Four schools shut for up to a MONTH after false widow spiders found
Thousands of children are evacuated as four schools are shut down for up to a MONTH with parents frantically checking bags and uniforms after an infestation of venomous false widow spiders
- The four schools have been shut in Newham, east London after the discovery
- Two primary schools and two secondary schools have been closed
- Pest controllers have been brought in over the infestation of the false widows
- The spider’s are the size of a 50p piece and their bite can cause painful swelling
Thousands of children have been told to stay home today after a council closed four schools – because they were invaded by Britain’s deadliest spiders.
Newham Council in east London has evacuated two primaries and two secondary schools to treat the invasion of False Widow Spiders ‘immediately, before the eggs start hatching’.
Pupils in the borough now face up to a month out of lessons while pest control experts scour the schools in a bid to curb the killer menace.
False Widow Spiders, the UK’s most poisonous arachnid, are dark-coloured with globular bodies and range from 9.5 to 14 mm in size
The schools closed are Rokeby Secondary school and Star Lane Primary in Canning Town, Lister Community School in Plaistow and Ellen Wilkinson Primary in Beckton.
Rokeby school is due to remain closed until October 29.
In a letter to parents headteacher Charlotte Robinson said it would take three weeks to get rid of the spiders.
She wrote: ‘We have engaged a company to deal with and eradicate this pest, they have estimated that this will take up to three weeks.
A notice on the Lister Community School website from the headteacher Anthony Wilson
Lister Community School. It has closed its doors after advice from the local council
‘The safety and wellbeing of students and staff must be our priority so whilst I understand that this may be very inconvenient for you it is in your child’s best interest to remain at home and not at school.’
One parent, whose son goes to the school wrote on social media: ‘My son’s school Rokeby has been shut down as it’s now infested with them after huge nest was found this morning.
‘Now I’m checking his bags and uniform lol.’
False Widow Spiders, the UK’s most poisonous arachnid, are dark-coloured with globular bodies and range from 9.5 to 14 mm in size.
Ellen Wilkinson Primary School headteacher Sue Ferguson said the infestation needs to be ‘treated immediately before the eggs start hatching’
Ellen Wilkinson Primary school in Beckton announced that the school will be closed for this week and ‘most of next week’
Star Primary School said they are ‘exploring the possibility of using alternative venues next week as a possible solution’
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Although named because of its physical similarity to the killer black widow spider, the species’ bites rarely cause death but can be very painful.
Symptoms include severe pain radiating from the bite and fever – but could prove fatal if a young and vulnerable child was bitten in an especially sensitive location.
Sue Ferguson, headteacher for Ellen Wilkinson School, said treatment needs to begin ‘immediately’ before the eggs start hatching.
She said: ‘I want to reassure all members of our community that these are precautionary measures and that we are very lucky to have found out in time to take action to remove them for the continuing safety and well-being of pupils, staff and all site users.
Although named because of its physical similarity to the killer black widow spider, the species’ bites rarely cause death but can be very painful
‘I do regretfully have to inform you that I am advised the school treatment plan which started today, will happen in two phases. Unfortunately this means that the school will be closed for most of next week too.
‘I can only imagine the impact that this will have on all our parents and pupils and I sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this is causing you. I have met with the SLT today in order to arrange further work for children to complete at home.
‘We are also actively exploring the possibility of using alternative venues next week.’
Lister Community School head teacher Anthony Wilson said he hoped his school would open by Friday.
He added: ‘Investigations suggest that there may be some of these spiders on our site, and we are therefore following advice from the local authority and will be closing the school as a precaution to allow full investigation.’
WHAT IS THE FALSE WIDOW SPIDER AND WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET BITTEN
False widow spiders are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns.
Millions of false widows, Britain’s most venomous spider, have been found across the UK and the population is believed to be growing.
The species has a brown bulbous abdomen with cream markings that look like a skull. They have long legs and can reach about 15mm in size.
Also known as steatoda nobilis, the spider is frequently confused for the black widow, which has deadly venom.
The false widow was first spotted in the UK in Torquay, Devon, in 1879, and it is understood that it may have made its way to these shores from Madeira or the Canary Islands in a shipment of bananas.
The Natural History Museum says that warmer summers mean the spider is spreading northwards through the UK, having been found mainly in southern England.
False widow spiders are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns
IF YOU GET BITTEN…
The first thing you should do is wash the area thoroughly with soap and water to prevent infection – and don’t scratch, as if you break the skin there’s more chance for bacteria to get in.
Cover bites with a plaster and apply an antihistamine sting cream to calm any inflammation or itching, says Stuart Hine, from the Natural History Museum’s identification and advisory service.
Any redness, pain or swelling should subside after three days.
Be alert to potential signs of infection, such as weeping blisters or painful swelling, that continue to get worse after a few days.
If this happens, seek advice from your GP.
Headteacher at Star Primary, Lisle Von Buchenroder, said the school was forced to close so pest control can exterminate the eggs before they start hatching.
She wrote to parents on Wednesday, and said: ‘I am writing to update you regarding the current school closure.
‘It was with much regret that I had to make the decision to close the school yesterday as the safety and well-being of pupils and staff is always our number one priority.
‘I was made aware of an infestation of noble false black widow spiders which was discovered during a routine check by Newham’s Environmental Team.
‘They believe that the infestation is contained to the outside of the building and that this needs to be treated immediately before the eggs start hatching.
‘I want to reassure all members of our community that these are precautionary measures and that we are very lucky to have found out in time to take action to remove them.
‘After speaking to the Environmental Team this morning, I do regretfully have to inform you that I am advised the school treatment plan will happen in two phases, starting tomorrow.
‘We will update you next week as to when we expect the school to reopen.’
A spokesman for Newham Council said the schools – which are all within a two-mile radius – were closed after the false widow spiders were discovered.
She added: ‘The spiders only bite if mishandled or provoked. The venom is not particularly potent.
‘The schools are being treated and fumigated and we are working with the schools to ensure that children can continue to receive an education whilst their school is closed. Pupils are being set work via the schools and will remain in contact with schools.
‘We are asking all our schools and nurseries to proactively check their premises carefully for these spiders and if they see any signs, then contact environmental health or pest control.’
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