Nasty surprise as venomous false widow spiders spotted

If you’ve not got much on this weekend you might want to check your window frames – for you could have an uninvited house guest with a very nasty bite.

Karen Burgoyne, Jamie Burgoyne and Tony Durnell look at another of the poisonous spiders under the windowsill of Karen’s house
Karen Burgoyne, Jamie Burgoyne and Tony Durnell look at another of the poisonous spiders under the windowsill of Karen’s house

Eight false widow spiders – Britain’s most venomous arachnid – have been found on a window frame of a house in Shropshire, and there are likely to be many thousands more throughout the county.

The spiders, thought to be the cousin of the deadly black widow, were spotted at the Shrewsbury home of former Sundorne councillor Karen Burgoyne on two separate occasions this week.

Her son Jamie, 17, made the initial discovery on Thursday afternoon as a bulbous-shaped spider with distinctive white markings dropped through the window as he attempted to let his cat outside.

Venomous – false widow spiders
Venomous – false widow spiders

He then found six more in a hammock-shaped web by the window.

The Shrewsbury College student examined the spiders with the help of town mayor Jon Tandy and ex-mayor Tony Durnell, and they are certain it matches the description of the so-called false widow spider.

The false widow spider population is spreading fast across the South West and further north due to the warmer temperatures.

Last week, Devon amateur footballer Steve Harris had to undergo emergency surgery on his leg after being bitten by a false widow while he slept.

Females lay up to 120 eggs at a time and a bite can trigger a fatal allergic reaction, although most people will suffer localised swelling and pain. It is the most dangerous of more than 600 species of spider in the UK and the British Arachnological Society has said the spider is now “extremely abundant” in some places.

Mr Durnell, who was Shrewsbury mayor in 2011, said: “For a little spider they are evil-looking things and the markings were so distinctive.

“Being a gardener, I come across plenty of garden spiders and it definitely wasn’t one of them and when we compared it to the images on Google it was literally a mirror image of the false widow.

“It shook me up a bit.”

He added: “The last thing we want to do is scare people, but they could well be hanging around in other people’s window frames just like they have at Kaz’s.”


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Comments for: "Nasty surprise as venomous false widow spiders spotted"


I have found countless number of FALSE widow spiders around my garden. There is no duet i will find more around.


Now, something else to be worryingly concerned about ...... false widow poisonous spiders, "urrgh", A frightening reality, now they are in this country. I hope they stay AWAY FROM ME, so I can continue my life Safely.

Adrian Vaughan

I work for Ringway streetlighting Shropshire and I have found many in the bucket of my cherry picker and around the county whilst doing my job , my partner was coming from her job in Shawbury , got in her car and noticed a spider on her windscreen outside of her car ( Sam is terrified of spiders )she looked at it and noticed it was a False Widow spider and it has large mandibles . The question is what are we meant to do with them when found , kill or do we report it to someone and whom would that be ?

Rhona Paris

I think I've found one in my house. Ive just checked my window and I think there is one there. I live in Balloch West Dunbartonshire in Scotland.

Scarey Reality

Another Text post. Just when I thought there were enough issues to be really concerned about, such as, threats of Terrorist attacks, being the victim of crime, financial concerns and other "worries", another Threat is the poisonous false widow spider, not just one, but alot in this country, INCLUDING SHROPSHIRE. Scarey reality this is and I'm now wondering where they are hiding. ? I Hope I continue to keep myself Safe and Avoid any attack from these INTRUDERS.

louise morgan

After reading this ive been outside brushing cobwebs away and I think we have spotted one in our garden. Any advice on what to do? Do we need to report sightings etc?


hi is there anyway we can stop them coming in the house. is there a spray we can by to kill them or put around doors and window to stop them coming near thank you john

Lauren Bennett

I've found several around my childrens window I reported them and the housing association sent out pest control, I've been spraying around windows doors ect with clear vinegar apparently it repels them.

kathleen jones

i live in south east ireland and those spiders are all around my windows definitly over 50 of them all gaurding little eggsacs and i noticed two inside in my utility room is there a spray for them?

Connor Wyton

Pathetic - False Widows are NOT dangerous. they are about as dangerous as bumblebees and as both a lover and hobbyist of spider studies I cannot describe how irritated and annoyed I am about this so-called "news" which is clearly wrong!

