Opinion: Why have we been caught in web of sensationalism created by fuss about false widow spiders?

A false widow spider. Photot: PA.

A false widow spider. Photot: PA. - Credit: PA

It has been entertaining to watch the invasion of the deadly false widow spiders take hold of the country this week.

Oh what's that? They're not deadly? They have a bite no worse than a wasp sting? The spiders have been in this country since the 1870s?

Judging by the reaction of many national newspapers and some members of the public you would think the swarm of evil, human-hungry spiders were responsible for deaths around the country.

But where has the mass over-reaction come from? One football player in Devon being bitten and having to have hospital treatment.

Hardly necessary of sparking national fears, was it?

So I was delighted to see that one of Norfolk's councils felt the need to put on its best impression of Corporal Jones from Dad's Army and warned its residents to not panic.


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Yarmouth Borough Council staked its claim for a piece of the eight-legged hysteria on Wednesday after THREE reports of potential sightings of what may or may not have been false widow spiders.

Jeremy Marsh, from the council's environmental health department, said: 'The key message to the public is don't panic. It is not a deadly invasion.

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'They can bite and produce venom that could leave a slight swelling and tingling sensation, but usually the bite is no worse than a bee or wasp sting.'

So what was the need to react to this tiny public reaction? Three people in a borough with a population of around 97,000 is hardly cause for concern is it?

I understand spiders are not liked by many people, I'm not especially keen either and certainly don't want to be bitten by one.

Surely we can all be more sensible, though? With every media outlet going reporting on the spiders, it's not a surprise that some people who are scared of spiders jump to this conclusion.

If even one person had been bitten by one of these spiders in Yarmouth, then fair enough – but they haven't.

Perhaps we should all keep some perspective and not get tangled up in a web of sensationalism.

Related links

False widow spider sightings on the rise in east Norfolk and reports of a 'nest' outside a Great Yarmouth home

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