People across the UK have reported a surge in spider numbers thanks to weather and lockdown conditions – including an increase in the number of venomous false widows.
Experts say the quieter lockdown conditions and the fact more people are at home cleaning their gardens, houses and sheds is responsible for the increase – as well as recent warm weather.
A spokesman for the British Arachnological Society (BAS) said: “We have had a huge increase in sightings of all species associated with the house and garden.
“False widows are a small proportion of current incoming records but we already know that the species are very widespread and well established across the southern half of Britain.
“The overall increase is undoubtedly a direct result of the lockdown. Many more people are at home and making the best of enjoying the company of their local wildlife.
“We can quantify our increase in traffic on Twitter but not the change in numbers of records for different species via this route.
“Virtually everyone asking us about false widows is reassured to have factual information, and most think the spiders themselves are beautiful.”
False widows’ painful bite can put a victim in hospital. They arrived in the UK 150 years ago in bananas from the Canary Islands.
Worried householders have uploaded images of the centimetre-long arachnids to social media.
Dan Guilliatt posted a picture asking: “Our shed has turned into spider heaven in this spell of warm weather and I’m curious to know if this is a false widow spider?”
Redfrosty7 posted: “This false widow was in my next-door neighbour’s shed. I’d have burnt the whole thing down.”
False widows – Steatoda Nobilis – are Britain’s most venomous spider.
They have a distinctive jet black colouring and a white marking on their abdomen.
In recent years their numbers have rocketed thanks to climate change bringing milder winters.
Their bite can lead to severe swelling which in the worst cases, can result in the person being hospitalised.
But the British Pest Control Association has reassured people that despite their menacing appearance, false widow spiders are unlikely to cause harm.
The BAS is now running a survey during lockdown and is asking people to record the types of spiders they find at home.