A Spider With Your Grapes?

April 13, 2004

It has a shiny, brown or black body, eight legs, and a red hourglass on its abdomen. Add a venom that poisons the nervous system and you have a black widow spider.

A black widow spider is not something you would want to find as you munch on a bunch of grapes, but that is exactly what has happened to several people over the past few months. The spiders eat pests (insects) that affect the fruit in grape fields. Some people are blaming the reduced use of pesticides for the increased number of encounters with spiders by the public.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency released a fact sheet with safety tips should you find a black widow spider in your grapes. They recommend:

  • Treat any spider with caution.
  • Get rid of the spider without touching it.
  • Wash your grapes under running warm water.
  • If a spider falls into the sink, kill it, rather than capture it.
  • The grapes are safe to eat after the spider is removed.

Did you know?

The neurotoxin in black widow spider venom is called latrotoxin. Latrotoxin works by causing the release of the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Symptoms of a black widow spider bite include pain, swelling, nausea, sweating and breathing problems. Although people can be killed by such a bite, most people recover within a few days.

Treatment of a black widow spider bite: the National Institutes of Health suggests that ice should be placed on the site of the bite in a cycle of 10 minutes on/10 minutes off and that the victim should visit a doctor immediately.

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