Halloween creepy crawlies are harmless

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With spiders getting some bad press this Halloween with reports of venomous species invading Britain, it’s no wonder that islanders have been keeping a closer eye on the creepy crawlies round their homes!

This scary looking fellow, caught on camera by a Gazette reader, is not a False Widow spider, according to Chris Catherine, South Scotland Area Organiser for the Spider Recording Scheme and Director of Caledonian Conseration Ltd but is a harmless garden-cross spider.

False widows aren’t native to the UK but are thought to have been introduced in the late 1800s by ships travelling from the Canary Islands to Torquay in Devon. They can bite and cause some uncomfortable symptoms and even caused the closure of a school in Gloucestershire last month.

The species has spread across the south of England over the past 20 years and conservationist believe the changing climate could be playing a role.

Commenting on the picture, Mr Catherine said: “The spider looks to be the garden-cross spider Araneus diadematus - a common orb-weaver (Araneid) which is totally harmless.

“The majority of UK spiders are venomous, but do not have fangs long enough to pierce human skin. The fangs on this spider are way too small to give a human a ‘bite’.”

Of the False Widows he said they can be identified as they are big and very dark and is part of the Theridid family of spiders who make tangle webs arther than orb webs.
He said: “It lives on the web, and so is unlikely to bother anyone unless it is disturbed. The bite is no worse than a bee sting, unless the person has an allergy to the venom. As with any spider, the best thing to do is to simply leave them alone.
“It’s very unlikely the false widow would become established outdoors anywhere in Scotland with the current climate. It may survive in greenhouses, as do some other exotic invertebrates. It may be transported to Scotland from England by people and trade, just as it arrived in England!”