x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Return of poisonous redback spiders in Dubai spark concerns

Up to nine nests have been spotted in the cracks of kerb stones, prompting fears for the safety of children and pets in a Dubai neighbourhood.

Experts say there is no need for alarm as redbacks are only dangerous if the bite victim is left untreated, so timely and proper treatment is needed when incidents happen. Pawan Singh / The National
Experts say there is no need for alarm as redbacks are only dangerous if the bite victim is left untreated, so timely and proper treatment is needed when incidents happen. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Pest management experts have sought to allay concerns over the discovery of poisonous redback spiders in a family neighbourhood.

Up to nine nests have been spotted in the cracks of kerbstones, prompting fears for the safety of children and pets. But pest-control technicians say the spiders are not aggressive and their bites are dangerous only if left untreated.

AKM Motahar Hussain, pest-management specialist at Dubai Municipality’s Public Health Services Department, stressed there was no need for alarm.

“There’s no need to panic. We had cases before and we are prepared for any cases of spider bites,” he said. “Redbacks are dangerous if the bite victim is left untreated, so timely and proper treatment is needed when incidents happen.”

A nest was discovered in Umm Suqeim 1 by said Briton Ramie Murray’s wife while she was walking with a friend.

“It was dark and my wife’s friend dropped her car keys,” said Mr Murray. “My wife used the light from her phone and found the spiders crawling around the keys. They were both terrified.”

Mr Murray said the spiders seemed to come out only at night.

“This is a family area and we have lots of young children and pets here,” Mr Murray. “We want someone to do something about these things.”

“I found about nine nests in between the kerbstones on the side of the road,” he added. “We need someone to deal with this as soon as possible.”

Experts at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah confirmed the spiders were redbacks but were unsure of the exact species.

“The first reports confirm that our UAE latrodectus species is not the Australian latrodectus hasselti but a closely related form,” said Cyrintha Barwise Joubert, head of the canids and invertebrates department. “It could be a relative from South or South-East Asia, or it could be a separate species, indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula.”

Mr Hussain said the spiders were first reported in Dubai in 1990, probably arriving on imported plants.

“They are not aggressive by habit,” said Mr Hussain. “They bite in defence only when disturbed.”

Government hospitals have medicines to treat bites but it is important to handle a victim with care.

“First of all, try to calm the victim,” Mr Hussain said. “Secondly, apply ice on the bite and take them to the nearest hospital.”

He warned against wrapping bandages tightly on or about a wound. If possible, take a specimen of the spider.

The Sharjah centre has been breeding and displaying the local species of spider for eight years and collects new specimens weekly.

“We did not encounter any aggressive behaviour and we did not have any accidents when handling these spiders,” Ms Joubert said.

“Since they are eating insects, they are in fact beneficial.”

Dubai Municipality got anti-venom from Australia three years ago as a precaution.

“Nobody got bitten,” Ms Joubert said.

nhanif@thenational.ae