AN ARMY of deadly spiders has made its way towards Bexley, Bromley and north Kent - and the venom from one bite is enough to kill.
A Blackfen tattooist has described how his hand turned yellow and black after the false widow spider bit him as he slept.
Alex Michael says his hand was still "swollen like a balloon" five weeks after being bitten by the creepy-crawly at his home in Harcourt Avenue.
The spider unleashes deadly venom when provoked which can kill those allergic to it.
But Mr Michael says he only realised he’d been attacked by a spider when he posted a picture online.
He had previously had blood tests and x-rays at both Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, as experts tried to figure out what was wrong with his hand.
The 36-year-old, who owns Incredible Ink in Westwood Lane, said: "Then I put a picture of the spider on Facebook saying ‘have I found a new species?’
"Within minutes people replied saying ‘it is dangerous, don’t touch it.’ "I went back to the doctor and he didn’t believe me.
"He said ‘what website did you get that off?’ "I said it was taken in my kitchen.
"He went to News Shopper's website and I saw his face drop.
"He said ‘you could be right about this. It could be a spider bite.’"
Mr Michael went to Darent Valley Hospital on Friday evening, armed with another false widow spider he had caught in a pot.
He explained: "I said I’m going to let this spider go in your office and if it bites you I’m going to follow you to where you get it sorted.
"Eventually they took it pretty seriously."
Doctors gave him a course of flucloxacillin and within days, the swelling reduced and the pain disappeared.
But Mr Michael believes there should be more warnings about false widow spiders if they are living in the borough.
He added: "If they bite a young kid of an elderly person who hasn’t got a great metabolism it could be quite dangerous."
"I told my little girl 'do not touch them'"
Decorator Andy Pitty says he has counted 50 of the spiders across three fences at his home in Smugglers Walk, Greenhithe.
The 43-year-old said: "I have told my little girl do not touch them.
"An expert at the British Arachnological Society said he was surprised they were in the garden and not in the house so I’m just worried about them coming in for warmth."
The spiders' webs in Mr Pitty’s garden are already filled with prey including grasshoppers and beetles and the painter has also seen one of the spiders catch a wasp.
He said: "I had seen a couple of baby’s so knew they had young.
"I went out with my torch one night and the fence was coming to life.
"I think they like the fact my fence has got slats across it - they have found it's a safe haven."
Mr Pitty now wants rid of the spiders - although catching and re-locating all 50 is set to be a challenge.
He said: "I caught one and I’m sure it was a male.
"I put it in with one of the baby spiders and it just killed it within seconds."
'It was big and ugly'
An Orpington woman was one of 30 News Shopper readers to contact us in the last week after spotting the creepy-crawly.
Shelly Albrow got the shock of her life when she discovered the deadly spider on the floor of a local off licence.
She was sweeping in the back office of the Wine Mill in Carlton Parade, Orpington, on August 28, when she moved a wine box to one side.
The 43-year-old was confronted with what she now believes was the UK's most venomous spider.
Miss Albrow said: "It was big and ugly. It had long legs and a long body which was a bit fat the end.
"After I'd moved the box I jumped back, but it just stayed there.
"I don't like spiders anyway so I really didn't like this one.
"I thought 'eugh' and quickly walked away.
"I didn't stay in the office for long afterwards."
Despite her fear Miss Albrow, of Heath Close, Orpington, grabbed a photograph before showing it to her friends.
She said: "When I posted a picture on Facebook, my friends said it could be a false widow spider.
"The manageress found the spider a couple of days later and killed it."
The false widow spider: Where did it come from?
The false widow spider first came to the UK in crates of fruit from the Canary Islands more than 100-years ago and the spiders began to settle in Devon.
Due to climatic changes, the population has started spreading across the south-east.
London Wildlife Trust conservation ecologist Tony Wileman said: "Reports from false widow spider bites have included symptoms like chest pains and a swelling and tingling of the bite area, usually the fingers.
He added: "If bitten then visit A and E, do not ring 999.
"Ideally and if possible the spider should be caught in a jar so it can be identified."
News Shopper asked Natural History Museum spider expert Stuart Hine why there have been so many sightings of these spiders in recent weeks.
He said: "Its spider season. A lot of species mature in the autumn. When it's hot and humid, we leave our doors and windows open, and that allows the spiders in."