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Poisonous spider picked up in Red Deer Superstore

A female black widow spider sparked alarm for a Red Deer couple after it was found alive in red grapes bought from a local supermarket.

Normand Blais and his girlfriend Claudine Leger were shocked to find the poisonous spider after returning from Real Canadian Superstore on Wednesday. Leger took some of the grapes out of the bag and the spider fell out and onto the counter.

Blais said had not his girlfriend removed some of the grapes, it’s quite possible the spider could have ended up somewhere in the apartment unbeknownst to them. They made sure not to touch it.

After all, the spider’s venom is said to be 15 times more poisonous than that of a rattlesnake. But the amount of venom a spider injects with one bite is usually not fatal for humans.

“We just used a knife to put it in a jar,” said Blais.

The grapes had been marked from the United States.

Fortunately for Blais and Leger, the creature is going to a new home.

Blais said someone would be picking it up later on Friday to take it to Olds College, where entomologist Ken Fry, who specializes in insects, would be looking after it.

Blais got in touch with staff at Superstore in Red Deer, who then refunded the grapes and gave a gift card. Julija Hunter, spokesperson with Loblaws Canada, said the grapes were red globes and were from the U.S. Hunter urged anyone who finds a spider web or spider in grapes to report it to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency office in your region.

“We have visually inspected the grapes currently at the store and have found no insects. We also have had no additional complaints regarding spiders found in grapes purchased at this store,” Hunter said. “Loblaw apologizes for any inconvenience this matter has caused the customer.”

Todd Nivens, programs co-ordinator with Kerry Wood Nature Centre, said that a number of black widow spiders can end up in grapes imported from California since they are used there as pest control on crops.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports that increasingly, black widow spiders are found in imported table grapes, especially during the fall harvesting season for table grapes imported from California. Spiders have always been in and around grape vineyards.

“It’s not unsurprising that (Blais) found one, but usually the cleaning process of picking, shaking and washing takes care of them,” said Nivens. “My understanding is it’s safer for the grapes themselves and it’s safer for the consumers because you’re not putting an insecticide on the grapes. In California, you’re using a naturally occurring, biological predator.”

These spiders will eat any insect they can catch. They build irregular, funnel-shaped tangle webs and trap prey using a combed hind pair of limbs.

“It’s the kind of thing where you wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, there’s a spider web,’ ” said Nivens. “You’d look at it and say, ‘There’s a dust bunny.’ ”

CFIA reports a black widow spider will bite in self-defence if physically disturbed. The spider’s venom is poisonous and should be treated properly and promptly. Children and adults who are not in good physical health should take particular care. An anti-venom is used for these spider bites.

ltester@reddeeradvocate.com

 

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