A DAWLISH footballer had to pull out of the squad after he was bitten by a venomous spider.
Steve Harris (pictured) , 22, was forced to undergo an emergency operation at Torbay Hospital after being bitten by a false black widow, one of the most poisonous spiders in the country. He said: "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.
"It looked like a bite, although I didn't know it was from a spider at the time. 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, I decided I ought to go to hospital.
"I went to Torbay Hospital and they instantly said I had been bitten by a spider. They said they had seen six other people attending with similar bites within the previous week. They told me the false black widow spider was the culprit."
"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."
He has been told he cannot play football for at least three weeks.
His team mates at Elmore Football Club, the Tiverton-based side in the South West Peninsula Premier League, had no idea how serious it was.
Mr Harris' mates thought he was pulling their leg and it was only when he showed them a photo of his open wound that they believed him.
The false black widow spider (steatoda nobilis) is the most dangerous of the 12 species of biting spider known in Britain.
It is thought to have arrived in Britain in crates of fruit from the Canary Islands at the end of the 1870s and early 1880.
It was first reported in Torquay in 1879.
The spider belongs to the same family as the infamous Black Widow spider, although nowhere near as toxic.
About the size of a 50p piece, it has a dark, shiny bulbous body with a creamy coloured band all around the front.