Our latest findings from our Pest Partners project in museum collections across the south west, from our Conservation Development Officer Helena Jaeschke.

Spiders in the south west

All of our Pest Partner museums now have kits and are supplying us with valuable insights into pests in their collections. At least four organisations have discovered Noble False Widow Spiders (mostly Steatoda Nobilis) in traps or around their buildings.  (Trigger warning – picture of spider below!)

They are not something to worry too much about – they seldom bite and it is mostly likened to a wasp sting in severity – but do be careful to wear gloves when you are unable see where you are putting your hands – for example behind boxes and in dark corners.

There is some helpful and very interesting information on these spiders on the Natural History Museum website and the British Arachnological Society website.

Although a species introduced to the UK, the Noble False Widow spider was first documented near Torquay in 1879.  They are now spreading north as the climate becomes milder and have even been spotted in east Scotland, as shown in this map of distribution across the UK.

Tips to identify Noble False Widow Spiders:

Noble false widow spider

Steatoda nobilis – Martin Cooper via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

  • Body can be 7 – 14mm long.
  • Front legs can be twice as long as the body.
  • Legs can be translucent, with reddish joints and short hairs.
  • Head and thorax are dark reddish brown on the back, can be paler underneath.
  • The rounded, almost swollen abdomen is also dark brown, with a greyish or buff band around the front end and markings on the back; a series of symmetrical blobs which can resemble a skull.
  • The web is a tangle of strong strands and there may be a dark recess nearby in which the spider shelters.

News from our Pest Partners across the region

Pest Partners museums and heritage sites are now well spread out across the South West. See our interactive map to see where all they are all located.

So far we have received 662 survey entries, listing 1410 pests.

  • Spiders have raced to the top of the leaderboard, showing that museums are harbouring a considerable supply of prey species. It’s rather sad when spiders get caught in the traps, as they don’t harm collections and help by catching some pests.
  • The high numbers of woodlice and silverfish and a few wood-boring weevils show that damp is, unsurprisingly, a problem in some buildings. We recommend using a dehumidifier to try and prevent damp in your collection – see our tips on dehumidifier maintenance from our September newsletter below.
  • The presence of large numbers of furniture beetles, a scattering of Deathwatch beetles and Powderpost beetles show that building timbers and objects made of wood are under threat from these pests.
  • It’s interesting to note that more Brown Carpet beetles have been found than the better-known Variegated Carpet beetle. Shiny Spider beetle and Grey Silverfish are also showing up more than we expected.
Chart showing Pest Partners findings - spiders (526) silverfish (240) woodlouse (152) booklouse (105) furniture beetle (69) woodlouse spider (27) case bearing clothes moth (25) brown carpet beetle (20) shiny spider beetle (19) grey silverfish (16) webbing clothes moth (16) brown house moth (12) varied carpet beetle (12) death watch beetle (9) powder post beetle (7) white-shouldered clothes moth (6) firebrat (6) plaster beetle (5) wood-boring weevil (5) pale-backed clothes moth (4) australian spider beetle (4) golden spider beetle (2) fungus (1) 2 spot carpet beetle (0)

Pest Partners findings October 2020

Top tips – Dehumidifier maintenance

As we embrace Autumn and experience an increase in wet weather, it’s time to make sure your dehumidifiers are ready for their winter work.

  • Make sure the tank is clean and free from mould. Wipe down inside and out with a clean dry or slightly damp cloth.
  • Check if the filter is clean. Vacuum and brush it to remove any dust.
  • Replace the filter if it is more than 2 years old.
  • Plug the unit in and check that everything works.

Find out more

Find out more about our Pest Partners project and its aims on our Pest Partners page.