Several North Devon residents believe they have spotted the UK’s ‘most venomous’ spider in their home.
Sightings of the potentially deadly false widow spider are on the increase and it is believed the arachnids are spreading across the country as dropping temperatures attract them into homes.
The purple and black spiders, which have abdomens the size of a 1p piece, generally live in walls, fences and the barks of trees.
A bite from a false widow can cause swelling, pins and needles and minor chest pains to humans, according to Tony Wileman, a conservation ecologist at the London Wildlife Trust.
Several readers have got in touch with the Journal to tell us of potential sightings in North Devon.
Tammy Knox, who sent in these photos (above), claims to have spotted several false widows in her garden in Northam.
She said: “There's quite a few. A couple are very large and blacker in colour and they hang upside down from the green bin and the shed. They come out at night and can easily be found with a torch and some courage!”
Emma Stratton, from Bideford, said she and her husband have found several black widows in their bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and garage.
She said: “It was the intricate web that was interesting. We captured the spider in a jar and researched it on the internet and found it to be a false widow. The children were really interested in it and we obviously made them aware that it could give a nasty bite so they should not attempt to pick up these spiders. We released the spider outside in a field next to our house.
“Since then we have found a further three in our bedroom, another two in the bathroom, one in the kitchen and several in the garage.
“It's all rather scary to me as I do have a phobia of spiders but have not, until now, been worried that they would bite. What I dislike about spiders is how quickly they move.
“My husband & I thought back over the time we have lived here & we can think of at least two others found in the past.”
Environmentalist Matt Shardlow, of conservation charity Buglife, said both global warming and natural evolution could be to blame for the spiders’ alarming rate of migration.
He said: “The false widow has long been prevalent across much of the south-west because of the milder temperatures.
“They come from warm countries and are usually killed off by our cold weather.
“But climate change may have helped and the species would have also adapted and evolved to cope with the colder weather.”
Anyone bitten by a spider thought to be false widow should visit A&E or a GP immediately.
Have you spotted a false widow spider in North Devon? Contact the Journal on 01271 342432 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.