False widow spider PLAGUE is 'spreading across the UK'

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The Noble False Widow, native to the Canary Islands, has lived in small numbers in the south of England for a century. 

But it is now feared to have started spreading rapidly across the country thanks to the hot weather providing perfect breeding conditions. 

The venomous beasts have caused panic when they have been found in large clusters in schools and other public spaces. 

“We think it’s likely these animals get about by hitching a lift on ornamental plant trade or tourism”

Professor Rainer Breitling, from The University of Manchester

Although its bite is not deadly, it is painful like a bee or wasp sting and it can cause real trouble for those who suffer from allergic reactions. 

The eight-legged insects – known as Steatoda nobilis – are also spreading rapidly across the globe, and may have hitched a ride into Britain from tourists. 

Professor Rainer Breitling, from The University of Manchester, said a team has been using sightings to work out a computer model of where it will ‘invade’ next. 

The model successfully predicted they would be found in Normandy, France, which was confirmed after a visit to the area. 

Mediterranean islands, southern Australia, large parts of New Zealand and South Africa also seem to be likely targets for future expansion. 

Prof Breitling said: “These are areas that are home to a wide range of vulnerable native species. 

“So the potential introduction of Steatoda nobilis, which can overcome prey much larger than its own size, is quite worrying. 

“We think it’s likely these animals get about by hitching a lift on ornamental plant trade or tourism, rather than banana imports as previously thought. 

“So more careful monitoring of plant imports could be useful to control the spread of this species and other invasive spiders.” 

He said the “intense public interest” is helping their research.

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