The Cupboard Spider (Steatoda grossa) is probably the most common of the UK False Widows. Contrary to 'media-belief' they have lived in the UK for a very long time, and are nowhere near as dangerous as portrayed. So why all the hype? Well firstly Steatoda grossa is known as a false widow, which automatically makes people think of the extremely venomous Black Widows (Latrodecus sp.), and secondly because they have a rather strong bite (although they would rather run away from you than bite!). Bites are extremely rare in the UK and most are actually misdiagnosed fly/pest bites. And please note spiders are venomous, not poisonous!
TOXINS - BITES
Flesh-eating bites...All false. The Steatoda venom is a neurotoxin which affects the nervous system, not a necrotoxin (flesh-eating). Therefore all the false/misinformed media reports of giant flesh wounds, etc are rubbish, they are actually bites (maybe mosquito, midge, etc) that have become infected with a Streptococcus-type bacteria, due to bad care of the wound/bite site (I personally had my whole forearm swell up from a mosquito after I scratched the bite site). So please, stop worrying. I have many Cupboard Spiders in my shed and some around my house and they happily keep down the amount of pests in my home! Also note, I have handled spiders all my life and have never been bitten. A Steatoda bite may cause fever and general malaise, known in the medical profession as steatodism.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
In the UK the Cupboard Spider is mainly an inhabitant of the south, with only a few records from northern areas. Globally this species is rather cosmopolitan including North America, Australasia and Europe. Also known as the Dark Comb-footed Spider and Brown House Spider, the Cupboard Spider is found in houses, sheds and other structural areas.
Females average 6-10mm, with the male only averaging 4-6mm, the female having a larger bulbous brownish-purple abdomen which may exhibit pale markings. The male is much slimmer with longer legs.
DIET, BEHAVIOUR AND REPRODUCTION
Bites are rare, usually only as a last resort. If you do cross paths with one and would rather not have it in your house/shed/other, simply place a cup over it and slide a card underneath. When you turn the cup over the spider will fall to the bottom (with no injury to you or the spider) and you can safely empty the spider outside! The females can live for up to 6 years compared to the males only averaging around 1 - 1.5 years.
OTHER NOTABLE FACTS
Other notable UK species are the Noble False Widow (Steatoda nobilis), the Rabbit-Hutch Spider (Steatoda bipunctata) and the Triangulate Cobweb Spider (Steatoda triangulosa).
In the film Spider-man (2002), a Steatoda grossa was painted red and blue and was used as the super-spider that bit Peter Parker