Special features: The false widow spider (Steatoda nobilis) probably arrived in the UK from the Canary Islands. It was first recorded in Torquay, Devon, back in 1879. Since then it has adapted well to our colder climate.
False widows belong to a group of spiders which are part of the same family as the infamous Black Widow spiders, although they are nowhere near as toxic. They're frequently mistaken for Black Widow spiders, which has led to the common name of "False Widow" spiders.
They have a dark shiny body. The abdomen has some pale markings on the top, and there is a creamy coloured band all round the front. Under a hand lens this looks like an intricate mosaic.
The web of the false widow spider consists of many short, irregularly placed silk strands. It's a bit of a mish-mash.
False widows have a reputation for biting people, although in truth, this is quite a rare occurrence. You would need to be very unlucky, or go out of your way to be bitten. They only bite if mishandled or provoked. People who have experienced the bite say it's similar to a bee sting.
Scientific name: Steatoda nobilis
Size: Head and body 7 - 14mm
Distribution: Found in most parts of England - more common in the south. Recently reported sightings were in Bristol, North Wiltshire, Gloucester, Berkshire and Norfolk
Months seen: All year round
Habitat: Usually found in houses and out buildings
Food: Flies and other small insects