False Black Widow Spiders have a similar shape to Widow Spiders. Females are larger than males and measure up to 15 millimetres while the males measure up to 10 millimetres. False Black Widow Spiders have round, bulbous abdomens. The males body is thinner and more elongate than the females, however, the colour pattern is similar. Not all Steatoda species resemble widows – many have distinct colouring and are significantly smaller. Most False Black Widow Spiders are a brownish colour with pale markings. Apart from the colour differences from the Black Widow spider (Latrodectus), False Black Widow Spiders have teeth on their chelicerae (mouth parts found in arachnids, Merostomata (horseshoe crabs) and Pycnogonida (sea spiders).
False Black Widow Spider Habitat and Spider Webs
False Black Widow Spiders are usually found in walls, fences and the bark of trees and are also common around dwellings and gardens as well as under rocks and wood. Sheds or garages are a favourite haunt as they can lead a relatively undisturbed life with a good food source.
Originally a native of southern Europe as far east as Georgia. Adults occur from June to November. False Black Widow Spiders construct a cobweb of an irregular tangle of sticky silken fibres. As with other web-weaving spiders, False Black Widow Spiders have very poor eyesight and depend mostly on vibrations reaching them through their webs to orient themselves to prey or warn them of danger such as larger animals that could injure or kill them. False Black Widow Spiders are not aggressive spiders and most injuries to humans are due to defensive bites delivered when a spider gets accidentally disturbed. It is possible that some bites may result when a spider mistakes a finger thrust into its web for its normal prey, however, intrusion by any large creature will normally cause these spiders to flee. False Black Widow Spiders are now increasing in numbers in the United Kingdom due to global warming. There have been confirmed sightings in Westbourne, Parkstone, Alder Hills and Boscombe and further afield in February 2012 a young Father was bitten by a False Black Widow spider in Southampton, which made the news headlines.
False Black Widow Spider Diet
Some species of False Black Widow Spiders will actually prey on Black Widow Spiders, as well as other spiders which are considered hazardous to humans. The diet consists mainly of crawling insects, especially isopods (woodlice).
False Black Widow Spider Reproduction
False Black Widow Spiders mate in the spring and the females can produce three or more egg sacs or cocoons from May through to July. Each sac can contain 200 or more cream-coloured eggs. Although the males can live for up to 18 months, they die shortly after mating. All stages of the immature spiders can be found in human-made structures throughout the year, as can the adults.
False Black Widow Spider Venom
The bite itself from the False Black Widow Spider is not usually felt, however, within a short space of time, a local burning sensation is followed by radiating pain. Within 20 minutes, the affected part will swell and develop a weal. If bitten on the hand, within 3 – 4 hours, swelling will develop and tingling will be felt. Two small puncture wounds in the region of the swelling, surrounded by local abnormal redness of the skin with a small bluish tinge will occur a few hours later.
Bites by the False Black Widow Spider generally do not have any long-lasting effects. The symptoms associated with the bite of several False Black Widow Spider species are known in the medical profession as ‘steatodism’ and have been described as a less severe form of latrodectism (the symptoms associated with a widow spider bite). The Redback Spider antivenin has been shown to be effective at treating bites from False Black Widow Spiders, after it was mistakenly administered to a bite victim who was incorrectly believed to have been bitten by the far more dangerous Redback Spider. Frequency of bites from False Black Widow Spiders have increased as the species spreads into the south and east of England including Devon and Dorset.
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