A removals worker claims he has been left unable to walk and fearing for the safety of his children after being repeatedly bitten by poisonous False Widow spiders.
Lewis Pearce suffered five bites as he was sleeping at his home and says he has been left in severe pain, unable to work, shower, or walk.
Despite asking the council to remove the arachnids from Canberra Towers in Southampton, Hampshire, he claims he was told that they ‘don’t deal with spiders’.
The 26-year-old says he is now ‘scared’ for the safety of his three children, Lacey, five, Freddie, three, – who was also bitten – and seven-month-old Bethany.
Lewis Pearce, 26, suffered five bites as he was sleeping at his home and has been in severe pain since, being unable to work, shower, or even walk
The 26-year-old says he is now ‘scared’ for the safety of his three children, five year old Lacey, three year old Freddie – who was also bitten – and seven-month-old Bethany
What is the false widow spider and what to do if you get bitten
False widow spiders are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns.
Millions of false widows, Britain’s most venomous spider, have been found across the UK and the population is believed to be growing.
The species has a brown bulbous abdomen with cream markings that look like a skull. They have long legs and can reach about 15mm in size.
Also known as steatoda nobilis, the spider is frequently confused for the black widow, which has deadly venom.
The false widow was first spotted in the UK in Torquay in 1879, and it is thought that it may have made its way to these shores from Madeira or the Canary Islands in a shipment of bananas.
The Natural History Museum says that warmer summers mean the spider is spreading northwards through the UK, having previously been found mainly in southern England.
IF YOU GET BITTEN…
The first thing you should do is wash the area thoroughly with soap and water to prevent infection – and don’t scratch, as if you break the skin there’s more chance for bacteria to get in.
Cover bites with a plaster and apply an antihistamine sting cream to calm any inflammation or itching. Any redness, pain or swelling should subside after three days.
Be alert to potential signs of infection, such as weeping blisters or painful swelling, that continue to get worse after a few days. If this happens, seek advice from your GP.
His wife Nadine, 26, said: ‘It petrifies me. If my children are bitten like he has been, they won’t stand a chance.
‘When people are being bitten alive, how are we meant to pay rent?
‘I’m meant to be here looking after my children and Lewis can’t work.
‘It feels like we are stuck in a dark tunnel.’
Mr Pearce said he has been told by his doctor that he had suffered an allergic reaction to the spider’s venom, and has been unable to fulfil his role as a removals worker since receiving the bites in July.
He added: ‘I can’t walk as it’s very difficult and I haven’t been able to shower properly for over a month as I can’t get the dressing wet.
‘The bites are painful and now I’m scared for my children, especially for my seven-month-old baby who sleeps in the same room as me – and during the night is when I’m usually bitten.’
Another resident at the block – who asked not to be named – said: ‘This isn’t a home for my daughter.
‘There are three or four spiders on every single level.’
The False Widow, commonly found in South America, can grow up to 15mm in size, considerably larger than the average British cupboard spider.
Also known as the Steatoda Nobilis, the venomous insect is believed to have travelled to Britain on fruit crates from the Canary Islands in the 1800s.
Advisor Dave Rumble from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: ‘False Widow spiders are here to stay since they were first noticed 10 to 20 years ago.’
In 2014, an Irish man went into cardiac arrest and was put in intensive care after being bitten by what he claimed was a False Widow, and last year four schools in east London were shut down for up to three weeks after an infestation.
Recent reports have suggested that incidents of False Widow bites are likely to increase, as wet weather has forced the bugs inside and into people’s homes.
Three-year-old Freddie has also been bitten on the legs by the spiders
Despite asking the council to remove the arachnids from Canberra Towers in Southampton, Hampshire, Mr Pearce claims he was told that they ‘don’t deal with spiders’
According to the Natural History Museum, the effects of the spider’s poison are usually no worse than a wasp’s sting, with symptoms lasting no longer than 24 hours. Wounds can become infected, however, it says.
A spokesperson for Southampton City Council said: ‘We take all complaints of this nature seriously. While we haven’t been notified of any other households having this issue, we will investigate and advise tenants accordingly.’