|My Steatoda specimen (about 9mm long) showing the bulbous abdomen typical of the Theridiidae - also note the short hairs. The pattern shows a pale, ywllowish arc and spots on a purplish background.|
The Natural History Museum (NHM) receive enquiries about bites from Steatoda species, but spider-bites are uncommon in the UK (just a few reported each year); only 12 species are capable of biting humans (including the two Steatoda mentioned so far) out of a total of about 640 species. No-one has ever died of a spider-bite in the UK, and serious effects are rare (to be honest, true black widow bites are only occasionally fatal, though they are very painful and unpleasant). So, what should you do if you find a spider like Steatoda in the UK? Well, apart from temporarily incarcerating this specimen in order to take photos (it's now back in the shed along with other specimens, inlcuding males), I tend to leave them alone. If you want to handle them, it is easy to be careful by collecting them in a suitable container e.g. if you want to put them outdoors (or into the shed). Personally, I'm happy to leave them be, especially as I generally only see them when moving things around in the shed, at which point they flee and hide. Happy spidering!
|Here's looking at you - a dorsal view of the pearly eyes of S. grossa.|
Natural History Museum (2007). The truth about false widow spiders.[accessed 14/11/11]. Lots of snippets of info about this group of spiders in the UK.
Roberts, M.J. (1993). The Spiders of Great Britain and Ireland (compact ed.) (2 vols.). Harley, Colchester. This is the standard comprehensive work on spiders of the British Isles and is excellent, but it isn't cheap! There is a 2009 reprint by Apollo Books.