Toxic false widow spiders in Sutton: Nursery calls pest control

Poisonous spiders related to the notoriously deadly black widow have arrived in Sutton - with one of the first outbreaks happening at a nursery.

False widow spiders - the most venomous arachnids in the UK - can cause painful swellings and burning sensations with their bite and have been spreading in south east London and Essex but now they have been spotted in Sutton and North Cheam.

The spiders, which are recognisable by their thick legs and bulbous abdomens, have been spotted getting into the kidsunlimited nursery in North Cheam and in a building in Sherwood Park Road, Sutton.

If anyone spots the creepy-crawlies, Sutton Council has advised that they kill them with insecticide.

The creatures were spotted at kidsunlimited in London Road last week.

One parent, who asked not to be named, said: "I was pretty shocked when I got the message. I had no idea these things even happened here - I didn't think we had poisonous creatures like that.

"I'm not worried about leaving [my child] there because I trust the nursery to keep it safe for them but it has freaked me out a bit - every time I see any bugs or anything I'm doing a double take."

A spokesman for the nursery said: "We have taken professional advice from our pest control agency regarding the most effective way of dealing with the spiders which are entering the premises.

"Any treatment that we are applying is being done with the utmost care, ensuring there is no risk to the children or staff in the nursery."

The spiders are not native to the UK but colonies have existed since it arrived here from the Canary Islands in the 1870s.

They are recognisable by their shiny black skin, bulbous abdomen and thick legs that are often black or sometimes red.

Some have cream-coloured patterns on their backs. Their bite usually causes swelling and a burning sensation but have caused people to black out.

The markings on false widow spiders can vary

The Sutton Guardian's resident nature expert Tony Drakeford said: "They aren't native but these days we've got more and more alien creatures living here as it gets warmer.

"It's unfortunate, but the best thing to do if you see one of these things running under your bed is to clobber it. It's the safest thing to do to stop them spreading."

Councillor Jill Whitehead, chairman of Sutton Council's environement and neighbourhood committee, said: "We’d advise anyone who believes they have one of these spiders in their homes to avoid contact with them and carefully spray insecticide.

"If residents do not feel comfortable doing this then they can contact our pest control team and pay for them to get rid of the spiders."

False widow spider factfile

Latin name: Steatoda nobilis

Found: Southern and central Europe, southern England with recent sightings in south-east London and Essex

Habitat: Houses and outbuildings. They like heights so prefer the upper stories of houses to make their webs and usually come out at night

Food: Flies and other insects

Size: Females can be up to 3cm long, males are about half the size. Both sexes bite

Life: Females can live for three years, males one year. They are one of just four species that can live in our homes and find food

Courtesy of the Local Guardian