how to identify a false widow spider

December 2023

How To Identify A False Widow Spider In December 2023

Imagine discovering a spider in your home and questioning whether or not it is a false widow. Identifying a false widow spider is crucial for ensuring safety and avoiding potential health problems. 

This comprehensive guide examines the characteristics, habitats, and health concerns associated with false widow spiders and offers advice on preventing their invasion.

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Overview of False Widow Spiders

Our research indicates that false widow spiders are frequently confused with their more dangerous relatives, the infamous black widow spiders. However, false widow spiders are less aggressive and vicious. 

Three false and notorious black widow spider species in the United Kingdom belong to the genus Steatoda.The noble false widow spider bites the notorious black widow spiders (Steatoda nobilis), the cupboard spider (Steatoda grossa), and the rabbit hutch spider (Steatoda bipunctata).

What to Look Out For

According to our research, false widows can be found indoors and outdoors, typically in dark, protected areas. They hunt flying insects and play a crucial role in the ecosystem as predators. False widows are most active in early autumn, making it the best time to spot them.

Physical Characteristics

According to our analysis, false widow spiders have a distinct appearance, with a spherical, shiny abdomen and evenly coloured, dark legs. To aid in the identification of false widow spiders, we have outlined some of their most prominent physical characteristics below.

Size of False Widows

According to our findings, adult females of three false widow species can attain a maximum body length of 14 mm. In contrast, males of larger species are typically smaller, reaching a total size of 10 mm.

Colour/Markings of False Widows

In our experience, the abdomen of false widow spiders is marked with dark brown spots. Noble false widows have dark brown marks in a pattern resembling a skull, whereas other species may have different markings or none, very few markings at all, very few markings at all.

Abdomen Shape and Colour

According to our analysis, false widow spiders have a rounded, oval-shaped posterior, with the darkest specimens possessing a rich, dark brown colour.

Legs and Body Features

According to our analysis, false widow spiders have eight uniformly dark legs and a smooth, shiny exoskeleton.

Habitats and Range

False widow spiders are indigenous to the Canary Islands, southern England, and various regions that spread north of Europe. As a result of global warming, their range has expanded, and they are now extending northward.

Where Do They Live?

According to our research, false widow spiders inhabit dark, secluded areas such as sheds, garages, and woodpiles. Indoors, they hide in cupboards, wardrobes, and behind furniture.

Areas in Europe Where They Are Found

According to our analysis, false widow spiders have established populations in several European nations, including the United Kingdom, especially along its southern coast.

Areas in Ireland Where They Are Found

In our experience, false widow spiders are prevalent throughout Ireland, especially in urban areas.

Other False Widows to Look Out For

In our research, several false widow spiders exist, including the cupboard and rabbit hutch spiders. Despite their similar appearance, each species has distinct characteristics.

Different Species of False Widow Spiders

There are numerous species of false widow spiders in the United Kingdom, with the name noble false widow spider, cupboard spider, and rabbit hutch spider being the most common.

Similar-looking Spiders to Watch Out For

According to our analysis, the common house spider (Tegenaria domestica) and the lace-webbed spider are related to false widow spiders (Amaurobius similis). For safety reasons, it is essential to differentiate between these three very similar species.

false widow spider

Venomous Spider Comparison (Black Widow)

According to our research, black widow spiders are more aggressive and vicious than false widow venom spiders. 

While bites from the false widow venomous spider and widows can cause pain and discomfort, bites from black widow spiders are significantly more dangerous and even life-threatening.

Bite Symptoms and Health Concerns

Although bites from false widow spiders are typically not dangerous, they can cause some health problems. It is imperative to be aware of these symptoms to seek treatment if bitten.

Common Bite Symptoms

Based on our findings, false widow spider bites can cause localised redness, swelling, and throbbing pain. In rarer instances, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction, fever, or nausea.

"Identifying a false widow spider is crucial for ensuring safety and avoiding potential health problems."

Long-term Health Concerns

According to our analysis, most false widow spider bites do not cause long-term health problems. However sporadic confirmed cases, if the taste is not adequately cleaned and treated, bacteria and painful bites can develop a bacterial infection.

Risk Factors for a More Severe Reaction

According to our research, those with weakened immune systems or allergies may experience a more severe reaction to false widow bites. Monitoring the bite site and seeking medical care if symptoms worsen is essential.

Treatment Options for a Bite

In our experience, cleaning the bite site with soap and water is crucial, as applying a cold compress to the bite spray to reduce swelling and using over-the-counter pain relievers as necessary. For more severe reactions, seek immediate medical attention.

Size of False Widows

Prevention Tips

To avoid encounters with false widow spiders, follow indoor and outdoor precautions.

Home Prevention Tips

  • Caulk crevices and gaps around doors and windows.
  • Reduce clutter to eliminate hiding places.
  • Clean and hoover your home frequently.

Outdoor Prevention Tips

  • Maintain a clean garden by removing leaf and debris piles.
  • Store firewood away from the house.
  • Reduce the amount of outdoor lighting because it attracts flying insects, which in turn attract spiders.

False widow spiders are essential to the ecosystem, but their proximity to humans can cause discomfort and health concerns. Identifying a false widow spider is crucial for ensuring safety and addressing potential health concerns. 

By understanding their physical characteristics, habitats, and range, you can prevent encounters and respond effectively if bitten by taking the appropriate precautions.

Remember to observe the distinctions between false widow spiders and similar species, such as the venomous black widow spiders.

Will a false widow bite you?

False widow spiders, including the noble wrong widow species, can bite humans or human skin but will bite humans or human skin only when they feel threatened. The majority of reported bites occur under these conditions. 

