Two primary schools closed after False Widow spider infestations

False Widow Credit Mario QuevedoFalse Widow Pic: Mario Quevedo

Pupils at Osmani Primary School in Tower Hamlets returned to school yesterday after closing last week due to a False Widow spider infestation while a neighbouring school will stay closed until next week.

Osmani and Thomas Buxton Primary Schools, close to each other in Whitechapel were forced to close on Friday after the eggs and nests of spiders were discovered in their buildings.

Concerns were raised when spiders were found across the playground and throughout the buildings.

Thomas Buxton Primary School will not open until November 23. Tower Hamlets Council said: “Due to health concerns for staff and pupils the schools will be closed until next week. Please check the two schools’ websites for more information.”

Although False Widows are not deadly, their bites are considered toxic and can lead to painful swelling. The schools warned that the spiders could give a “nasty bite that may cause an allergic reaction in vulnerable people.”

A distant cousin of the black widow, the false widow has been native to London for 100 years. According to the Natural History Museum, the spiders were introduced via trade ships, returning from the Canary Islands.

The false widow is one of 12 spiders in England that are capable of biting, however, the symptoms depend on how much venom is injected.

Extreme reactions can include chest plain, swelling, and puss filled blisters. While the male spiders do not bite, the female false black widows bite if they feel threatened, described as being similar to a wasp sting.

Pest control teams arrived promptly at the schools and worked over the weekend to remove all the nests and spiders. Tower Hamlets Council released a statement saying: “If you are worried about the health of your child – in particular around spider bites – please do make sure that you refer your child to a local GP.”

Osmani Primary School released a statement on the school website on Sunday saying: “The fumigation of the school building and grounds has been successfully completed. The spiders, their eggs and nests have been removed and the premises have been deemed safe by the pest controllers.”

Headteacher Remi Atoyebi at Osmani Primary School described the general response of the parents as cordial and cooperative: “Parents were very pleased that we took the necessary action and that the health of the children were put first.”

“The parents have been very, very supportive and we had a meeting yesterday for any parents that had questions.  We also held an assembly for children.”

Atoyebi said no students were bitten, everything has been cleaned up by pest controllers and that the infestation has given the school a great learning opportunity, with student projects now underway: “Some children will be writing blogs and journalistic works about the spiders.”

According to the Daily Mail, a man ended up in the A&E in October after he was bitten by a false black widow in West London.

Sunil Dade said the bite was like being struck by lightening and he started shaking uncontrollably. He squeezed out the poison on his back, and a huge section of skin subsequently turned black.

Pest Management Consultant, Clive Boase, warned that warm temperatures and rainfall this autumn mean that the false black widow will continue popping up throughout London, seeking refuge in dark, sheltered places.

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