Trick or Treat?

Even if Halloween is over, the trick or treating may not be. Recently I had a trick of my own, on Sunday night after dinner I brought grapes to the table that had been sitting in my fridge for a week that my brother had failed to eat.

Nested in the stems of the red grapes a Black Widow can be seen. The Grapes were from the Real Canadian Superstore located in St. Catharines, ON

Upon munching on several grapes I noticed this white string like web in the centre of the bunch. To my surprise a spider quickly stuttered out of it. Mid-scream I had come to the conclusion my family had been the victim of buying a bunch of grapes with the nest of a Black Widow inside. As the Widow climbed over the grapes and onto my mother’s plate, she quickly reacted by lifting her knife and sliced it in half. After the torso of the spider still squirmed after being split I quickly stopped screaming after realizing what had happened during that traumatizing experience.

After researching the Black Widow, I found that they are native to the southern part of North America. The grapes were of the Hobgoblin variety and were from California. More and more cases have popped up all over Canada regarding Black Widow’s being found in grapes as well as some bunches of bananas.

Black Widows are native to the southern part of North America. Most of the spiders found in people’s grapes have come from Sunlight International located in Delano, California. Photo by Royal Saskatchewan Museum

On Nov 10, a family in Ottawa discovered a Black Widow in grapes they had bought from a local Superstore. Meaghan Steacy, 11, was packing her lunch for school when she screamed after discovering the Black Widow crawling in the bag of grapes. She was alarmed by the discovery as she had been eating grapes from that bunch throughout the week.

Yesterday in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania a woman was shopping at a grocery store and bought a bunch of grapes that also had a Black Widow tucked inside. Yvonne Whalen’s original plan was to flush the spider down the drain but then captured the little guy and called her local Health Department to conduct a more in-depth examination of the insect. The grape supplier located in California was notified and vouched to pay closer attention to their processing methods in order to ensure that the poisonous spiders would not be able to be transported on the grapes in the future.

Other spotting’s of the spiders have been found in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Niagara and York regions.

When contacting the St. Catharines Superstore, to notify them about my experience they promptly responded that they were sorry but had no intentions of checking the grapes. “We cannot always check the shipment before stocking the shelves to make sure the spiders are not in the bunches” says Lori in produce. I am very disheartened by the fact that no action was taken and that she brushed it off so quickly.

When purchasing grapes make sure you wash them right away under warm water, that way if a spider does fall into the sink you can kill it. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recommends killing the spider instead of trying to capture the spider. The Black Widow is easily identified for its long black legs and hourglass shaped red/orange marks on the abdomen. The Black Widow spider is about the size of a paperclip and will only attack in self-defence.

The Black Widow is poisonous and the venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s. The venom is more feared for young children, elderly as well as sick people. In humans, bites produce muscle aches, nausea, and a paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult. People who have been reported bitten have suffered no serious injury but if you are bitten apply ice to the affected area and seek medical attention promptly.

Keep this in mind the next time you buy grapes, make sure the grapes are thoroughly washed before eating. If you do find a spider make sure you notify the store you bought the grapes from.


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