Spi­ders shut schools

Hayes & Harlington Gazette - - News -

SCHOOLS in Lon­don have closed due to an in­va­sion of false black widow spi­ders.

The four schools, which are within two-and-a-half miles of each other in Ne­wham, east Lon­don, were shut on Thurs­day Oc­to­ber 4 so pest con­trollers can wipe out spi­der eggs be­fore they hatch.

Pupils will be set work to do at home if tem­po­rary sites can­not be found be­fore it is safe for the schools to re­open.

And for any­one wor­ried about get­ting bit­ten – the pain is sim­i­lar to a wasp sting, it is no more dan­ger­ous than that.

Head­teacher Char­lotte Robin­son, of Rokeby School, wrote to par­ents on Wed­nes­day Oc­to­ber 3 after mak­ing the “dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion” to close the whole school un­til Oc­to­ber 29.

In the let­ter posted on the school site, she said: “We have en­gaged a com­pany to deal with and erad­i­cate this pest, they have es­ti­mated that this will take up to three weeks.

“The safety and well­be­ing of stu­dents and staff must be our pri­or­ity so whilst I un­der­stand that this may be very in­con­ve­nient for you it is in your child’s best in­ter­est to re­main at home and not at school.”

Is a false widow spi­der dan­ger­ous?

Ac­cord­ing to the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum, the false widow spi­der does have a ven­omous bite.

How­ever, the venom is not par­tic­u­larly po­tent - it feels like a bee or wasp sting.

The pain or­di­nar­ily lasts be­tween one and 12 hours, and rarely for more than 24 hours.

Any more se­ri­ous side ef­fects are most likely to be the re­sult of a se­condary in­fec­tion, likely bac­te­rial, if a bite wound is not kept clean.

It should NOT be con­fused with a black widow spi­der, which has a much more dan­ger­ous bite.

The three most com­mon false widow spi­ders are:

■ Rab­bit hutch spi­der

■ Cup­board spi­der

■ Noble false widow

Lisle Von Buchen­roder, prin­ci­pal of Star Pri­mary, closed the school on Tues­day Oc­to­ber 2 and says there will be an up­date next week on when it will re­open.

She said: “An in­fes­ta­tion of noble false black widow spi­ders was dis­cov­ered dur­ing a rou­tine check by Ne­wham’s en­vi­ron­men­tal team.

“They be­lieve that the in­fes­ta­tion is con­tained to the out­side of the build­ing and that this needs to be Schools have closed to tackle in­va­sions of false black widow spi­ders

treated im­me­di­ately be­fore the eggs start hatch­ing.

“I want to re­as­sure all mem­bers of our com­mu­nity that these are pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures and that we are very lucky to have found out in time to take ac­tion to re­move them.”

She added the school is look­ing for a tem­po­rary site and un­til then will set work to be done at home.

Lis­ter School head­teacher An­thony Wil­son said: “The school has been con­tacted by [Ne­wham Coun­cil] to ad­vise us that a num­ber of schools in Ne­wham ap­pear to have in­fes­ta­tions of false widow spi­ders.

“These spi­ders can bite hu­mans, and the bite is un­pleas­ant, al­though it is very rarely se­ri­ous.

“There have been no re­ports of any­one at Lis­ter be­ing bit­ten by a false widow spi­der, if you would like fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on these spi­ders please check the NHS web­site.”

A Ne­wham Coun­cil spokesper­son said: “We have been made aware of a small num­ber of in­fes­ta­tions of spi­ders in Ne­wham. Pub­lic Health Eng­land have in­formed us these spi­ders pose no se­ri­ous health risk but can cause painful bites sim­i­lar to a wasp sting.

“These spi­ders only bite if mis­han­dled or pro­voked. Four schools have closed at the head teacher’s dis­cre­tion to treat the in­fes­ta­tion which in­cludes fu­mi­ga­tion, as these in­fes­ta­tions were in a num­ber of lo­ca­tions across the school sites.

“We are work­ing with the schools to en­sure that chil­dren can con­tinue to re­ceive an ed­u­ca­tion while their school is closed.”

No spi­der in­fes­ta­tions have yet been re­ported at schools in other parts of the cap­i­tal, in­clud­ing the GetWest­Lon­don area. The spi­der can give painful bites but pose no se­ri­ous health risk

STEVE HARDIMAN/GETTY IMAGES

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