiders and even slugs!

  21. You’re very welcome. That diet certainly matches everything I’ve seen, although most impressive of all was a large female trying to eat a large garden snail, and getting her jaws gummed up. I actually have photos of that, which I will upload in the not too distant future.

  22. Great website, and fantastic to see someone on the web (forgive the pun) in Ireland with a knowledge of spiders. I have two Steatoda nobilis, that I can see, living in my garden shed. I am sure there are plenty more that I can’t see though. Initially I was quite concerned when I saw them, as I was bitten by a widow spider on the back of my head in France which hurt like hell. However, on foot of the information I could find on them, I decided to leave them be.

    I seem to be finding them all over the place more and more. I live in north county Dublin and I don’t remember them being around whilst I was growing up and neither of my parents had ever seen them before this summer. So I am just wondering would you think there has been a massive population growth for them lately?

  23. Thanks for the kind words, Stephen! I’m really glad you like the site.
    As for the false widows, they are now pretty much all over the country. I found one in 2009 in a small cottage on a narrow isthmus in the far west of Connemara, which leads me to think they’re piggy-backing all over Ireland. I do think the period of extremely mild winters in the last two decades helped spread them, as they were said to be more or less limited to Wexford and Waterford prior to the 90s. I certainly never saw them before, and now they are absolutely everywhere. However, I have found them outside in the snows of recent years, under the eaves of houses, so I’m not sure how much of a limiting factor temperature is. But they certainly are not aggressive. There are records of another three species of false widow (as far as I can remember) and one of them (Steatoda paykullianus) is spectacularly similar to the notorious Australian red-back spider.

  24. ? Have these living on my balcony in Castleknock . Felt a tickle up my leg while out having a cigarette and one of these spiders popped out. Have large lump with a lot of bruising on my thigh today (size of apple with smaller bruises running up veins ). Didn’t feel the bite at the time and is still painless just looks nasty . Have taken pics if anybody interested .

  25. Hi Kieran,

    Most of the bites I’ve heard about involved those spiders getting onto clothes, or into clothes might be more accurate, and the affects of the bite vary greatly from person to person. I have read of a number who had painless bruises or lumps develop, and then those who got stings and lumps, and those who got no swelling at all, but trememdous pain either at the site of the bite or in their limb, and sometimes chest as a result. Heart patients who got bitten could be under the impression they were having heart attacks. Some people report nausea too. I think these days it’s a matter of shaking off clothes brought in off the clothes lines, and looking out for webs on walls or rails we lean against. Did you notice any puncture wounds on the bite you got? Have you photos of the actual spider?

  26. Hi Sam

    This website is very helpful.

    I was on a couch in a holiday home in Wexford during the week and noticed a bite mark on my arm- similar to a mosquito bite with slight itch. I thought nothing of it at the time but later found this guy under the throw that I was sitting on. Its appearance gave me a quite a fright as had never seen a spider like it before and was worried it was tropical or dangerous and reacted by hitting it, I’d never heard of Irish spiders biting. From my research I’m fairly sure its a steatoda grossa but was wondering what you thought? No symptoms since other than head-cold which is probably completely unrelated and may not have been even it that bit me, so kind of sorry to have killed it in my reaction.

    http://s1360.photobucket.com/user/mush500/media/photo_zps05988b9a.jpg.html

  27. Definitely S. grossa, you nailed it. This is actually the more likely to bite of the two species, more because it tends to come into houses on clothes and shoulders than for any other reason. As for the bites, some people feel absolutely nothing at all and have no ill-effects. I have a suspicion though – I bet your skin PH would be on the scale of less acidic compared to others and maybe you’re cancelling out the toxin. I could be wrong though and it might work the exact opposite way round and you are hyper-acidic and therefore have immunity to acid toxins to some degree. Just my own personal hypothesis, but the Steatoda venom is an acid much like the sting of bees. I would be interested to know how you fare with nettles, as they use a similar kind of acid in their stings, although not so strong as Steatoda venom. Thanks for your comment!

