False widow spider fears in Sheffield

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Housewife Michelle Beet came across this suspicious-looking spider on the washing line in her garden on Deerlands Mount in Parson Cross, Sheffield.

Spider found in Parson Cross. Is it the white widow?

Spider found in Parson Cross. Is it the white widow?

It looked so strange that it immediately raised fears that the creepy-crawly could be a poisonous noble false widow spider – the country’s most deadly arachnid.


The species, common in the south and south east, is said to be steadily spreading north with recent sightings in Norfolk, Birmingham and even Scotland.

Get bitten by one and you’ll certainly know about it – it’s as bad as being stung by a bee, but in some people sparks allergic reactions that can be far more serious.

Spider found in Parson Cross. Is it the white widow?

Spider found in Parson Cross. Is it the white widow?

Michelle, aged 37, said she’d been out in the garden with her washing when she saw the creature.

“It caught my eye as I’d never seen a spider in my life like that before,” she said.

“It was big and fat and about an inch long. I put a photo up on Facebook and it got a big response.”

The mum-of-three said there had been several alternative suggestions to the false widow hypothesis, so the jury was still out on the spider’s species.

“I’m not a spider fan anyway so I left it well alone. It was just such a size,” Michelle added.

False widows are related to deadly black widow spiders and are usually no bigger than a 20p piece.

They have a dark, shiny body with pale markings and a cream band on their abdomen and are usually found in outbuildings.

The creatures tend to be found more commonly in southern England and experts believe they arrived from the Canary Islands more than 100 years ago.

But it is thought they are now spreading further north due to climate change and aided by the warm early autumn weather.

Despite their reputation, it is fairly rare to be bitten by the spiders as they attack only in self-defence.