Biting spiders

What do they 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 Britain’s most dangerous spider. The spiders are not usually aggressive although adult female false widow spiders are known to have bitten humans. 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. Bites are reported to be painful but the symptoms usually 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 complications.

Cupboard spider

Cupboard spiders: They are usually about 1 centimetre in length and a very dark colour, which can vary from 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 area around the bite  spreads out with a mass of blisters. You are likely to feel ill for several days. Visit your doctor if you are bitten by one of these spiders.

Why is it dangerous?

The false widow spider, a newcomer to Britain, is thought to have caused its first death in Britan in 2014. Luckily, bites from spiders in the UK are rare, and only 12 species have enough venom to cause potentially serious harm to a human. The most dangerous of these spiders are pictured (above).

There are over 650 different species of spiders in the UK – and all of them bite. Even the non-deadly spiders can give bites which become infected and need antibiotic treatment. 


  • spider bites leave small red puncture marks on the skin
  • The site of the bite will be painful, red and swollen
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • Bites can also become infected and create extremely deep and painful sores which require treatment in hospital
  • They can cause a severe allergic reaction in rare cases

How can I avoid it?

  • Avoid handling spiders that you find in the countryside.
  • 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 you 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 or use a humane bug buster.

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 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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