  28. Difficult to find a good sites for ID of spiders, this is a good informative article, I live in the clonshaugh area near coolock, while emptying last year’s planters I came across an unusual looking spider, I took a number of photos of the spider, looks most likely it is a steotoda noblis false widow, big black shiny body with greyish markings around the body with a heart shaped greyish mark on its body above the thorax. Seemed quite docile glad I didn’t risk handling it considering it’s a biter.thanks for the info

  29. That certainly sounds like a false widow, but there are a lot of S. grossa running around at the moment, and some can be quite similar to the S. nobilis, but they never grow as large. I have written a spider guide for Kindle which you might find useful. You can download the Kindle reader free from Amazon, for your phone, pc or laptop. I’ll do more on these spiders very shortly, and thank you very much for your comment. Here’s the link to my spider guide available on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/Irish-Spiders-ebook/dp/B00ALJ8JTE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367519615&sr=8-1&keywords=irish+spiders+sam+connolly

  30. Im trying to attach a photo of the spider, hopefully it goes through its a nice one.

  31. Hi
    A very interesting discussion found this after reading a post on Facebook regarding the False Widow the usual scare mongering that you get on the internet. You know what i mean im sure (Don’t go near if this spider bites you it will lead to amputation of the offending limb) you have to laugh. But found this site to be very interesting and informative.

    Thank You
    Marty

  32. Many thanks for your very kind comments, Marty! There is a lot of scaremongering out there, but the only real danger is if a heart patient has a reaction to the venom (stiffening of the arm muscles and chest) and rushes off to hospital to receive unnecessary treatment for the wrong ailment. Of course, it’s alway good to play it safe with venoms.

  33. Hi, very interesting discussion, thanks for all the education! I live in Churchtown in Dublin and we seem to be infested with these false widow spiders. We thought initially that we had brought them back from an old cottage in Sligo, but having read all the comments, perhaps they were here all along! An old cellar in the cottage in Sligo was absolutely packed full of them – the egg sacks were dangling down almost like Christmas tree decorations; a little ball (maybe the size of a small grape) at the end of a thread. At one end of the cellar there was a fully grown adult spaced 4-6 inches apart in Every direction. Seemed to be living off woodlice and millipedes. Now we have them in the dog kennel in Dublin, and in the garden shed which is 50 feet away. Also under the decking in the garden. We have a couple of young children, 1 and 3, and they are demons at poking about in the garden. Don’t want to make them scared of spiders, but now feeling very uncomfortable about letting them poke everywhere in case they get bitten. From various articles I have read online seems that a couple of people have been hospitalised and many people say incredibly painful. Would really worry about kids getting multiple bites if caught in clothes… There are some rafter spiders in the shed, but to be honest, way more of the false widows. Any suggestions or comments?! Jane

  34. Hi Jane,

    Many thanks for your comment! Your description of the egg-sacs is probably the best I’ve ever read. Unfortunately False Widows are definitely here to stay, such is the rate of reproduction. There seems to have been a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about these spiders. The first thing was that it was assumed they couldn’t survive in the cold temperatures of Ireland, but both species are extremely hardy and they don’t necessarily flee indoors when there’s snow and ice about. The assumed factor in their spread was a warming climate, but the actual factor was the economic boom, and they just went everywhere. In Ireland there were no similar species in the niche they now occupy, so they have basically no shortage of employment, so there’s no getting rid of them. It’s amazing.

    As for the bite, yes, we now do have to be careful with checking our clothes and such. But there is a lot of misinformation regarding the bites. Firstly, it is true some people do suffer a painful sting, and sometimes a little worse, but there some of the more spectacular cases involving infections in the affected limbs, etc., I feel very certain are actually caused by another spider species, which has become very common on Great Britain, and a number of specimens have been recorded here, and that’s the Brown Recluse (Loxoceles reclusa) from North America. It’s a small wanderer and it’s bite has a completely different affect to the nerve-toxin of the False Widows.

