A group of workers at an aircraft supply company in Crawley, West Sussex got a surprise last week when they discovered an eight-legged stowaway in a box of aircraft brake parts.
A female North American black widow spider had hitched a lift from Arizona – where the box had orginated – in July but was only discovered last week by staff members at Aerfin in Crawley.
The quick-thinking workers isolated the spider under a plastic container, before doing some research online to discover what type of spider they were dealing with – and calling the RSPCA.
“Many people would have squished it, so all credit to them for doing the right thing,” said RSPCA Officer Tony Woodley, who was dispatched to deal with the situation.
Officer Woodley took the spider – which Aerfin workers had named Nadia – away and found a new home for her at Drusilla’s Park, a small zoo in Sussex with expert facilities.
“You need to be an expert to deal with this kind of spider,” added Woodley.
“In fact the secretary of the British Tarantula Society works at Drusilla’s.”
Nadia had survived for three months in the box of aeroplane brake parts. She was even carrying an egg sac when she was discovered.
“Arachnids can survive in quite harsh conditions and this species is one which likes warmer weather – and we have just been through the summer months,” noted Woodley.
It’s a common idea that black widow spiders are deadly. In fact, while their bite can be extremely painful – due to the  presence of latrotoxin in their venom – Woodley noted that no-one is recorded to have ever died from a North American black widow spider bite.
If you discover a spider you don’t immediately recognise in your home, the first thing to do is not to panic, Woodley advises.
“It is unlikely an exotic, non-native species will be discovered in someone’s home. They are more likely to be found in locations linked with imported goods,” he said.
Do some research as to the species of spider – the internet is a good resource – and call in the experts from the RSPCA.
Photo credit: RSPCA