False Black Widow Spiders Spotted in East Cork Villages

By Seamus Whelehan

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Residents in two East Cork villages have issued a warning after a series of False Black Widow spiders invaded their homes.

The warning from villagers in Ballinacurra and Carritwohill follows recent reports in Waterford of people requiring medical attention for severe bites, with one woman spending 6 days in hospital.

Chris Carr and Slava O’Criodain sent in these photographs of the spiders.

Mr Carr said he spotted at least seven living above his front door while Mr O’Criodain had a nest living in both his parents shed and boiler house.

The False Black Widow is said to be Ireland’s most venomous arachnid, but being bitten by one is not very common.

There are over 370 species of spiders in Ireland, all of which can bite, but very few have enough venom to cause harm.

The False Black Widow looks very similar to a Black Widow spider, and has been in Ireland since the late 1990’s.  It comes originally from the Canary Islands.

The arachnid has distinctive cream markings on its rounded body, and is brown with reddish orange legs.

Spider venom investigator, Dr Michael Dugon at Galway University’s Venom Systems Lab, has asked anyone who has been bitten by the spider to contact his laboratory.

The False Black Widow is believed to be found in 18 Irish counties. They thrive very well in urban centres but do not survive in a rural setting.

Dr Dugon says the bite of the False Black, a spider the size of a €2 coin, can cause a very sharp and intense pain.

“In most cases, victims will complain of fairly mellow symptoms, but we do have some patients who complain of swelling, goose bumps, chills, sweats and fever.”

He says as far as he is aware a bite from the False Widow has not yet killed anyone, and will only bite if threatened.

“If a False Widow is squeezed between your skin and your clothes, it will defend itself because it thinks it’s under attack. If a spider happens to be in your bed and you turn over and squeeze it between your bed sheet and skin it will bite.”

So What Should You Do If Bitten By The Creepy Crawley?

Dr Dugon recommends the victim keeps the spider even if it’s dead, contact the NUIG Lab and seek medical assistance if you develop swelling, experience extensive redness or if you feel ill.

Rather than killing the spider, the expert advises to safely place it in a glass and throw it outside, as people can easily mistake them over other harmless native spiders.

How to know if you have been bitten - A bite from a False Widow can lead to Steatodism syndrome which has the following symptoms:

Fast onset of a moderate to intense pain around the bite site extending to the entire limb.

Redness of the skin around the bite site, quickly extending to the whole limb.

Swelling around the bite also extending rapidly to the entire limb.

Goose bumps, chills, sweats, fever, sickness and a cramping sensation as the venom affects the nervous system.

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