    There’s no need to worry to much, just be careful and explain to your kids. False Widows usually role into a tight ball as a first line of defence. But I’ve experimented with bites and just like all acidic bites or stings crushed dock leaves work very well to neutralise the pain, and baking soda should be perfect.

  35. Hi Sam interesting to read your reply to the last comment by Jane, I didn’t realise the brown recluse had arrived in Britain, and some reported here. Unfortunately these lads have a really nasty bite watched a number of national geographic. And discovery Channel programmes featuring the effects of this spiders bite, would be concerned if I had a couple of these lads living close by.

  36. Hi Tony,

    I saw it on a list of foreign spiders found in Britain and Ireland, about two years ago. Some were found in Dublin, including two huntsman spider, but I’m not sure about the Recluse, it could have been in the north. That said, a supposed viper was found there two years ago and nobody to identify it properly, and when I saw the photo, and that the iris was round not elliptical, I realised it was actually one of the Spanish species of Smooth Snake. That said, vipers have come here before. There’s a rumour of small scorpions living in Rosslare, and I myself found decent-size Segestria florentina tripe-wire spider in the garden here about ten years ago, way larger than S. senoculata and not a bit friendly. Eight-legs of rage. But since the Recluse is definitely in the UK now I would be a little concerned. I suspect some of its bites have been wrongly attributed to false widows, particularly that of the woman who got cellulitis and required (or almost required) an amputation, as the months of blisters reported would not match the Steatoda nerve toxin. I guess we just need to keep our eyes peeled these days.

  37. Hi,

    I have a picture of a spider, from just over a year ago. I’m wondering if you could help identify it? please email me and I can send you the pictures.

  38. Hi. How do pets cope if they are bitten. I have 2 whippets & want to know what would happen if they are bitten & what to do. Kind Regards

  39. Hi Dom, Unfortunately there is very little knowledge on the effects of most spider venoms on dogs or other animals. There are even reports that common species that are relatively harmless to us, can kill dogs in seconds with a bite, and the species I am referring to here is the Walnut Orb-weaver, which is known to bite humans with little or no effect at all.
    But I would try baking soda as the venom is an acid, and soda being a base should go a long way towards neutralising it. Just be careful the soda doesn’t burn the dog’s skin.
    There is one reported case of a Golden Retriever dying from such a bite. The big problem is that our physiologies are so different. Unfortunately modern medical science has so far not found the effects of venom on dogs sufficiently financially interesting to conduct many (or any) studies. In fact, I would be more worried if medical scientists did, as they would almost certainly be injecting the dogs with the various venoms and watching the results, and a lot of creatures would suffer terribly in the experiment. I know I sound bleak, but such is my experience with the mentality of institutional science.

  40. My god Samuel I don’t have a question because you seemed to have answered everything. Your a very knowledgable person and answer all questions, good on you keep up the good work.

  41. Hi,
    We have a spider leaving under the ledge of our rent a bin outside our house. This spider is middle size maybe the size of a €2 coin. It’s marking are beautiful I have never seen a spider like it, it’s light brown and white strips. Body is white and light brown strips too. We notice it hanging from its large web during the day. I am no photo sorry, but my daughter loves spiders and I just would like to know more about the spider and if it may be dangerous? Also some of the spiders I have found in my home have two small things at their mouth, are these normal or does this mean they bite? Sorry for all the questions but I am not a big fan of spiders lol. Is it true distiller white vinegar mixed with water rubbed on your walls can keep spiders at bay? Thanks and this page is so full of great info.

