Biting spiders

What does it look like?

False widow spider

False widow spider: They grow to 2 centimetres across and are a dark brown colour with a bulbous abdomen. This spider has a well-deserved reputation as Britains most dangerous spider, although there are no reported deaths and bites are quite rare. Adult female false widow spiders are known to have bitten humans, although they are not usually aggressive. Symptoms of a bite can range from a numb sensation to severe swelling and discomfort. In serious cases there can be various levels of burning or chest pains, which will depend on the amount of venom injected.

Lace web spider

Lace web spider: They are about two centimetress across when fully grown. They are brown with yellow markings on the abdomen. Usually found on outdoor walls and fencing, these spiders may enter your house in the autumn months or during heavy rainfall, sometimes to find a mate. Be on your guard when you see one of these spiders, as they have been known to bite people in recent years. Bites are reported to be painful but the symptoms usually just consist of localised swelling for around 12 hours.

Tube web spider

Tube web spider: They grow to a little over 2 centimetres across and are black all over. They originated in the Mediterranean but are now found in many areas of Britain. They like to hide in cracks in buildings and spin their tubular webs across them to catch their prey. Their bites feel like a deep injection with a needle and the pain lasts for several hours. Their bites, whilst extremely unpleasant, are not known to lead to lasting consequences.

Cupboard spider

Cupboard spiders: They are usually about 1 centimetre in length and a very dark colour, which can vary frm purple to brown to black. They are closely related to the false black widow spider and sometimes mistaken for that species. They are not usually aggressive, but if they bite humans the bite is very painful and the bitten area spreads out with a mass of blisters and you are likely to feel ill for several days. Visit your doctor if you are bitten by one of these.

Why is it dangerous?

There are over 650 different species of spiders in the UK – and all of them bite. Luckily, bites from spiders in the UK are rare. Only 12 of these species have enough venom that can cause harm to a human. These native spiders – such as the false widow spider – are capable of giving a nasty bite. The commonest types are pictured (above).


  • spider bites leave small puncture marks on the skin, which can be painful and cause redness and swelling
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • bites can also become infected and create extremely deep and painful sores
  • They can cause a severe allergic reaction in rare cases.

How can I avoid it?

  • Avoid handling spiders that you find in the countryside.
  • Do not pull or flick at leaves unnecessarily as you walk around.
  • Spiders often bite if you lie on grass and happen to sit, lie or place a hand over them.
  • Many spiders will happily enter houses or abandoned buildings. If you wish to remove them from your home, place a glass over them and slide a piece of cardboard underneath it so that yuo can safely throw them out without touching them. If you have a dangerous species in your home and are terrified of spiders, you can simply suck it up with your vacuum cleaner, although you should reflect that this is very cruel to the spider and it would be better to use a more humane method of removal if possible.

What to do if it bites me?

Get medical help immediately if you have any severe or worrying symptoms after a spider bite.

Sometimes, spider bites can cause a very large area of redness which can become septic. It is important to have this examined by your doctor and treated accordingly to avoid risk of complications.

More information

British Arachnological Society

False Widow spiders

Mirror newspaper: Ten common spiders found around Britain


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