Poisonous spiders force schools to learn online


A school in England closed Wednesday, September 29th, teaching 1,500 students online because of a suspected infestation with false widow spiders – Britain’s most venomous spider.

Northampton Duston School is the second school in as many weeks to send students home after suspected false widow infestations. The Malcolm Arnold Academy, also in Northampton, was temporarily closed last week.

The school informed parents Tuesday evening that the school will be closed while the outbreak is being assessed and the school is being cleaned.

“I cannot apologize enough for the inconvenience this may cause you, particularly with regard to the organization of childcare,” said school principal Sam Strickland in a letter on the BBC.

“However, the health and safety of the school community must come first. The tasks for all of our students at home are done through Microsoft Teams.”

False widow spiders are the most venomous in the UK, although the bite is no stronger than a wasp sting. It is often confused with the similar looking black widow spider, which has a potentially fatal bite.

The false widow’s bite can be painful, and the pain can radiate away from the bite and last anywhere from one to 12 hours, according to the Natural History Museum. However, the spiders tend to bite only when provoked or trapped on the skin.

There have been cases of hospitalizations believed to have been caused by false widow spider bites, although these were due to later infections rather than the venom itself.

Every fall, false widow spiders start to invade homes and buildings across the UK when the climate gets cooler.

The very first false widow was recorded in Britain in the 1870s, likely from a cargo ship from the home of the insect Madeira and the Canary Islands. However, it gained ground in the 1980s when it established larger populations in the south of the country – although it has since spread northwards as well.

Duston School reopened today, September 30th, with approval from local authorities. In a second letter home on NorthantsLive, the headmaster said, “First of all, I want to thank you for your forbearance and patience after the school closes today.

“I’m not taking the school closure lightly unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“The health and safety of our community is rightly at the center of decision-making.

“The local authority, Amey and Ecolab were on the school premises today and looked into the situation at hand. They were in regular contact throughout the day and assured me that the school can open again tomorrow.

“Therefore, the school will be open on Thursday, 30.

“I thank the overwhelming majority of parents and guardians for your continued support and understanding.”

Stock image of a false widow spider.
Getty Images

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