Nfld. & Labrador

That's not a grape! Black widow spider found in fruit by St. John's woman

Amy Copeland got a little something extra when she bought some grapes at the grocery store — a western black widow spider.

Spider to be killed due to health and safety concerns

Amy Copeland says she 'wasn't too scared' when she found a black widow spider in her grapes. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Amy Copeland got a little something extra when she bought some grapes at her regular grocery store last week.

She says the grapes sat in the fridge for a few days before she reached in and found an eight-legged surprise.

"I went in to get some more grapes, and there and behold was a little spider on top of them. I got a little fright, but I'm not too scared of spiders," said Copeland.

She didn't think much of the spider at first, but she said she had a nagging feeling that she should investigate a little further.

"So I actually took a picture of it and Googled it to figure out what kind of spider it might be," Copeland said.

"The grapes were from Mexico, so when I Googled 'grapes spider from Mexico,' what I discovered is that it's a western black widow spider."

Copeland found this western black widow spider in a bunch of grapes from Mexico. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

She said she wondered what to do, and if the spider might be dangerous, so she put it in a jar.

Copeland e-mailed a biology professor, but didn't hear back. After a few days, she had a visit from a friend, a veterinarian, who took it and held onto it.

Copeland said she wasn't really bothered by the prospect of having a dangerous spider in her house, but it can be difficult to know what to do because there isn't a lot of information out there.

"I guess if you got a bite you could have some sort of symptoms but it didn't seem like death was imminent if it happened," she said. 

"I wasn't too scared, no."

Copeland declined to say the specific store where she bought the grapes, as she said she doesn't blame the store itself.

Veterinarian Dr. Lesley Steele says she wasn't expecting to see a black widow spider this week. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Dr. Lesley Steele, a veterinarian at Kenmount Road Animal Hospital, said she hasn't had much experience with spiders like this, but advises caution for anyone who might come in to contact with one of these spiders.

"We did not expect to have a black widow spider come in, but we're pretty excited to see her," Steele said.

"She's a pretty cool spider to see, I'm just glad I didn't find her in my grapes."

2nd spider found in Clarenville

The animal hospital contacted officials at Salmonier Nature Park, and Copeland's spider is nearing the end of its adventure to Newfoundland.

It has been collected and will be "humanely euthanized," according to a statement from the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, Forestry and Wildlife Branch.

The department said the spider — and a second one reported in Clarenville on June 22 — have been frozen and will be sent to the wildlife research group to be held in its biodiversity collection.

Species that aren't native to Newfoundland and Labrador sometimes make it to the province unintentionally in produce or other imported items, the department said.

If anything unusual is spotted, people are asked to proceed with caution and report it to the nearest Forestry and Wildlife office.

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Mark Quinn