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A new spider comes to visit

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 05 Jan 2014 at 04:04 PM

During the recent stormy weather, I haven’t been outside much and have instead been looking at garden wildlife out of the window. You can’t see a lot that way, but the birds seem pretty active and the sparrows, if anything, are noisier than ever. Living in an old stone converted stable block with mature trees and gardens nearby means that a fair bit of wildlife comes in through the windows, so there is the (possibly dubious) advantage of examining some of it close up and without getting rained on. We get woodlice aplenty, moths, daddy longlegs, a few flies, wasps, bees and a great many spiders. Close-up spider images follow the one below...


A couple of days ago, a new and rather attractive spider appeared in the house. I found it behind a mirror propped against a wall in a corner of the bedroom and, judging by the cobwebs, it had probably been there for a while. It had a round, black, shiny body and long, fast moving legs with little hairs on them. As I hadn’t seen one close-up before, I quickly put it in a jar and took it off for a better look and to find out its name. It was a 'cupboard spider' of the genus Steatoda, this one being Steatoda grossa.





When I looked for more information on the website of the British Arachnological Society, I found out that Steatoda grossa has a taste for woodlice, which explained the spider’s retreat being above a scattering of woodlouse carcases on the floor. If I hadn’t moved the mirror, I may never have known it was there. Steatoda grossa can give you a nip (the Natural History Museum has confirmed records of ten bites over a period of eight years), but only if mishandled; they aren’t aggressive and, like most spiders, they are far more afraid of you than you are of them.





Spiders of the Steatoda genus are also known as 'false widow spiders'. The noble false widow, Steatoda nobilis, is often mistaken for a black widow spider (Latrodectus spp), which don’t live in the UK, but are occasionally imported by accident. Steatoda nobilis have been in the news recently and there is regular poorly-informed scare-mongering in the media about terrified people discovering ‘nests’ of them (spiders don’t form nests) or needing antibiotics after being bitten (the antibiotics would be needed because the bite got infected with bacteria; if the spider bite was to blame, an anti-venom would have been given). Apparently it’s the markings that confuse people, but if you see pictures of false black widow and true black widow spiders side by side, they don’t really look much alike at all. 




If you’d like to add to the British Arachnological Society’s records, the society has put up a site for contributing pictures, records and notes. There is a lot of useful information there, as well as on the main BAS website, and helpful society members will advise on identification. 


richardpeeej said:

A really interesting read Miranda, and great close-up pictures. The little spider is not is much drier indoors these days ;-)

on 06 Jan 2014 at 01:31 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Hopefully all the spiders are tucked up somewhere in this very wet weather, Richard!

on 07 Jan 2014 at 09:43 AM