False black widow spiders are creeping up on us all: Numbers spotted in homes and gardens on the rise after warm weather in September
Hordes of false black widow spiders have been spotted in British homes and gardens as they come out of hiding for mating season.
One of the warmest Septembers on record has helped boost numbers of the country's most venomous spider.
Normally only seen in the south, false black widows have spread around the UK due to milder winters. The creepy crawly has been officially recorded as far north as Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, while populations have soared on the south coast.
The spider can bite humans when it feels threatened, piercing the skin and causing an effect like a bee or wasp sting.
Hordes of false black widow spiders (pictured) have been spotted in British homes and gardens as they come out of hiding for mating season
Earlier this month, a lorry driver from Somerset was left with a 'gaping hole' in his wrist after a surgery for a reaction to a false black widow bite, while a mother-of-two in Teesside is on antibiotics after a suspected biting last week.
On Monday, Stephanie Sheehan, 28, spotted three huge false black widows - or Steatoda nobilis - hiding behind the door of her garage in Brighton.
She said: 'I was so shocked - one would be bad enough but three is terrifying. The biggest one is massive, its body is as big as a large marble and it moves really fast.
'I know they only bite in defence but I certainly won't be going back in the garage for a long time.'
Experts said humans were more likely to spot the spiders at this time of year as males leave their usual hiding places to search for a mate.
The bodies of female spiders can be up to 1.5cm long, and both sexes have a pentagon shape mark on their backs which looks like a skull.
Jess Price, conservation officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: 'This time of year is when the spiders are fully grown and the males will be walking around looking for a female.
False black widows come from the Canary Islands (pictured) and were first found in Torquay, Devon, in 1879, probably after being accidentally imported
'The warmer weather this September means there are more insects around for them to eat, so they will live for longer.
'Spiders also tend to come inside when the weather starts getting colder so people are more likely to see them in autumn.'
She said false black widows liked living near humans because we tend to attract insects like flies and mosquitos and our porches, sheds and gardens contain lots of 'nooks and crannies' for them to hide in.
False black widows come from the Canary Islands and were first found in Torquay, Devon, in 1879, probably after being accidentally imported. They are now widespread in southern England.
The spider is often wrongly confused with the deadly black widow spider, which is not found in Britain.
The bite of a false black widow is no more serious than a bee or wasp sting, although, like stings, some people can suffer allergic reactions to bites. No deaths have been recorded from any bites.