  42. Thanks Michael! Kind comments like that could go to my head. I’m glad you found the information useful. Regards, Sam

  43. Hi Melissa,

    You have nothing to worry about. I’m about 100% certain what you have there is the Garden Spider, or Cross Spider, (Araneus diadematus). They are harmless to humans, but like all largish spiders would be capable of giving you a nip if they felt like it simply because of their size, but I’ve never met anyone who was bitten by one. At this time of year the females reach full size and string their big webs everywhere.

    As for the small things around their mouths, those are actually little hand-like limbs called palps. They use them for a variety of purposes, but you only notice them on the males, because they are club-shaped, because they also serve as sexual organs. The male has to take his sperm in one of these little hands and insert it directly into the female, usually while holding her fangs away from his body. It’s not easy being a spider!

    I hope that relieves your anxieties anyhow. If you need to know anything else please don’t be afraid to ask.

    Best regards,
    Sam

  44. Hi Dan,
    No need to worry, that’s the Missing-sector Orb-weaver, Zygiella x-notata, which builds a classic-type spider web. It’s completely harmless and a common natural Irish species. However, the larger False Widows do build their webs in the same places, so the more of these Zygiellas you have, the less real estate available for the False Widow. But you have nothing much to worry about False Widows either. When they find a good place they generally stay there. They don’t usually wander around the place, unless their habitat has been disturbed, and they are never aggressive. Bites almost only occur if they get caught up in clothing. A friend of mine was bitten in the nether-regions by a Steatoda grossa which had got into her underwear, and although painful, the pain immediately subsided when she applied some crushed dock leaves to the area, as the venom of the spider is an acid (as in the case of the related black widows) and the alkali of the dock leaf juice is a mild alkali. Baking soda should work too, although it can burn the skin of some people. I frequently handle false widows and have yet to be bitten (knock on wood!). Anyhow, I hope that sets your mind at ease.
    Best regards,
    Sam

  45. Hi Sam, A couple of months ago why painting the decking i noticed a strange looking spider.It was black with what looked like a skull on its back.I taught it was strange but then forgot about it untill recent reports of false black widows.I have 3 small kids who play regularly on the decking. Should i be concerned. Thank you. Amanda in Athlone

  46. Hi there I have a picture of a spider that looks like the false widow. I was wondering if I could send u it to see if you could confirm if it is or not or if you know if anywhere else I could send it please.

    Kind regards
    Jennifer

  47. Hi Amanda,

    It could very possibly be a Flase Widow, but they usually lie low by day. Only the males walk around the place, and usually only briefly at night to find females. Females will stay in the same webs for their whole lofespan if they can. They are also not all that venomous but it depends on the individual. Some people feel nothing, others get a sharp stinging. Dock leaves and bread soda diluted in water work brilliantly on false widow bites and completely neutralise the venom. The spiders very rarely bite, and won’t usually do so even when handled.
    Best regards,
    Sam

  48. You’re welcome, Amanda. Sorry for the bizarre typo ‘Flase Widow’ should of course be False Widow. Regards, Sam

  49. Hi,

    I was wondering, if this certain spider was to get into my house, should I try to kill it as I have 3 shitzus and also 2 young babies and i am worrried about them getting harmed, if there is is no safe way of catching them, how should I draw it outside without harming it?

  50. Hi Jordan,
    There’s absolutely no need to kill it. You probably won’t see this spider walking along the ground. They are very clumsy outside of their webs and mostly find it difficult to walk. They prefer to live outside in yards on walls and stuff. They are extremely easy to catch as they don’t run. If you touch this spider it rolls up in a ball and hopes you just go away. Just get a jam-jar, and put it over the spider, then slide a card underneath, lift it up and then let the spider drop into the jar. It will probably be rolled into a ball for the whole event. It’s a spider that doesn’t like confrontation. The effect of its venom on people is just an accident of biology. We don’t know if the venom has much of an effect on dogs or cats. It’s a venom very like the poison in a nettle sting or a bee sting. Don’t mind the ridiculous hype in the newspapers. Wasps are way more dangerous.
    I hope that allays your fears a little bit anyway.
    Regards,
    Sam

