’Tis the season of bites and stings...

First published in Comment

AS a celebration of the summer holiday season, what better topic for a series of articles than wildlife that bites and stings.

At least now, when you are sat there rubbing a painful swelling, you might have some idea who did it.

The first group of animals to consider is one I hadn’t expected, but thanks to the always informative Natural History Museum website I now know something I didn’t before. Several species of British spider bite.

The list given by the museum does contain several examples of spiders that I wouldn’t call British. They are animals that have become naturalised in areas of the UK after arriving here by ship.

Accounts published include bites from species such as the woodlouse spider, originally from southern Europe. The victim reported that the bite was “similar to a nettle sting”.

Not too bad, then. If you see a picture of the woodlouse spider you might have expected worse.

However, the accounts collated include some very commonplace UK species, including the garden spider, araneus diadematus. The bite was said to have caused nausea and swelling for three days.

Before you become alarmed, though, one of the reports has left me with a slight feeling of scepticism about the whole thing.

We all know the money spider (leptohoptrum robustum), and the museum relays the following information: “Workers at a sewage treatment plant complained of being bitten by large numbers of this tiny linyphiid spider, resulting in local redness and swelling (Duffey and Green, 1975).”

A swarm of biting money spiders?

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