Black widow ‘lived for nine months’ in VW camper van

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-34064871

The spiderImage caption The spider has been rehomed at a butterfly farm

A couple found a venomous black widow spider had been living in their VW camper van for nine months after it was discovered by a mechanic in Worcestershire.

The couple, who do not wish to be named, imported the camper van from Sacramento in California in November.

They stored it in their garage before taking it to a Strensham mechanic, who found the spider on Thursday.

The spider has been rehomed at a butterfly farm in Warwickshire.

‘Very, very venomous’

Carl Marshall, from the Stratford Butterfly Farm, said: “The mechanic was working on the underside of the vehicle when he spotted the spider and told the owner it was there.

“We went over there and collected it last Thursday.”

Mr Marshall said although the spider was “very, very venomous”, it would have been unlikely to have attacked a human unless it had been squashed or sat on.

The female spider was found alongside a sac of eggs, which was also taken to the farm.

“The egg sacs were empty and it is very unlikely the young would have survived in Britain’s colder temperatures,” said Mr Marshall.

“The spider itself probably only survived the winter because it stayed in the camper van, where it was slightly warmer.”

However, he advised the owner to be cautious.

“It does sometimes happen that black widows are found in imported vehicles,” he said.

A spokesman for the Stratford-upon-Avon attraction said: “As the spider is renowned for being incredibly tough and living in dark crevices, it was easy for it to remain unnoticed in the camper van.

“It would have eaten insects to survive and caught its prey by snaring it in its web.

“Although living in the van for the last 11 months, it appears completely unscathed after its travels from the USA.

The spider is being kept in a biological hazard enclosure at the farm.

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  • Black widows are known to be one of the most venomous spiders in the world, with venom 15 times more potent than a rattlesnake
  • The venom, although potentially lethal, is only administered in small quantities, so rarely causes death
  • In the US between 1950 and 1989, 63 deaths were reported, about 2-3% of recorded bites
  • Female black widow spiders may cannibalise their mates after copulation to ensure they are well-fed to get through pregnancy. They can lay up to 900 eggs in an egg sac

Source: Stratford Butterfly Farm

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