To reduce the risk of being bitten by these spiders, it is essential to exercise caution and avoid direct contact.

What can be mistaken for a false widow?

Three species frequently misidentified as noble false widows or noble false widow bites, but other than noble false widows are the aristocratic false widow, the cupboard spider, and the rabbit hutch spider. 

Each has a spherical, shiny abdomen, dark brown markings, and an oval-shaped posterior, but subtle differences in abdomen patterns or dark stripes help to differentiate them.

Should I be scared of a false widow spider?

Although false widow spiders warrant caution, excessive fear is unwarranted. The painful bite alone of a false widow spider can cause pain comparable to a wasp sting, but severe reactions are extremely uncommon. 

By taking the necessary precautions, you can lessen the likelihood of being bitten by this undesirable and unwanted spider yourself.

Prevention Tips for False Widows

What do black male widows look like?

Male black widows differ from their female counterparts by having shorter bodies, lighter colours, and less distinct markings. Their abdomens are less bulbous and less dark, and their legs may be of uniform colouration. Male black widow spiders do not pose a significant threat to humans.

What is the most poisonous spider?

In the rarer cases of confirmed cases, the bite of the black widow spider can be fatal. Its bite can cause severe symptoms or even be fatal. 

However, the black widow is not indigenous to the United Kingdom, so encounters with this species are extremely unlikely. In sporadic confirmed cases, the venom of the false widow is considerably less potent.

What spider has a skull on its back?

The noble false widow spider frequently has a skull-shaped mark on its back, allowing it to be easily identified. These essential predators help control insect populations, but if threatened, they can inflict painful bites. Respect their space and avoid direct contact to prevent bites.

How does a false widow spider bite compare to other spider bites?

The bite of a false widow spider, including that of a noble false widow, is typically less severe than that of the infamous black widow.

In rare cases, a bite from a black widow spider can cause severe pain, muscle cramps, and even life-threatening symptoms. 

In contrast, a bite from a noble false widow and most recorded bites from the spider typically causes mild to moderate pain, comparable to a wasp sting. Most false widow bites are not recorded. Bites occur when the spider feels threatened; severe reactions are uncommon. 

However, cleaning the bite site and monitoring for signs of infection or an allergic reaction is essential if bitten. In the event of severe symptoms, immediate medical attention should be sought.

What are the main differences between a false widow and three similar species here?

Three species of false widows are incredibly similar: the noble false widow, the cupboard spider, and the rabbit hutch spider. 

While they share characteristics such as a shiny, rounded abdomen, dark brown markings, and an oval-shaped posterior, subtle differences in markings and patterns help to differentiate them. 

The abdomen of the noble false widow is typically patterned in the shape of a skull. In contrast, the male stomachs of the cupboard spider and rabbit hutch spider are generally unmarked.

Size and leg characteristics can also vary among these three species, with males typically growing smaller than females.

How can I prevent false widow spiders from entering my home?

Take the following precautions to prevent unwanted spiders like false widows from entering your home:

  • Caulk spaces around windows and doors and wall and foundation cracks.
  • Keep your home clean and decluttered to reduce spider-hiding places.
  • Focus your vacuuming and dusting efforts on crevices, window sills, and behind furniture.
  • Indoors, remove any unwanted spider webs and spiders.
  • If spiders persist, consider employing a professional pest control company or service to evaluate the situation and apply the necessary treatments.

Have false widow spiders spread to other regions?

False widow spiders, including the noble false widow spider, have expanded their range northward due to human activities and global warming. It has been discovered in banana boxes imported to the United Kingdom and has established populations along the south coast and in southern England. 

This species has also been documented in Ireland, where it is regarded as one of the enormous indigenous spiders. As global temperatures continue to increase, the northern range of these spiders is anticipated to expand.

Meet the author

Jane Parkinson

Jane Parkinson

Jane is one of our primary content writers and specialises in elder care. She has a degree in English language and literature from Manchester University and has been writing and reviewing products for a number of years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can a false widow spider bite cause an infection?

Even though a false widow spider bite is typically less severe than other venomous spider bites, there is still a risk of bacterial infection if the wound is not cleaned and cared for properly. Be sure to wash the bite site with soap and water and apply an antiseptic ointment to reduce the risk of infection. Keep the area clean and dry; cover it with a sterile dressing if necessary. Seek immediate medical attention if you observe signs of infection, such as increasing redness, swelling, pus discharge, or fever.

How can I distinguish between a false widow spider and a black widow spider?

There are significant differences between false widow spiders and black widow spiders that can be used to distinguish between them. False widow spiders are typically dark brown or reddish-brown, whereas black widows have a red hourglass pattern on the underside of their abdomen and are generally black. In addition, false widow spiders typically have a globular abdomen, whereas black widow spiders have rounded abdomen. In the United Kingdom, black widow spiders are exceedingly uncommon, making you more likely to encounter a false widow spider.

Are there any specific habitats that false widow spiders prefer?

There are numerous habitats where false widow spiders, including the noble false widow, can be found. They are commonly found in gardens, sheds, and woodpiles but may also seek warmth and shelter in homes and buildings. They construct their webs in corners, behind furniture, and other undisturbed locations. Maintaining a clean, clutter-free, and well-sealed home will reduce the likelihood that false widow spiders will make your house their home.

How can I safely remove a false widow spider from my home?

Use a glass or jar and stiff paper to remove a false widow spider from your home. Place the glass carefully over the spider, then slide the form under it to trap it inside. Once the spider has been trapped, carefully lift the glass and paper together, ensuring it does not escape. Carry the spider outside and lift the form gently to release it in a safe outdoor location. Remember to wash your hands after handling a spider and its environment, as spiders can carry bacteria.

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