A POISONOUS spider closely related to the infamous Black Widow has been found in Harlow.
Mother-of-two Amanda Mayo (37), of Mallows Green, got an unpleasant surprise when she awoke to find a specimen of the venomous false widow, Steatoda Nobilis, clinging to her bedroom curtains.
"I'd just woken up and was going to open the curtains when I saw the spider," she said. "I'm not very fond of spiders, to put it mildly, but I got a close look at it and noticed unusual white markings on its back.
"A couple of weeks earlier, I'd seen a report on ITV's This Morning about a woman who'd been bitten by a false widow and had to go to hospital and that's where I recognised the spider from."
Ms Mayo captured the creature in a jam jar and took it to Parndon Wood Nature Reserve to see if staff could identify the creature.
Warden Antonio Cutro took photographs of the specimen and forwarded them to the Essex Field Club, where entomologist Peter Harvey confirmed Ms Mayo's suspicions and revealed it to be the first confirmed sighting of the species in north Essex - the most northerly sighting of the spider in this country to date.
"It has been known from the Southend area in Essex since 1990, but this is the first confirmed record of the species from north Essex," he said. "However, in recent years it does appear to be spreading widely across southern England, almost certainly due to warmer summers."
Left a little shaken by the revelation that the spider was a venomous false widow, Ms Mayo reflected on what could have happened had the spider crawled into the cot of her three-month-old son Todd.
"It's scary to think the spider could have bitten Todd," she said. "Who knows what effect its poison could have on a toddler?"
Although not considered to be lethal, the bite of the Steatoda Nobilis has a neurotoxic effect on the body, causing symptoms ranging from sweats and chills to chest pain, headache and localised swelling.