Black widows lurking in grocery bags


November 1, 2005

LONDON, Ontario — A Candian family was surprised to find a deadly black widow spider in a bag of organic red grapes, according to a recent article from the London Free Times.

“My wife opened up the grapes to wash them and screamed,” Rob Kelly told the Free Times. “Out dropped this big spider and it started running around on the counter.”

Oddly, the sighting of the black widow, North America’s most venomous arachnid, was not an isolated incident. Jeremy McNeil, a biology professor at the University of Western Ontario, has had three reports of a black widow in the London, Ontario-area in less then a week. A second was also found in grapes and another was found by a rail worker. McNeil had no explanation for the cluster of black widow discoveries.

The black widow, which bears a distinctive red hourglass marking on its underbelly, is known for its potentially deadly venom. If it doesn’t kill, its bite can cause dizziness, swelling, nausea and difficulty breathing. The black widow is abundant in the southern United States and sometimes found in warm Canadian regions during the summer, the spider, but a local PMP said the spiders are rarely found in the London area.

“In the last 15 years, I’ve only heard of people finding them once or twice,” said Rajeev Nayyar, a service manager with Orkin PCO Services. “It’s very uncommon.”

For now, the Kelly family is keeping the spider. But McNeil said the spider will have to be fed insects to keep it alive. “They don’t eat grapes,” he said.

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