The false widow probably arrived here as part of some trading or plant activity, and it was originally a native to Madeira and the Canary Islands. The first UK sighting was in Torquay. I imagine they settled here because they were able get the warmth and shelter they require from buildings. I hear they are now migrating north.
It’s the considered opinion of our expert entomologists at the RHS is that they’re not that big a problem, and they’re only occasional – they don’t regard the false widow as something that is a threat to life and limb. They do look like a black widow, and they are closely related, but happily they’re not as toxic or potentially harmful as spiders that you get in Australia.
So they are alarming and they can give you a nip, but there’s no need to get too worried and start spraying your house with insecticide. If you find one, gather it up and throw it outside. If you get bitten, apply a bite treatment as you would with a bee or wasp sting. That should be enough. Clearly if you do have more concerns - and a few people are allergic, or the bite occasionally gets infected - seek medical attention. There have been some nasty bite stories in the newspapers, but we haven’t had one reported to the RHS.
A False Widow spider in its web (Photo: Clearinnervision)