  51. Hi, I hate spiders and am really worried since I heard about the false widows coming to Ireland —- I killed a spider in my home the other evening, a large black one, I’m wondering what v=can I put in my home to keep them out? Is there a gadget??? or a smell they don’t like???? Thanks

  52. Hi Mary,

    Please don’t worry about the False Widows. They have been in Ireland in large numbers for at least 20 years, and they look pretty much like regular spiders, except a small bit larger than average, but still not as big as House Spiders. There is one thing I know of which will keep them out of your house, but you might not like it as it’s another spider. The Long-bodied Cellar Spider, aka Rafter Spider, aka Daddy-long-legs Spider eats them. It will actively pursue them if they enter the house. But False Widows usually prefer to be outside the house, so please don’t worry unnecessarily. On thing they don’t like is a clean house. If you dust regularly and don’t leave anything lying in the hall too long, they won’t want to be in your house.

    I hope that helps set your mind at ease, and sorry for the delay in my responding. Sam

  53. As an invasive species, shouldn’t we try to eliminate them. What impact will they have on native Irish flora and fauna? Is there anything else that will eat the false widow besides another spider? A bird perhaps? As MAry suggested, I would also like to know if there is a natural repellent.

  54. Hi Kerri,

    Sorry for the delayed response. Unfortunately the link brings me to a page I can’t access.

    Best regards,
    Sam

  55. Hi Shawna,

    Unfortunately I’m pretty sure it’s far too late to do anything about the arrival of these spiders in Ireland. It would be impossible to remove them as they breed so fast. The only way would have been to stop their entry at source, but that time has been past since about 1995 when the economic boom began. They are very common now. The Celtic Tiger spread them all over the island. With new housing estates springing up everywhere, armies of landscape gardeners transporting soil and plants en masse from abroad, we were lucky we didn’t get anything else more serious. These spiders are very hardy, but they are not a ‘problem’ as such. I first found one in 1996 and nobody was interested (despite the fact I was in a national newspaper and on local radio, and then later on national radio talking about them) until this summer when the Sun newspaper started their ‘deadly spider’ campaign, which was just nonsense anyway. They are not very dangerous at all.

    However, the invasive species issue could certainly be there, and if so then the species most likely to suffer will be the Missing-sector Orb-weaver spider, but they don’t seem bothered by them too much, as I find them both pretty much side-by-side in the same habitats. Birds do eat them, as with other spiders, and you can be pretty sure anything else that can will eat them, but now they have settled in it’s more of a practical problem. Ireland is still in the post-glacial recolonisation stage with our wildlife. There are still niches waiting to be filled. They False Widows are probably keeping more venomous spiders like the North American Black Widows form setting up home here. In parts of Northern Europe the False Widows didn’t manage to reach, there were a few Black Widow ‘outbreaks, such as southern Sweden. But in all honesty, there were already several species of true Widow spider living in Europe, including the quite venomous but little known White Widow, which is an inhabitant of Spain. The best way to keep them out is to keep a tidy house, shake out clothes from the clothes line and don’t leave items leaning against your house walls, as that provides their favourite habitat. Spiders will only set up home where nobody disturbs them. False Widows behave like most other spiders and are not much bigger. They are certainly more shy than most. And they have been here a long time now.

    Sorry if that’s not what you were hoping to be told, but you really don’t need to worry very much, although being aware is always a good thing where stings are concerned.

    Many thanks for your comment.
    Sam

  56. Hello there 🙂 wonderful information you have gathered here. I have captured 2 of the same kind of spider in recent weeks. I would upload a picture but my camera lacks focus at the level you would need to make an ID. I have done some research myself but would like a confirmation. It is about the size of a 50 cent coin spread out. Black body with brown legs and a pale cream like marking on the abdomen. It’s abdomen isn’t anywhere near as big as the female pictures I keep seeing so I’m assuming it is a male. The abdomen is also black apart from the marking. I released the first one out my back garden but have kept this one for personal study and identification. Any help would be wonderful and would you recommend me releasing this one soon? It has constructed a web in the jar and hangs on it upside down. Both appeared at night in my bedroom. First one running across my legs over the covers thankfully.

