Steatoda nobilis

This introduced species probably arrived in the UK carried on bananas from Madeira and the Canary Islands.

The noble false widow was first recorded in the UK in the 1870s and many more times over the following decades, though these were always considered isolated examples that had arrived with imported goods. 

However, since the mid-1980s it appears that this species gained a strong foothold in the UK establishing local populations in Devon, Hampshire, Dorset and Essex.

Habitat

This spider usually prefers to make its web in aerial positions and at least 1.5-2 metres above the ground, and frequently much higher, such as on sheds, greenhouses, fence panels, trellising and inside porches. 

Inside homes they have a distinct preference for conservatories, where they will live comfortably near the top, and also in kitchens. 

This is only one of only a handful of UK species that will live comfortably in our homes all year round and is strongly associated with man and the urban environment.

Web

The web is not a classic orb-web, but is a three-dimensional tangle of threads, which can be quite large and is characteristically strong in this species. 

UK distribution

Since the mid-1980s this spider has increased its range and distribution very rapidly. Within five years it colonised much of the south coast and over the next 10 years steadily gained ground northwards year on year. 

It has also established more northerly populations, notably in Leicestershire where it has probably benefited from the transportation of containers and goods by lorry.

It is now firmly established in most southern counties, where it has become a common and widespread species. It is likely to continue to colonise the UK over the course of the next 10-5 years comfortably as far as the midlands and perhaps beyond.

Concerns

This species is recorded as biting. Many of the enquiries concerning this spider over the last 15 years have included a bite and symptoms report along with a dead spider for a confirmed identification. 

Males bite more frequently than females because the males leave their webs when mature in search of mates. Bites are mostly recorded from males finding their way into bedding or clothes and it is only under these circumstances that they are are provoked to bite.

The described bite symptoms have generally never been much worse than wasp sting, perhaps longer lasting and with some radiating pain from the site of the bite. Currently such bites are not considered medically significant, though if more severe symptoms are experienced it would be wise to seek medical advice.

Be aware that heart palpitations and hot and cold sweats are symptoms of shock and are more likely to be attributed to the event of a spider bite rather than any effect of the spider venom.