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Are False Widow spiders in Sheffield? Your pictures and the expert’s verdict

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Nasty spiders with a horror bite - lots of Sheffielders claim to have seen false widow spiders but are they really here?

That’s the message from a Sheffield spider expert after The Star was flooded with photos of our eight-legged friends.

Readers got in touch with pictures of creepy-crawlies after our story about housewife Michelle Beet, of Parson Cross, who thought she might have discovered a poisonous noble false widow spider in her garden.

The species, whose bite is as bad as being stung by a bee and can cause an allergic reaction, is common in the south and south east and is slowly spreading north.

But Alistair McLean, Curator of Natural Sciences at Museums Sheffield, has stepped in to allay people’s fears.

He said: “The spider in yesterday’s Star is almost definitely a common garden cross spider, identifiable by a marking on its back in the shape of a cross.

“I fear now people are going to go around killing spiders – a majority of which are completely harmless and actually a benefit to our local ecosystem.”

Alistair says cross spiders actually eat wasps and it is common around this time of year for the females to get ‘big and bulbous’ – so catching a glimpse of one can be quite frightening.

Requests to identify spiders is the most common enquiry at the museum, with the experts receiving up to 15 calls every September.

Alistair said: “The cross spider is really common – it is the most common species of spider to be spotted around your garden. They appear a little more scary around this time of year because they grow big and chunky.”

 

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