The most venomous spider in Britain has bitten an amateur footballer in Devon.
The 22-year-old from Dawlish had to undergo an emergency operation at Torbay Hospital after a false widow spider bit him in his sleep.
Steve Harris’ teammates at Elmore Football Club, which plays in the South West Peninsula Premier League, thought the defender was joking when he was pulled out of the squad for three weeks because of the injury. They only believed him when he showed them a photo of his wound.
“When I woke up I had a pain in my side - a stinging feeling. I didn't take that much notice until it started swelling and the pain got worse.
“The area around the bite mark just ballooned and grew and grew. It was only when the area started to turn black, some four days after I first noticed the bite, that I decided I ought to go to hospital.”
He now has an open wound where surgeons had to cut out the spider’s poison.
The GP at the surgery where the footballer was diagnosed has seen six similar bits in the last few weeks.
“They operated on me immediately and it took half an hour to cut away the area around the bite to get at the poison. I now have an open wound and have to wait for it to heal over.
"I was in agony. I have never had pain like that before in my life. It's still very painful now. I still can't sleep properly and find it virtually impossible to get in and out of a car."
The false widow spider (steatoda nobilis) is the most dangerous of the 12 species of biting spider known in Britain and is thought to have arrived in fruit crates transported from the Canary Islands in the late 19th Century.
A succession of mild winters have resulted in a significant increase in the number of reported sightings and bites.
There have been no reported deaths from the spider’s bite in the UK.