A venomous spider has been found in the UK for the first time, after it was spotted eating bats.
The noble false widow spider was found by wildlife artist Ben Waddams at his home in north Shropshire, where it was feeding on the guts of a protected species of bat.
Over the course of two days, bats that were living in Waddams’ attic became entangled in the noble false widow’s web - one of which was a baby bat that ended up shrivelled and discoloured after the spider feasted on its innards.
Another bat caught in the web was much larger and managed to survive the incident - eventually being rescued and released.
The findings have been shared in a new study - titled Webslinger Versus Dark Knight - published by scientists from the National University of Ireland Galway in the international journal Ecosphere.
Dr John Dunbar, Irish research council post-doctoral fellow at the venom systems lab, and lead author of the study, said: “In more exotic parts of the world, scientists have been documenting such predation events by spiders on small vertebrates for many years, but we are only beginning to realise just how common these events occur.
“Now that this alien species has become well established in Ireland and the UK, we are witnessing such fascinating events on our very own doorstep.
“Even other, much smaller, species of false widows are known to capture and feed on snakes and lizards. This study presents yet another example of the invasive impact by the noble false widow on native species.
"We know they are much more competitive than native spiders, and this further confirms their impact on prey species.”
He added: “Although the spider is present in Ireland for over 20 years, we don’t know how impactful it is on the environment and the ecosystem in terms of competing with native spiders or impact on native prey species.
“That’s important as we are starting to get a better idea and understanding on what prey it can manage.
“In this case, bats being vertebrate, the spider’s venom possess a powerful neurotoxin and this enables this to take down vertebrate prey.
“It makes them much more competitive than the native spiders.
“Some of the studies show that the venom of the noble false widow is significantly more potent than the native spiders.”
Featured Image Credit: Alamy