Thursday, 17 October 2013

UK Window Cleaners Getting The Jeebies Over False Black Widow

Up a ladder - A huge scar on Ricki Whitmore's thigh after he had to undergo emergency surgery after being bitten by the UK's most venomous spider, the false widow.
'I'm lucky to still have my leg': Decorator suffers horrific wound inflicted by poisonous spider that is plaguing Britain: A decorator almost lost his leg and will have to learn to walk again after he suffered a horrific bite from Britain's most poisonous spider. Ricki Whitmore, 39, was injured when he disturbed a nest of flesh-eating false widows while working at a school and will be off his feet for six months. Surgeons were forced to slice open his leg and flush out the venom after his thigh swelled to twice its normal size.

Experts said today that 10million of the spiders - a cousin of the deadly black widow - could be swarming around Britain and heading into homes to escape the cold. Mr Whitmore, from Romford in Essex, will now have to undergo six months of specialist physiotherapy and admitted: 'I am just lucky to still have my leg'. 'There was a really sharp pain and then my leg started to throb.' 'I managed to get home, but by the time I arrived my thigh had swollen to twice its normal size. 'They tried to put a drain in his thigh. The skin ruptured and pus oozed out. It was revolting – it smelt like someone had died.'


He is one of a number of people across the UK to suffer nasty bites from the spideramid fears that numbers are soaring. With temperatures outside plummeting as the winter months approach, millions of the spiders could make their way into homes across the country to escape the cold. Traditionally they were only found in the south of England, but there nests being found in Wales and Scotland. Mr Whitmore told how he was attacked by the spider, which can bite when threatened, because he never normally kills the creatures and instead tried to brush it out of the way as he worked.

Experts believe that the spiders my be thriving in the UK because of a wet start to the summer followed by a heatwave.  Long-term climate change may also be to blame, leading spiders to set up home in new areas. But some experts say many sightings of false widows could in fact be the common house spider. False widows are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns on their backs.

A 22-year-old footballer from Devon also needed emergency surgery after a nasty bite from the spider. Steve Harris was left with a massive gash in his side after doctors had to cut away the poisoned section of his body. Steve said: 'When I woke up I had a pain in my side - a stinging feeling. I didn't take that much notice until it started swelling and the pain got worse. 'I was in agony. I have never had pain like that before in my life. It's still very painful now. I still can't sleep properly and find it virtually impossible to get in and out of a car.'

The image is being sent to experts to verify whether or not it is the Steatoda Grossa.
False Black Widow spider spotted near Lincoln? A concerned resident has photographed what he believes is a False Widow spider near Lincoln. The spider was spotted in Welton which is around six miles north of Lincoln. The image is being sent to experts to verify whether or not it is the Steatoda Grossa.

An actual False Widow spider.
An actual False Widow spider: Jim Tweedle, who runs JC Exotics, in Rosemary Lane, off Monks Road, says the venomous creatures - a cousin of the infamous black widow spider – are no strangers to these shores. He said: “False widows have been in the UK for over 140 years and they are here in Lincolnshire. "They have not suddenly just arrived. “But with more and more houses being built their habitats shrink and our houses become their habitats. "There's always a risk of being bitten by a spider be it a wild domestic spider or a foreign one. "Someone with a reduced immune system or allergy related to bites or stings could have a problem. "But there's a lot of panic being caused at the moment about false widows which I think is being blown out of all proportion."

The false widow spider that Jonny Green caught.
Meet Tilly the False Widow - the UK's most venomous spider found in a Redcar home: A dad has caught one of Britain’s most poisonous spiders - whose toxic venom can cause flesh to rot. Jonny Green has captured a potentially deadly false widow spider, which has the worst bite out of every spider species in the UK. The spider - which Jonny has affectionately called Tilly - is the same breed which recently hit the headlines after biting Essex dad-of-three Ricki Whitmore. The 39-year-old decorator spent weeks in hospital and reportedly faced the possibility of having his leg amputated after he was attacked by the potentially deadly false widow spider. But although Jonny, a dad-of-two from Redcar, says Tilly is “feisty” he is keeping her in a plastic tub in his living room after finding her in his hallway. The 28-year-old said: “I came in after walking the dogs and when I opened the door I saw it sat there. I went to move it with my foot and it chucked a web. It was swinging off my foot. I didn’t want to kill it as I didn’t think it was a normal spider.”