    The second one landing on my head as I was going to sleep. Should I be concerned about a possible nest? Again thanks for any help!

    -Anthony

  57. Hi Anthony,

    I does sound like you have a male Steatoda nobilis False Widow, especially as the spider was hanging upside down from a web, and has brown legs. The males seem relatively harmless, but they are certainly large enough to deliver a bite. I’m planning to do some stuff about spiders shortly which you might find useful. I actually got bitten on the face yesterday by a small Steatoda grossa and it came up like a little nettle sting. A crushed up dock leaf worked brilliantly on it and I can recommend it as a treatment and immediately brought the little swelling down. You can feel free to let the spider go outside away from your house. Like the big house spiders they wander around looking for females in autumn, so it is possible one is in your room somewhere. But she will generally stay put and won’t seek you out. But in spring she will be on the move and in winter will start to produce offspring, so they could colonise the house, although a good vacuuming under beds and tables and in corners usually takes care of them. I would recommend Mr. Muscle window cleaner as they seem to especially hate it, probably because of the vinegar content. Arachnids use vinegar-like acid as a deterrent so that’s probably the reason. If you would like to email me the photos we could arrange that too.

    I hope that helps somewhat,
    Sam

  58. Hi Sam,

    Your article on False widows and responses to queries are great and very informative.

    I found this spider in the bath today in Co.Clare took a quick photo before i put it outside in a Jar.After doing some research on the internet it appears to be a male Steatoda Grossa ?
    Would you be able to confirm ?

    If it is, should I be worried there is a female about somewhere inside the house. We live on an old victorian farm with lots of out buildings that aren’t really used anymore.

    http://s826.photobucket.com/user/BMBFilms/media/IMG_8004_zpsa324820a.jpg.html

    Many Thanks,
    Bryan

  59. Hi Bryan,

    You are exactly right, it is a male S. grossa. They differ a bit from the male S. nobilis in that they are very much a running spider, and pretty much run around everywhere in their quests to find females. There is a possibility you have a female in the house, but she could just as likely be on the house, or somewhere in the garden. These spiders are pretty much ubiquitous nowadays. I found one in a tiny seaside cottage in Connemara back in September 2009, which is really remarkable considering that the Long-bodied Cellar Spider has not even reached the west coast yet, and it’s very common on the eastern seaboard. The only real advice I can give is to hoover everywhere regularly. The spiders are not aggressive in any way, but they tend to appear in numbers and even the small ones have a sting to their bite. Dock leaves work brilliantly as a treatment, largely because the venom is an acid related to the acid nettles emply as a defence, dock leaf juice being a relatively mild alkali. It looks like we’re pretty much stuck with them, so we’ll have to adjust.

    Many thanks for the way you posted your comment, as it allows other readers to see the photo too so they get a good idea of the appearance.

    Best regards,
    Sam

  60. Hi Samuel I live in county Fermanagh and have found a few of spiders that are quite large ,brown with a single white stripe down its head and back and today I found one in my house, could you please tell me what type of spider it is to calm my nerves as I have small children. If you email me I’ll send you a picture I took of one. Thank you

  61. I have being bit by a spider 4 time always when weeding in my Polly tunnel it takes about 4weeks for the itch and pain to go it leaves two fang marks in my arm or hand the arm goes poison what kind of spider is it

  62. Hi Tony, It sounds like a false widow, probably Steatoda nobilis, which likes polytunnels and can withstand high temperatures. They are not quite as venomous as reported, but some people have allergies to their bites to different degrees. They are also very common now. I hope that helps, Sam

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