Common false widow spider questions

Is the false widow spider common throughout Ireland?

Experts have noted that the Noble false widow spider is now the most common species found in urban areas of Ireland, and its prevalence is growing rapidly across the country.
Incredibly, it is now the most common spider found in Dublin. Ireland’s climate has proven to be especially habitable for the Noble false widow spider and experts in the field are amazed at how this spider has managed to take over so many suburban and urban habitats all throughout the country

When did the false widow spider arrive in Ireland?

It is believed that the Noble false widow spider spread across Europe from its native Madeira and Canary Islands, arriving in Ireland in 1997. The first reported case took place in Bray, Co Wicklow in the late 1990s. It is believed the false widow spiders were initially transported into Ireland contained in shipments of bananas.

Are the spiders here to stay?

All indications are pointing to the continued spread of the Noble false widow spider in Ireland. Experts in the field are tracking the spread of the spider, given how successful they’ve already been at adapting to Ireland’s climate and the sheer number of the False widow spiders already found here, the continued spread of the species will only intensify. The Irish population will need to learn to live with the False widow and it’s essential now that safe practices are adopted throughout the country.

How can people identify the false widow spider?

There are several species of spider that fall into the group known as the “false widows“. Noble false widow spiders have bulbous brown abdomens with cream coloured markings that are often compared to the shape of a human skull. Their legs are a reddish-orange colour, and the spiders are notable for their size, with adult females ranging between 9.5mm and 14mm in size, while males range between 7mm and 11mm in size.

Should people be concerned about getting bitten by a false widow spider?

Research carried out in the Venom Systems Laboratory in NUI Galway has shown the similarity between the venom of the Noble false widow and the black widow spider, warning that Noble false widow spider bites can have a severe impact on human health. The reality is that if you are unlucky enough to be bitten by a false widow spider in Ireland, a severe case can land you in hospital. To date, 16 people have been admitted to hospitals in Ireland with Noble false widow bites. The longest hospital stay from such a bite lasted one week, while the patient took three months to recover fully. Bites from a Noble false widow can produce mild symptoms, including swelling, pain and redness. Swelling can become intense in some instances and pain can become debilitating, while other more severe symptoms include tremors, changes in blood pressure, nausea, impaired mobility.

How do I treat a false widow spider bite?

Advice from to the National Poisons Information Centre in Beaumont:

  • Gently wash the affected area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold pack to the affected skin.
  • Contact the NPIC, GP or pharmacist if pain persists or swelling develops.
  • Seek medical attention for bites on or around the eye.
  • Seek urgent medical advice if vomiting, radiating pain and/or hot/cold flushes develop.

How can people avoid a bite?

If you identify a Noble false widow spider in your home, experts recommend that you capture it safely and release it outside of the house. If you have false widows in your home, you should have a quick look in your clothes, for example, when you are putting your clothes on in the morning and checking your bed sheets at night. Reported cases indicate that people have got bitten in their bed, during their sleep, or while putting their clothes on. So it is good practice to be extra vigilant if you’ve already had to remove a spider from your bedroom, as males have a tendency to enter your home in the Autumn looking for females, so where there is one spider there could be more. Look out for false widow webs that can be found in cracks in walls, inside drain pipes, in garden sheds and on triangular frames inside our homes. If you brush their webs away, the spiders should leave your home and build a web somewhere where it won’t be destroyed.

Where can people most commonly expect to find a False widow spider?

The spiders can be found year-round, both indoor and out. Studies have shown their prevalence in manmade steel, concrete or timber structures in urbanised areas.
Locations favored by false widows around your home include around windows and doors, in walls, down piping and gutters, drains, porches and sheds.

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False widow spider species in Ireland

The three most common false widow spiders in Ireland and Britain are Steatoda nobilis, Steatoda grossa, and Steatoda bipunctata.

Noble false widow spider

Steatoda nobilis

Cupboard spider

Steatoda grossa

Rabbit hutch spider

Steatoda bipunctata