London

False widow spiders infestation closes two Tower Hamlets primary schools

False widow spider Image copyright ALAMY

Two east London primary schools infested with false widow spiders have been forced to close.

Pupils at Osmani School and Thomas Buxton School, 120m (394ft) apart in Whitechapel, were told to stay at home until 16 and 23 November respectively.

The spiders can give a "nasty bite which may cause an allergic reaction in vulnerable people", the schools warned.

Nests and eggs were found in the buildings and school grounds which are closed for fumigation.

"Pest control teams are currently on the premises of both schools, dealing with the infestation of false widow spiders," a spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said.

"The spiders are not considered to be dangerous but do bite.

"Due to health concerns for staff and pupils the schools will be closed until next week.

"If you are worried about the health of your child - in particular around spider bites - please do make sure that you refer your child to a local GP."

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'Britain's most venomous spider'

Image copyright Bruce McLelland
Image caption The council said pest control teams were dealing with the infestation
  • False widow spiders arrived in south-west England in the 1870s
  • It is Britain's most venomous spider, although there are no reported deaths from its bite in the UK
  • The spider has distinctive cream markings on its bulbous body and is brown with reddish-orangey legs
  • It eats insects, invertebrates and even other spiders
  • It prefers warm, dark places
  • The UK has about 650 species of spider and of these only about a dozen are capable of biting humans

Source: Natural History Museum


A statement published on both schools' websites said: "The safety and wellbeing of the children is our main concern so we have to take immediate action to deal with the problem.

"We are very sorry for the inconvenience and disruption to family life and also to the children's learning."

Osmani School is due to reopen on 16 November and Thomas Buxton on 23 November.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said it was aware of the closures and that the decision to send pupils home was a matter for the school.

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