Lauren Bennett

They have been nesting outside my children's window, my concern for them is not pathetic! They have clearly multiplied over the past 160 years, more people are being bitten although its not fatal it can be quite traumatic. I wouldn't wish that on anybody

arthur e jones

The Shropshire Star must be short of news on a Saturday morning when they publish the Saturday edition....scaremongering about poisonous spiders. More people have died from wasp and bee stings before now . Has anybody died from one of these poisonous spiders? Still it got a lot of past dignitaries and their offspring in the paper. Log in to Wikipedia to view these venomous spiders. Thanks to your article many people will now be puitting their foot on all 'good natured garden spiders who anyone knows only do good to rid the insect population from this world..

D. Williams

I have serious concerns about this story. The story published in the paper version of the Shrops Star shows three photographs, each of which appears to be a different species of spider. Whether any of them are false widows is open to question, but the one found under the windowsill (not reproduced online) is certainly a common (and completely harmless) Garden Spider. Interesting, as Mr Durnell claims to know what garden spiders look like. I beg to differ, Mr Durnell.

Whilst it is true that the false widow is Britain's most venomous spider, its bite is generally thought to be little worse than a bee or wasp sting. Just as with bees & wasps, people will occasionally have adverse reactions, as in the unfortunate case of the Devon footballer which has received so much press coverage. This does not make this spider (which is described as being slow moving & ponderous by Buglife entomologist Steven Falk) the monster it is portrayed as being in this story.

It seems that this story has been published as fact without any reference to experts who could verify the identification (which, to me as an amateur naturalist, looks very dubious). False widows can only be positively identified under a microscope, which has clearly not happened here. Certainly the inclusion of a photograph of a common Garden Spider in the newspaper is unforgivable - these must be found in just about every garden in the country. Imagine the panic which a slapdash story like this could cause. The motto here seems to be "Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?".

Brenig James

Whilst these may be "the most venomous" spiders in the UK it doesn't make them deadly. More people have died as a result of allergic reactions to bee and wasp stings in the UK than these spiders have even injured so let's not get carried away with this media scaremongering.

Please do not kill them; apart from is being unnecessary and irrational they are a good source of food for our small wild birds.

Rich Burkmar

The picture in the article does not show Steatoda nobilis (the False Widow) but Zygiella x-notata - sometimes known as the Window-frame Spider because it is very common around the outside of houses, especially, you will note, around windows. The Window-frame Spider is a close relative of Araneus diadematus - the common Garden Spider (also called the Cross Spider). Like the Garden Spider it builds a classic orb web, but the web of the Window-frame Spider has a nice distinguishing feature in that one sector of the web - like a pie slice - is left out. The theory is that this gives the spider room to manouver because it often makes it's webs very close to a flat surface such as a wall or pane of glass.

The Window-frame Spider is a completely harmless spider that probably inhabits the outside of nearly every house in Shropshire. If people read this story and mistake it for the False Widow, it will create completely unnecessary concern and unfounded fear. I hope that you can perhaps correct the story?

Best wishes,

Rich Burkmar

Arachnologist and Biodiversity Project Officer with the Field Studies Council (Preston Montford)


I found one on Friday, under the window sill, inside my conservatory. I pulled out the sofa away from the window as I was going to have a good blitz of the house when I saw a web that was from the sofa back to the window sill and hung like a hammock! It is now dead after I locked it in there until a friend came round who discarded it (killed). Good job really now after reading the news! phew.

ps, I am from stockport in Cheshire. sk3 8pq.

Bev Hyatt

I was attacked 3 years ago by 15-20 false black widow babies. Went to the hospital and told they were bites from an unknown bug, They brought public health in and they said catch some yourself. At the time I didnt know what they were so i Caught some bugs put them in a jar and they took them away. Days later they laughed and ridiculed me saying biscuit beetles and have me on record as being mentally unstable. I spent 2 years searching the internet for answers and always came back to the black widow obviously the bites were from the false black widow. I approached the hospital and told them my theory and the doctor shouted at me very loudly told me to go away as i was a silly little girl and they dont exist here in front of a waiting room full of patients. I moved house. Now I can not walk and have constant pain from my hip to my ankle and have nowhere to turn for help. Reason im saying is because doctors and medical staff should be made more aware that the false black widow does exist in this country


haha hilarious!so these false widow spiders have made you the way you are?ha what a joke and typical of british media, a spider which does nothing except nip you if you threaten it turns up and it causes uproar!i am from the uk but now live in sydney and there never is a single mention of spiders or snakes in the media and here there is actually a species to worry about!

everyone writing in asking about what you should do?here is some advice, wise up and stop talking nonsense!

What a nice comment. Did you attend charm school?