Imagine innocently tucking into a bag full of juicy grapes, only to be greeted by the unforgiving eyes of a poisonous black widow spider. This is the unfortunate sight that has befallen many American customers of late; this includes a number of buyers who frequented stores of German supermarket chain Aldi, one customer from a Kroger store and one customer from a Giant Food Stores outlet.
The Latest Black Widow Sighting
The most recent event took place on Thursday, when a Pennsylvanian shopper, called Yvonne Whalen, was washing some red grapes in the sink. Much to her surprise, a pair of spindly, black legs emerged from the recesses of her newly purchased fruit.
Petrified, she dropped the grapes, before regaining her composure. With great forethought, Whalen then trapped the spider in a plastic bag, ready for more detailed inspection.
After expert analysis, the creature was confirmed to be a young black widow spider. Ryan Bridge, a bug expert who investigated the specimen, was confident of its identity:
“There’s no mistaking a black widow, even in a juvenile form like this. There is just enough there that you can really tell it’s a black widow.”
Speaking to ABC27, Whalen described her reaction, upon sighting the dangerous spider:
“The next thing I know, there was this leg coming up over a grape and needless to say I dropped my grapes in the sink.”
She explains that the grapes were bought from Giant Food Stores’ Dillsburg outlet. In response to the spider discovery, Giant maintains that these events are known to occur from time to time, and are taking “immediate steps” to prevent similar encounters in the future.
Other Recent Arachnid Incidents
Earlier this month, another unsuspecting consumer found a black widow spider lurking in a bag of grapes, purchased from Aldi’s Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, store. The shopper concerned was Yvonne Duckhorn, who described her startling encounter to the Journal Sentinel Online:
“I saw the legs moving frantically… I’ve seen bugs on fruit before, and I thought, ‘That is a very big spider.’ Nothing I’d ever seen before.”
Duckhorn became particularly worried, after noticing the distinctive red markings stretching along the spider’s body.
The incident reportedly prompted Aldi to take action and remove entire stocks of grapes from stores across Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They also issued an apology and extended a refund pledge to any dissatisfied customers, stating they were “implementing additional inspection procedures.”
Just days prior, however, a similar incident occurred in Michigan, with an unlucky family also having stumbled across one of the deadly spiders. Food Safety News claims that the family obtained the grapes from a Kroger store in Brighton, Michigan.
In addition to this, a further two spiders were found in containers of red grape bunches at an Aldi store, situated in St. Louis, early October. KMOV News’ Matt Sczesny reports that a number of Aldi supermarkets began stripping their shelves of red grapes, following the incident. The discovery was originally made by KMOV photographer Stan Kostecki, when attempting to buy some grapes from an Aldi store in Chesterfield Valley.
Reduced Pesticide Use Linked to the Increase?
Meanwhile, in September, a venomous critter was also found in another individual’s bunch of grapes. This time, however, the alarming discovery was made by Aaron Hathaway, who wrote about the experience on MinnPost; he spotted the black widow in grapes served at Mounds Park Academy in Maplewood.
Hathaway reports that the produce originated from a supplier in Chile. Ruminating over one of the plausible reasons for the stowaway spider having managed to survive aboard the grapes, he suggests the problem to center around a reduction in the amount of pesticides used.
However, although using higher doses of pesticides may increase the likelihood of destroying the arachnids, this is offset by the risk of developing health complications. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that pesticides can cause a variety of medical issues, depending upon its toxicity and dose:
“Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time. However, these effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed. Some pesticides also pose unique health risks to children.”
Black widows have a tendency to construct webs in vineyards to catch their prey. With pesticide use now in a decline, a few black widow spiders are managing to slip through the net, some of which remain undetected by inspectors.
When bitten by a black widow spider, victims may experience a number of characteristic symptoms, including muscle aches, nausea and respiratory problems.
Black widows have a red hourglass mark along their abdomens and possess long, black legs. Anybody who suspects they have been bitten by a black widow is advised to apply ice to the affected region and seek immediate medical attention.
By James Fenner