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False Widow Spider Gives Boy 'Red Raw' Wound: A schoolboy who was bitten by Britain's most venomous spider has said the creature left him with a "red raw" wound and a "burning sensation" in his arm. William Fraser was bitten by the flesh-eating false widow spider as he slept at his home in Sutton, south London. The spiders are on the march in Britain, migrating from southern England, where they are most commonly found, to counties further north. "My arm was swollen," William told Sky News. "It was hot and I felt faint. "My forearm was red raw and I could feel this burning sensation before a blister appeared."

The bites are the latest to involve the false widow, or Steatoda nobilis, which is thought to have arrived in Britain from the Canary Islands more than 100 years ago. An amateur footballer from Dawlish in Devon was left unable to play after a bite meant he required emergency surgery. Meanwhile, a mum in Hirwaun near Aberdare, south Wales, has described stumbling across a nest of 50 of the spiders outside her garden shed. The false widow can cause serious allergic reactions but is less venomous than its more famous cousin, the black widow. There are no reports of anyone having been killed by the species.

James Reynolds, who works at Cotswold Wildlife Park in Burford, Oxfordshire, said the spider is "not too dangerous", although reactions to bites can vary from person to person. "They give you a bad bite and you might experience some swelling or some chest pains," he said. "But I wouldn't be concerned at all. They're not aggressive and although they can be found around garden sheds, they're not often seen in built- up areas."

Typical social media message.
Warning Message About False Widow Spider in UK Social media driven message warns UK residents that venom from a spider called the False Widow that is now in the UK can cause amputations if bites are not properly treated. The false widow spider is real and they are capable of biting humans. The spider's venom can sometimes cause health issues for humans, but bites usually do not have long lasting effects. The spider is not new to the UK as implied in the warning, although it is now spreading further than previously. While there have been sensationalist media articles that describe significant wounds allegedly caused by the spider's venom, there are no credible reports about amputations and no reported deaths.

Detailed Analysis According to a warning that is spreading rapidly via Facebook and other social media outlets, UK residents should watch out for the False Widow spider. The message warns that bites from the spider can lead to amputations. The wording of the message implies that the spider is new to the UK. The False Widow is a real spider and it can indeed be found in the UK. And venom from the spider's bite is medically significant to humans. There are several spiders in the UK that are known as False Widow spiders because of their resemblance to the more dangerous Black Widow spiders. The type of False Widow featured in this warning is Steatoda nobilis.

Information about the species on the UK's Natural History Museum website explains: Adult spiders are capable of biting humans. Spiders are not aggressive and most injuries to humans are defensive bites delivered when a spider becomes unintentionally squeezed or pinched. The bite of the false widow spider can be medically significant in humans, but usually without any long-lasting effects. Reports from those bitten describe a certain amount of pain, which often radiates along the limb or part of the body where bitten, and often a degree of swelling in the affected part. Some describe fever and a general feeling of being unwell. These symptoms may last for a couple of days but the total effect is unlikely to be more serious than that.

There have been sensationalized media reports about significant injuries supposedly caused by bites from the spider. A 2012 Daily Mail article describes a case in which a woman was told by doctors that her hand might need to be amputated after she was allegedly bitten by one of the spiders. In another 2012 case reported by The Sun, a man in Yorkshire was told that he might lose his arm after he was allegedly bitten by a False Widow while gardening. However, in neither case was a False Widow actually proven to be the cause of the injuries. And, both victims later recovered without the need for amputations. In another case, a young father collapsed and was taken to hospital after he was bitten multiple times by a False Widow that was in his clothing. The man also recovered without long term effects. But, as noted, in most cases bites from the spider are comparatively minor. Of course, just as some people may have adverse and non-typical reactions to bites from bees or other insects, some victims of False Widow bites may experience more serious reactions.

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