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False widows in Pyrenees

Two false widow spiders have been spotted in a village in the Pyrénées-Orientales, leading to fears that the species may be spreading in France.

Steatoda nobilis, the false widow, is named after its resemblance to the deadly black widow spider. The bite from a false widow however is not fatal – but is extremely painful.

The initial sting of a bite is similar to a wasp or bee sting but the symptoms that follow can range from numbness, severe swelling and discomfort to chest pains depending on the amount of venom. TF1 reports that two of the spiders were spotted in four days at the village of Ria-Sirach in foothills of the Pyrénées near Perpignan.

The first was found by the head of an insect extermination company, Patrick Salvat, who was able to identify the species. It is a shy creature and will
only bite as a defensive mechanism, such as if it is trapped
in clothing.

Females can grow from 9.5 to 14mm in size, while males are seven to 11mm. In the UK, newspapers have attributed hospitalisations and gruesome injuries to the bite of this spider but experts have dismissed the idea that these are caused by the venom of the false widow.

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