Timeline: When false widow spiders have come to east London

A general view of a False Widow Spider in a zoo.

A false widow spider. - Credit: PA

With the onset of autumn comes the emergence of something many people fear – spider season. 

As temperatures plummet, millions of the eight-legged arachnids are making their way inside. 

One species, the false widow, has been causing chaos across east London in recent years. 

In October 2013, one of these spiders nearly caused a Collier Row dad to lose his leg when he was bitten after finding a nest at a school in Chelmsford he was renovating. 

There were also a number of sightings in Barking and Dagenham in the same year.

In November 2015, false widow infestations closed two Tower Hamlets primary schools.

Osmani School and Thomas Buxton School, just 120 metres apart in Whitechapel, were shut after nests and eggs were found in the buildings and school grounds. 


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A series of infestations caused chaos at schools across east London in October 2018.

A number of schools – including Rokeby School in Canning Town, Star Lane Primary School in Canning Town, Wilkinson Primary School in Beckton and Lister Community School in Plaistow – were forced to shut due to infestations which took weeks to eradicate. 

In Redbridge, Fairlop Primary School in Colvin Gardens, Hainault, was closed for pest control after a number of people were bitten by a spider, feared to be a false widow. 

It is estimated that there are 10 million false widows on the loose in Britain and while they were long thought to live along the south coast, there have been increasing sightings further north. 

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False widows usually only bite when they feel threatened and no one in the UK is believed to have died from its bite. 

Typically, bites are compared to a wasp sting, with a relatively short-lived pain and the possibility of feeling unwell for a day or two.  

Anyone who experiences swelling after a spider bite should seek medical advice. 

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