New research conducted by scientists in NUI Galway has found that invasive false widow spiders are up to 230 times more poisonous than domestic species. Dr Michel Dugon of the Venom Lab at NUI Galway, joined Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1 to tell us more.
Kicking off the conversation on a positive note, Dr Dugon assured listeners that, despite being 230 time more poisonous than our native spiders, the bite of a false widow is similar to that of a wasp sting, possibly leading to some pain and minor symptoms but certainly nothing lethal.
Our native spiders, though, may not be so lucky.
"We knew that the false widow produced toxins that are very similar to the true black widow, just not in the same quantity, but we were not expecting such a massive difference between native species and the false widow."
This means that the false widow is "incredibly good" at battling it out with native species thanks to its potent toxins and its ability to project its silk in order to cage opponents.
"The novel false widow is what we call a 'generalist feeder' so because of the profile of its venom it can take down a large variety of prey, that includes most bugs that you would find in Ireland, including most types of spiders."
Interestingly, they are also capable of taking down much larger prey such as lizards, bats and rodents.
When Claire asked how many false widow spiders were now in the country, Dr Dugon gave the chilling answer: "It's not possible to count them anymore. There are millions of false widows in the country."
As well as invading Ireland, they have managed to make their way to the UK, all of Western Europe, parts of the Middle East, parts of California, and parts of South America.
One of the reasons Dr Dugon is so interested in studying these creatures is because this type of mass take over can have a "strong impact on nature", especially on islands such as Ireland where eco-systems tend to be fragile.
If we see a false widow in our homes, Dr Dugon says to use the trusty combo of a cup and a piece of paper to bring it outside. The worst thing to do, he says, is to go around the house with an insecticide spray as that will also wipe out our native species.
"At the end of the day, they are still the best defense and the best barrier we have for further invasion of alien species and invasive species."
Spiders, he reminds listeners, are also incredibly important to keeping mosquitos, midges and flies at bay: "We do really need them."