Health & Lifestyle

‘Britain’s most dangerous spider’ strikes in Hampshire: Girl, 5, is left unable to walk and covered in rashes after a bite from a noble false widow

  • Lily Hodgson, 5, told her mum that her ankle was in pain and it hurt to walk
  • By bedtime her face was itching too, and she was soon covered in rashes 

A bite from ‘Britain’s most dangerous spider’ left a five-year-old covered ‘literally head to toe’ in rashes and unable to walk.

Lily Hodgson, 5, didn’t know she’d been bitten when she told her mum that her ankle was in pain and it hurt to walk.

By bedtime her face was itching too – so her parents, thinking it was a reaction to food, gave her antihistamines.

But later that night, mum Genna Hunt awoke with a shock to find her daughter covered in rashes.

She said: ‘I woke at 3am as Lily felt hot next to me. I put the light on and nearly screamed at her poor face.

A bite from 'Britain's most dangerous spider' left a five-year-old covered 'literally head to toe' in rashes and unable to walk

A bite from ‘Britain’s most dangerous spider’ left a five-year-old covered ‘literally head to toe’ in rashes and unable to walk

By bedtime her face was itching too – so her parents, thinking it was a reaction to food, gave her antihistamines

But later that night, mum Genna Hunt awoke with a shock to find her daughter covered in rashes

Lily Hodgson, 5, didn’t know she’d been bitten when she told her mum that her ankle was in pain and it hurt to walk

‘I woke her up and she was covered in this strange rash literally head to toe.

‘The worst it got was when the itchy rash was in her hair and all the way down to her toes, which was 24 hours later.

‘Her ankle did hurt the next day and she did refuse to walk on it.’

In the morning, Genna, 34, took Lily to their local pharmacy in Eastleigh, Hampshire.

Miss Hunt said: ‘I just presumed it was a food allergy and would go away shortly.

‘The pharmacist took us into a little side room and had a look, and asked some questions.

‘I did mention her ankle hurt – by this point she wasn’t walking on it, but it wasn’t swollen.

‘He said he suspected it was a bite reaction rather than a food allergy and that he would like her to be seen by a GP urgently.’

Genna continued: ‘We were taken into a room with an on-call paramedic who covers at the practice.

‘He got out a magnifying glass and said ‘yep it’s a false widow spider bite.’ He said he hadn’t seen many cases where they had a reaction like Lily’s before.’

The noble false widow is ‘widely regarded as the most dangerous spider breeding in Britain,’ according to a 2020 paper by Clive Hambler, an Oxford University zoologist.

'I woke her up and she was covered in this strange rash literally head to toe,' her mum, Gemma, said

‘I woke her up and she was covered in this strange rash literally head to toe,’ her mum, Gemma, said

The noble false widow is 'widely regarded as the most dangerous spider breeding in Britain,' according to a 2020 paper by Clive Hambler, an Oxford University zoologist

The noble false widow is ‘widely regarded as the most dangerous spider breeding in Britain,’ according to a 2020 paper by Clive Hambler, an Oxford University zoologist

How to spot a noble false widow spider 

Noble false widows are the largest of the three false widow species likely to be found near homes. 

The front section of their body is dark brown, as are the legs. 

The abdomen (the large, oval-shaped rear part of the body) can be variable, with patterns of cream and dark brown marks (sometimes described as skull-shaped) though often with very few markings at all. 

Source: Wildlife Trusts 

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Known as Steatoda nobilis, they’re not native to Britain and are thought to have arrived from the Canary Islands in banana boxes in the late 1800s before slowly spreading northwards.

‘We have no idea when she was bitten or what she was doing at the time,’ said Genna.

‘That day she had been at my parents playing indoors, walked the three-minute walk home to ours, and then played indoors at our house.’

She continued: ‘Lily was already on antibiotics and antihistamines for tonsillitis and ear infections, so we were told to keep up with that as that is what he would have prescribed anyway.

‘I do wonder what the reaction would have been like had Lily not already been on antibiotics and antihistamines. Would it have been a lot worse?’

Despite the itchiness and some discomfort walking, brave Lily has coped well.

Her rashes cleared up after four days and she’s mostly disappointed that her bite didn’t bring her superpowers ‘like Spider-Man’.

But the experience has made Miss Hunt vigilant against false widows, and she’s speaking up to warn others.

Despite the itchiness and some discomfort walking, brave Lily has coped well

Her rashes cleared up after four days and she's mostly disappointed that her bite didn't bring her superpowers 'like Spider-Man'

Miss Hunt said: ‘I just presumed it was a food allergy and would go away shortly’

She said: ‘I’m now extra paranoid of any spiders in the house. Lily has been told to come get us if she sees any spider in her room and to not pick any of them up.

She added: ‘Honestly if you have any type of rash, especially one like Lily’s, then please get it looked at.

‘Pharmacists are trained in rashes and they are available to see by just popping into a pharmacy and asking to see them.’

Despite their bad reputation, false widows are unlikely to attack unless provoked or trapped between clothes and skin.

THE NOBLE FALSE WIDOW SPIDER 

Pictured: a noble false widow spider

Pictured: a noble false widow spider

Species name: Steatoda nobilis

Origin: the Canary Islands & Madeira

Range: Europe, Africa, Americas 

Colour: Brown body, red/orange legs 

Notable feature: Bulbous abdomen 

Size (female): 0.37–0.55″ (9.5–14 mm)

Size (male): 0.28–0.43″ (7–11 mm) 

Habitat: Indoors and outside 

Lifespan: Average of five years 

Venom: Latrodectus-like toxins

(Not to be confused with the black widow spider, on whose similarity the false widow was given its common name.)


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