1. ITV Report

Experts warn 'invasion' of false widow spiders likely in coming weeks

Homes across the country are set for an invasion of venomous false widow spiders, experts have warned, with a warm year making conditions ideal for a population boom.

The generally warm year with few cold snaps and no floods or droughts has meant there are more insects than usual for the poisonous arachnid to feed on - and as temperatures start to dip in the coming weeks, they are likely to start heading indoors in search of shelter and a mate.

A false widow spider Credit: PA

Clive Boase of the Pest Management Consultancy said Britain's population of false widows had been growing steadily in recent years.

Sightings of spiders often peak from September as males of many species reach adulthood and venture into homes in search of a mate, but we could be seeing a lot more of them than normal over the next month or two.

– Clive Boase, Pest Management Consultancy

False widow spiders were introduced to Britain from the Canary Islands more than 100 years ago, according to the Natural History Museum.

The species first established itself on the south coast, particularly in Dorset, Hampshire and Devon, but has significantly increased its foothold in the UK over the last 25 years.

They continue to colonise southern counties but are now becoming increasingly common in other parts of the country, with sightings as far north as Scotland.

While false widows have developed a fearsome reputation as Britain's most venomous spider, reports of bites remain rare.

They got their name through their resemblance to the deadly black widow spider, which has a nasty bite known to have been fatal to humans but which are not found in the UK.

Black widows are particularly common in Australia.

The false widow is nowhere near as deadly as its namesake - the highly dangerous black widow (pictured) Credit: Reuters

Mr Boase said climate change and the warmer conditions it brings has been a major factor in the growth of the species:

The population of false widows in the UK is growing all the time. In fact, people don't realise just how common they have become. There are half-a-dozen different species of the false widow and they can survive both indoors and outdoors. They prefer suburban areas and are most commonly found around domestic and commercial premises.

They love conservatories and toilet blocks, window frames, porches, lofts and garages and they like to live beneath kitchen appliances and cupboards.

They are generally shy creatures and won't come out into the open, but they could crawl into curtains or perhaps clothing left on the floor.

They certainly can give a painful bite, but there have been very few reports of that happening as they will only do so as a last resort.

Bites usually result from handling the spider roughly or perhaps having it trapped between clothing and skin.

– Clive Boase

Rob Simpson, manager of pest controllers register BASIS PROMPT, says simple precautions can be taken to reduce the likelihood of false widows.

He says keeping homes clean and tidy, sealing up cracks or holes in doors and windows and removing plants or debris from the outside of houses will help.

Spiders will have fewer places to hide if you keep clutter to a minimum, so I would say keep your house tidy and vacuum regularly.

You can spray dark corners of the home with pesticides and there's an old wives tale about placing conkers on window sills, but I'm not sure that works.

– Rob Simpson

Homeowners or businesses keen to rid themselves of a spider infestation should seek professional advice, he added.

False widows can grow up to 3cm across, including the legs, and are distinguished by their shiny, black, bulbous bodies and markings which look like a skull on their abdomens.