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It’s false widow madness
9:30am Wednesday 30th October 2013 in News
SPIDER exterminators in Oxford say they are getting between five and 10 calls every day from people terrified of false widow spiders.
The number of false widows in the county is set to rise.
But wildlife experts say the national media has been scaremongering, and more people die every year from wasp stings than have ever died from false widow bites.
Pest controller David Cooper, who works for Oxford-based Revival Environmental said: “I have found that I’m getting between five and ten calls per day from the public and commercial clients who are terrified of the impact to their home or business.”
He said his firm has been carrying out “huge projects” in eradicating infestations of the widow from locations including a school nursery and a large pub.
Dad-of-two Mark Cooper recently had a scare when he found a false widow in his Blackbird Leys home after taking his daughters Poppy, five, and Summer, three, to school.
He said: “I wasn’t worried about myself, but I am worried about them because their immune systems are not as strong as mine.”
Cotswold Wildlife Park’s reptile keeper James Reynolds said he recently received a call from a woman who said she could not sleep because of the fear of being bitten by one of the spiders.
He said: “It is the national media kicking up a storm about nothing.
“These spiders have been in the UK since the 19th century, and no one has ever died from being bitten by one.
“People react to their bites very differently, just as they do from bee and wasp stings.”
But, he said, unlike spider bites, 10 to 12 people die each year in allergic reaction to a bee or wasp sting.
False widows originate in the Canary Islands and may have arrived in England via banana shipments in the mid-19th century.
Mr Reynolds said: “To say they are not increasing is probably a lie. They are going further north purely because we are not getting the long, harsh winters that we used to which would kill them off.”
The false widow has a venomous bite, but this is normally no more painful than a bee or a wasp sting.
What to do
STEVE Sinclaire, of Revival Environmental, gives his advice for keeping the widow at bay: “In Oxfordshire, we have got a lot of pretty old gardens and cottages which spiders love to hibernate inside, and this is the time of year spiders start to come inside.
“It makes sense to clear away all the outside debris. Any areas where there are spider webs should be vacuumed away and washed down thoroughly.
Be a bit vigilant about keeping doors and windows shut, but be aware that if spiders want to get in, they will.”
If you have a picture of a spider you want identified email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01865 891394.
Oxford City Council has an advice page – search for “spiders” at oxford.gov.uk