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Teacher bitten on eye by false widow spider thought he was suffering a stroke

Stuart Vesty was bitten by a false widow spider while he slept, and woke fearing he had suffered a stroke. (Kennedy)
Stuart Vesty was bitten by a false widow spider while he slept, and woke fearing he had suffered a stroke. (Kennedy)

A teacher has described how he woke up with his face throbbing and one side starting to sag after what he says was a reaction to a false widow spider bite.

Spider season often begins in September or October in UK homes. There are about 650 species of spider, ranging from those with a leg span of just a couple of millimetres to the 12cm leg span of the cardinal spider.

(Please note, this article contains pictures of spiders)

When Stuart Vesty, from Sandwich in Kent, woke with a start, he was initially worried he was having a stroke and went to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent.

However, before he left, Vesty noticed the squashed corpse of a spider in his bed and, suspecting it may have bitten him, boxed it up and took it with him to the hospital.

Doctors confirmed he had been bitten and after an examination confirmed it was a false widow spider, he said.

False widow spiders can be found in the UK and are known to have a venomous bite. (Getty)
False widow spiders can be found in the UK and are known to have a venomous bite. (Getty)

The false widow has been linked, in very rare cases, to reports of rotting flesh and severe pain, although the Natural History Museum says these have not always been supported by formal identification and any symptoms are likely caused by secondary infection.

'My wife was worried'

Fearing the bite had perforated Vesty's eyeball, doctors poured a dye into his eye to determine where he had been bitten, leaving a glowing green residue - he joked that it left him resembling Arnold Schwarzenegger's cyborg character from the film The Terminator.

He said: "When I got up in the morning, it looked like I had had a stroke. One side of my face was sagging, my wife was really quite worried."

Stuart Vesty's 'Terminator' eye after he was bitten on the eyelid by a false widow spider. (Kennedy)
Stuart Vesty's 'Terminator' eye after he was bitten on the eyelid by a false widow spider. (Kennedy)

After running tests, doctors concluded he had been bitten on his eyelid and not his eyeball.

Vesty said: "My face was really swollen so I was quite worried, and very relieved when it came back to normal.

"If it had been the eyeball it would've been much more serious, I feel very lucky."

How venomous are false widow spiders?

Although false widows do have a venomous bite, experts at the Natural History Museum say the venom is not particularly potent. Usually the only symptom is pain at the site which may radiate away from the bite. It usually lasts between one and 12 hours, and rarely for more than 24 hours.

Often, the symptoms are no worse than the pain of a wasp sting.

Males are more prone to biting. But this is only because they leave the nest in search of a mate, often venturing indoors looking for females. They are only known to bite when provoked or trapped against skin.

Black widow spiders are much more dangerous than false widows if they bite, but are not native to the UK. (Getty Images)
Black widow spiders are much more dangerous than false widows if they bite but are not native to the UK. (Getty Images)

Why are there more spiders in September?

As autumn approaches, male spiders mature and leave their webs – concealed in nooks and crannies in houses – to search for females. They therefore are sighted much more, leading to the idea that September and October are 'spider season'.

The Natural History Museum says that while it might seem like false widow spiders make a dash for homes as soon as the weather gets chilly, they can actually be seen inside all year round.

Temperature may be one cause of the arachnid exodus as they attempt to get out of the cold, but some may have long gone unnoticed in the darkened corners of the house.

Jan Beccaloni, curator of the Arachnida and Myriapoda collection at the museum, said: "Next time you find an unwanted spider in your house, please don’t kill it! Either leave it in peace, or humanely put it out in your shed."

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