Mys­tery spi­der is a false widow

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - COUNTRYFILE - by Owen Leyshon of the Rom­ney Marsh Coun­try­side Project

ASPI­DER was given to me in a plas­tic pot which was one of a colony found be­hind the freezer in a fish­ing and tackle shop on The Pa­rade in Great­stone. The owner had not seen that type of spi­der be­fore and was in­ter­ested in what species it was. The spi­der was dis­tinct – of medium size, black in colour with a big oval, round, pump­kin-like body and long ir­reg­u­lar legs which were deep rusty-brown colour. It looked sim­i­lar to a black widow spi­der. A few books later, a cou­ple of pho­tos sent to a spi­der ex­pert in Kent and then a trip for the spi­der se­cured in a jiffy bag in the post, the spi­der was iden­ti­fied as a false black widow spi­der. There are around six species of this group, but this par­tic­u­lar spi­der was the first recorded in Kent. It is found in the south west of Eng­land and is spread­ing along the south coast, so it is not an un­ex­pected ad­di­tion to the spi­der fauna of Kent. How­ever, as the name sug­gests it can bite, but only if dis­turbed and it is equiv­a­lent to a mild wasp sting. Re­mem­ber, it is only the fe­male spi­der that bites. This spi­der likes liv­ing around build­ings and favours dark, but dry cor­ners. The fe­male can live up to five years al­though the male usu­ally only one year and dies af­ter mat­ing. The fe­male lays around three to four co­coons, with each co­coon con­tain­ing roughly 200 eggs.

The false black widow spi­der

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