Infestations of venomous spiders shut down four schools in London

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Here are some important tips from experts on dealing with venomous spiders and what to do if you think you’ve been bit Most spiders are actually harmless and only a few types have venom strong enough to harm you A black widow can be identified by the red coloration on the underside of its abdomen A brown widow has an orange hourglass shape on its brown body Brown recluses have a dark violin-shaped mark on its head Wear long sleeves and gloves when you're cleaning in the garage, clearing brush or pulling

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Venemous spiders prompted the shutdown of four east London schools as officials relayed news of the infestations to parents, British media outlets reported. The schools, all within two miles of each other, could close for up to three weeks due to the crawlers.

Lister Community School, a secondary campus in London's Plaistow district, told parents Thursday in a letter it would "make the very difficult decision to close the school" after confirming "a false widow spider infestation."

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False widows aren't likely to bite students, headteacher Anthony Wilson said, but such bites feel like a wasp sting and may provoke more severe reactions in students with certain conditions.

"Due to the intensive fumigation process that is now needed, the school is likely to remain closed until the October half-term break" on Oct. 29, Wilson said, noting teachers would supply homework for students in the interim.

A false widow (Steatoda nobilis).
A false widow (Steatoda nobilis).

False widow spiders aren't life-threatening, the Guardian reported, but their bites can cause headaches, nausea and lethargy in about one-third of instances. They've been spotted inside homes across the country each autumn since first arriving in England in the 1870s, per the BBC.

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The risk also proved too much for Ellen Wilkinson Primary School, Star Primary School and Rokeby School, all of which joined Lister in closing Wednesday, the BBC reported.

London's Newham Council warned all schools and nurseries nearby to "check their premises carefully for these spiders," the network reported.

Rokeby headteacher Charlotte Robison told parents in a letter it also made the "difficult decision" to close until Oct. 29, noting "it is in your child's best interest to remain at home and not at school," according to Sky News.

Star Lane headteacher Lisle Von Buchenroder told parents staff believes the "infestation is outside the building" and needs to "be treated immediately before the eggs start hatching."

» Here's how to identify (and get rid of) venomous spiders in your home

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