False Widow spiders are invading Ireland - and it's a potential health risk

False Widow spiders are invading Ireland - and it's a potential health risk

THE False Widow spider is invading Ireland, having a detrimental effect on the native Irish species and causing a potential health risk, researchers have found. 

The study was carried out by researchers from NUI Galway as they published the world's first identification guide to bites from the False Widow spider.

The False Widow spider arrived in Britain about 100 years ago and has steadily invaded Ireland over the past 20 years.

This particular species of spider is having a detrimental effect on other local species and spiders in Ireland because of their competitiveness and fast breeding nature.

The False Widow lives for five to seven years whereas most other spider and bug species in Ireland only lives for a maximum of one year.

Living close to buildings and houses inhabited by people, the spiders can only survive in cities, not in rural areas, and are most common in Dublin, Cork and Wexford.

Led by Dr Michel Dugon, the research team based at the Venom Systems and Proteomics laboratory in NUI Galway made the discovery while investigating the potential of local bugs that included the venom from the False Widow spider, as a source of novel therapeutics to develop medication to treat illnesses ranging from bacterial infection to cancer.

This is the only laboratory in the world currently working on extracting venom from The False Widow spider for potential therapies.

The first true case of a False Widow spider bite was identified in Britain in the 1990’s and in Chile last year. There has since been five additional reported cases, three in Ireland and two in Britain, leading to the NUI Galway study being the most intensive research carried out on this species to date.

Bites from a False Widow spider are not fatal with identified symptoms resulting in a large swelling within three minutes of being bitten, sometimes followed by the formation of a dry necrotic wound when the swelling subside, and inflammation for a few days afterwards.

Dr Dugon said: “While it is extremely unlikely that a bite will ever be fatal, we do need to consider bites from False Widows as a potential health risk given the increase of this species not just in the UK and Ireland but also mainland Europe and the US.

"We hope that our study will help to address some of the public’s concerns about these spiders and will provide healthcare professionals with the information required to accurately diagnose and report bites associated with the False Widow."