Family Theridiidae (Comb-footed spiders)
Body length 7-11 mm.
This is the largest of the 3 false widow spiders found in Britain. A very handsomely marked spider with dark brown patches on the abdomen on a cream background. The carapace is shiny dark brown or black, and the legs, which can be up to 25 mm long, are reddish-orange in colour.
The female can lay 3 or more sacs of eggs or cocoons between May and July, with each sac contain more than 200 eggs. The web is a messy, often large, tangled mass of non-sticky but very strong silk, usually built in a corner with a tubular retreat partly hidden in a deep crack or hole. It feeds on insects, other invertebrates and even other spiders.
Strongly synanthropic (living closely with human beings) it is most commonly found in and around commercial premises, including conservatories, public toilet blocks, garages and sheds, and in peoples homes. It also lives in walls, fences, the bark of trees and other dark places.
Common throughout southern England and extending its range north and west. This is the only non-native species of Steatoda, which was originally from the Canary Islands and Madeira, and it was first recorded in Torquay, Devon, in 1879. It is believed to have been imported with bananas, and it established a stronghold in the South West, particularly Devon. However in recent years, Britain’s warmer climate has meant the spider has survived the winter in larger numbers, and it has been able to breed and spread north.
As a distant cousin of the Black Widow Spider, the Noble False Widow Spider has suffered hyped and inaccurate media claims over the years and has become notorious as a ‘killer spider’ causing harmful bites to humans. Although it can bite, it is usually in response to a threat, and it would be no different from a bee or wasp sting for the average person.