We’re really sorry to alarm you – and if you’re an arachnophobe then we’re doubly sorry – but there’s been an outbreak of creepy false widow spiders in London.
So far, seven schools in the capital have shut their doors because of infestations of the venomous critters.
Thousands of children have been forced to miss up to a month of lessons (which we’re sure they’re not complaining about) at Eastlea Community School, Lister Community School, Rokeby School, Star Primary School, Ellen Wilkinson Primary School, Monega Primary School and Earlham Primary.
But what do you need to know about the eight-legged arthropods and should we be so scared of them?
False widow spiders: What are they and how poisonous are they?
According to the Natural History Museum, false widow spiders can grow up to 11 millimetres in body length.
They have a venomous bite but the venom is not particularly potent – and any pain usually lasts between one and 12 hours.
Male spiders are more likely to bite you (because they’ll leave the nest in search of a mate) and they’re only known to bite when provoked or trapped against skin.
The extreme side effects of false widow bites are most likely the result of a secondary infection, likely bacterial, if the wound is not kept clean.
But one expert thinks we should all chill out a bit about the creepy crawlies.
Jan Beccaloni, curator of Arachnida and Myriapoda at the Natural History Museum, says: ‘During my time at the Natural History Museum I have, not surprisingly, met many people who are scared of spiders. That’s a great pity because spiders are awesome creatures which are sadly misunderstood.
’Aside from their key role in feeding on pest insect species, their silk is being developed to make specialist clothing such as bullet-proof vests and their venom can be used in pain relief.
’So next time you find an unwanted spider in your house, please don’t kill it! Either leave it in peace, or humanely put it out in your shed.’
False widow spiders: Has climate change made them more common?
The noble false widow spider, the most common variety, is not native to the UK but over the last three decades numbers of the spiders have dramatically increased.
They were once largely found in the south of England but sightings have become more common across the country – and climate change and warmer winters are likely contributing to this, according to experts.
False widow spiders: How to stop them invading your home
If you see a false widow spider, you can remove like you would any other pest using the old glass and piece of paper trick. But if you think you’ve got an infestation, you may want to contact a pest control service.
And to reduce the likelihood of false widows setting up camp in your home, make sure all doors and windows are draught-excluded, regularly remove cobwebs and vacuum, and generally clear away clutter from around your house.