Edmonton family warns others to check grapes after finding deadly spider
globalnews.ca, by Sarah Kraus, Nov. 2, 2017
An Edmonton family had no idea that every year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is notified about a handful of incidents where people find black widow spiders in their grapes.
That is until last week, when they had the experience themselves.
Jennifer Von Reitmyer was hungry on Sunday and went to the fridge looking for a snack. She saw a half-empty bag of grapes.
“I went to go reach for them and I saw a huge, huge spider and I was like, ‘Oh my God!'”
She immediately ran away and called her boyfriend in for backup.
“Then I looked and I was like, ‘Holy!’ I didn’t know what to do,” John Ohelo said.
The parents quickly determined they were dealing with the notorious black widow spider, as they could see red markings on its underside.
With three children in the house, and having their own fear of spiders, they formed a plan to remove the bag from the fridge.
“She put on an oven mitt [and] with a wooden stick and tried to take the grapes out,” Ohelo said, pointing to Von Reitmyer.
After struggling for more than an hour, they got the spider into a glass jar using a large plastic spoon.
Then they decided they needed to kill it.
“I needed it to be dead – gone – before I could go to sleep,” Von Reitmyer said.
Her eight-year-old daughter agreed.
“I’m really scared of spiders,” Lyanna Lieu said.
“I got the Raid that we have for the spiders in the basement and I just poured it in,” Ohelo said. “It took about an hour (for it to die).”
Now, the family is warning others of the potential danger.
“I just want them to be careful,” Lieu said. “It’s bad because I pick in there! I take grapes from there. It’s scary.”
“They could’ve easily been bit by putting their hands in the grapes,” Ohelo explained.
The CFIA says it’s something people should be aware of when buying grapes, though the risk is “quite small.”
“We recommend that anyone, when they’re buying fresh produce, have a very good look at the products they have in their possession. Visually inspect it,” food safety specialist Jamie Mclaughlin explained.
“In terms of the black widow spiders, they tend to be more likely in grapes than other things because they will live there naturally.”
While the Raid worked for Ohelo, Mclaughlin said another idea is to freeze the arachnid and call the CFIA.
“Until such time as we can get one of our inspectors out to investigate the situation, we recommend that the package the particular item is in, and the spider, be placed in the freezer. That will incapacitate the animal.”
The CFIA generally warns against trying to kill the spider yourself, as it can increase the chances of being bitten.
“Most people’s preferred form of killing the spider would be to smash it, which makes identification rather difficult and actually will increase the odds of the spider taking some sort of defensive action if possible.”
If you find a black widow and it bites you, immediately seek medical attention, as the spider’s venom can be deadly.
The CFIA has also posted warnings about scorpions being found in bananas and berries.
The ordeal hasn’t stopped the family from eating grapes. Lieu ate some green grapes in her lunch on Wednesday, but said she looked at them closely first.
As for Ohelo, he’s just happy his family is safe.
“The average person won’t think that would happen at all and we got real lucky that it didn’t bite anyone.”