Warmer weather in Ireland during the summer and autumn months has led to a large increase in the county’s spider population, along with a surge in the number of reports by people saying they’ve been bitten by the creatures.
“Spiders have been making hay while the sun shines. They’ve been growing all summer and are very abundant now, before the bad weather wipes them out,” spider expert and entomologist Stephen McCormack told the Irish Times.
Speaking on the John Murray Show on RTE Radio One, arachnologist Myles Nolan said people are seeing more spiders now because it is mating season and the spiders are more active.
“Because of the mild summer many spiders are moving around, and younger ones seeking to overwinter might be moving indoors,” he said.
More people have been reporting spider bites, some with severe reactions. The main suspect in these cases is the false widow spider. Native to the Canary Islands, the false widow is related to the black widow but is not as dangerous.
Nolan says the species has spread across the southeast of Ireland since the 1990s
One Dublin man spent a day in intensive care after reportedly being bitten by a false widow spider in his home. The species is also being blamed for two cases in Cork.
However, the British National History Museum says “In no way can this species be considered deadly.”
“These extraordinary symptoms are more likely to be caused by other medical complications, such as bacterial infection of a wound that may or may not be attributable to a spider bite,” says the museum, which does acknowledge that the species does bite more than any other spider and it can be painful.
The museum, which has received over 1,000 inquiries about the species over the past 15 years, says that most of the media reports about the species have not been backed up by formal identification of the spider that caused the bite.
"There are a few other spiders around Ireland - they might have long fangs, they're sturdy and if you did handle them aggressively they might bite back,” said Nolan, according to the Irish Mirror.
“But if you don't bother them, it's not likely that they will bother you: "If you know they're there but if you know where their webs are, they will generally stay there."
He added: “You might want to be a bit more vigilant over the next few months, but 99.9% of the population have nothing to worry about.”