False Widow Spiders Force Four London Schools to Close

October 4, 2018 Updated: October 4, 2018

Four schools in the UK have been closed because of infestations of false widow spiders.

Schoolchildren in two primary and two secondary schools in London’s Newham district were sent home after the discovery of the arachnids, which resemble the far more dangerous black widow spiders.

A bite from a false widow can be painful and cause redness and swelling, according to Britain’s National Health Service.

“Bites from spiders in the UK are uncommon, but some native spiders—such as the false widow spider—are capable of giving a nasty bite,” the NHS website states.

Pest control officers have been summoned to deal with the infestation, The Guardian reported.

Charlotte Robinson, a headteacher at Rokeby School, told parents and guardians in an email that the school would remain closed until Oct. 29, according to the Evening Standard.

“The safety and wellbeing of students and staff must be our priority, so whilst I understand that this may be very inconvenient for you, it is in your child’s best interest to remain at home and not at school,” she wrote, according to the report.

“We have engaged a company to deal with and eradicate this pest, they have estimated that this will take up to three weeks,” wrote Robinson.

Anthony Wilson, a headteacher at Lister Community School, said he hoped his school would open by Oct. 5.

“Investigations suggest that there may be some of these spiders on our site, and we are therefore following advice from the local authority and will be closing the school as a precaution to allow full investigation,” he said, according to the Standard.

“These spiders can bite humans and the bite is unpleasant, although it is very rarely serious … There have been no reports of anyone at Lister being bitten by a false widow spider,” Wilson said, according to the Guardian.

A government official told the paper false widow spider bites are not especially dangerous.

“The spiders only bite if mishandled or provoked. The venom is not particularly potent,” said a Newham Council spokeswoman.

“We are asking all our schools and nurseries to proactively check their premises carefully for these spiders and if they see any signs, then contact environmental health or pest control.”

There are several types of false widow spiders.

The London school infestations are of the most common type—noble false widows (steatoda nobilis), according to the Guardian.

A false widow infestation forced a shutdown of two schools in the Tower Hamlets district of London in 2015.

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