The internet seems awash with fact and myth and misinformation following some sensationalist press recently with regards this species. I was blissfully unaware of it all until I found this arachnid crossing my path the evening before last. The striking markings caught my eye and as I gently teased him out of his hiding place, Ray Mears style on the end of a twig, my wife told me about the False Widow. So began my own arachnophobia, taking photos, trawling the net for images, and information. I've seen probably several different species(by my own untrained eye) all being touted as The False Widow.
After the initial excitement and having seen other ID requests here I'm guessing that my friend here is not one of them but a harmless and probably friendly critter. I am not arachnophobic, I can happily move a house spider by hand if my wife commands it.. But it is easy to see how both spiders and people could be left badly damaged by all of this!
Anyway, is this one or isn't it!?
I think yours is a Metellina species, most likely M. segmentata at this time of the year. They're very common (outdoors). However, if it is, the colour is unusual as it's usually various shades of brown / beige but you do get dark ones. Look at this one and replace the reddish areas with grey / black and you'll see what I mean -
Thank you! I buy into that. How unusual are these colour variations, and is there any consensus on what causes them? Is it standard genetic variation or triggered during life by environment, stress etc.?
I've been photographing hoverflys this summer which mimick wasps and bees; could this even be a more deliberate example of attempted identity fraud, is this little spider trying to look more dangerous than it is?
Hi Dave, it's such a common species that even if only 1% are grey / black it's still means that are many thousands with that colour variant in the countryside. They don't really have a standard colour form - just anything from beige to ones like yours. And as for the causes of the different colours - no idea, although I did read somewhere that Metellina can change it's colour to some extent, like Araneus diadematus can, to match its surroundings. Can't remember where I read it though.