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Sunday 22 September 2019

Spiders with a venomous bite now invading Ireland

False widow spider
False widow spider
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

The false widow spider is taking over Ireland and is an invasive species with a detrimental effect on native species, researchers have found.

The spider arrived in the UK about 100 years ago and has steadily invaded Ireland over the past 20 years through human transport of goods, a by-product of globalisation.

"While it is extremely unlikely that a bite will ever be fatal, we do need to consider bites from false widows as a potential health risk given the increase of this species not just in the UK and Ireland but also mainland Europe and the US," Dr Michel Dugon, lead author of the study from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said.

"We hope that our study will provide healthcare professionals with the information required to accurately diagnose and report bites associated with the false widow."

Research papers were published in the journals 'Biology and Environment', and 'Clinical Toxicology'.

Spider numbers are on the increase not just in Ireland, but in the UK, mainland Europe and the US.

The spider - which is native to the Canary Islands and Madeira - arrived in the UK a century ago and Ireland in the 1990s. It lives for five to seven years, unlike most spider and bug species in Ireland that live for a maximum of one year.

The first true case of a false widow spider bite was identified in the UK in the 1990s.

The NUI Galway study is the most intensive research carried out on this species to date.

Irish Independent

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