Black Widow Spider Found in Grapes at Walmart in Ontario

Black Widow Spider Found in Grapes at Walmart in Ontario
Black Widow Spider Found in Grapes at Walmart in Ontario

An Ontario woman said she panicked when she found a poisonous black widow in a bag of grapes her husband had purchased earlier that day at Walmart.

“I remember thinking, ‘Why are there so many webs on the grapes?’ Then I saw this spider fighting in the water,” said Ginette Guidi of Oakville, who added, “I just completely freaked out.”

Although it is uncommon to find a black widow in Canada, one species has migrated to British Columbia and another to southern Ontario.

You may also see the poisonous spider hitchhiking on produce from the southern United States or Mexico.

“I’m just glad no one got bitten, my child, my parents or my husband,” Guidi said.

The black widow does not normally bite unless provoked or handled. If she does bite, her venom can cause severe pain, muscle cramps, and fever.

Guidi said it was a Saturday night in late June when her husband stopped by a Walmart to do some shopping and also picked up some grapes as a healthy snack.

Guidi said that while she was washing the grapes, she saw the spider and was able to catch it without being bitten.

“It took a lot of courage, but I was able to capture it and when I got a good look at it, I saw the markings on the belly and I couldn’t believe it. I was in total shock,” Guidi said.

CTV News Toronto took photos of Guidi’s black widow and sent them to experts at the Toronto Zoo, who agreed that it appeared to be a black widow.

Spider expert Jon Spero is a bird and land invertebrate keeper at the Toronto Zoo. He showed CTV News Toronto the black widows that currently live at the zoo. They are usually kept alone and have been known to attack and kill other black widows if they are near them.

“This is the western black widow. They have a very large abdomen that is very shiny,” Spero said.

Spero said it’s extremely rare to find this type of spider in Ontario, but they do occasionally show up in fruit shipped to Canada. The grapes Guidi purchased came from Mexico.

“If one is found, it’s usually in fruits and vegetables, which can be concerning if it surprises you,” said Spero, who added that if you get bitten by a black widow, it’s generally not fatal but it can be very painful and require hospitalization.

“The venom causes a lot of pain and can also cause muscle cramps and fever,” Spero said.

A Walmart spokesperson told CTV News: “Food safety is a top priority at Walmart Canada and we take customer concerns very seriously. Our stores have procedures in place to ensure products meet our high expectations for fresh, quality food. We have notified our quality assurance team and are currently investigating the matter.”

Guidi said she is relieved that no one in her home was injured and that she still has the spider for now.

“Right now it’s in a container on our balcony waiting for its next move,” Guidi said.

The family hoped to donate the spider so it could be studied. According to the Canadian Food and Drug Administration, any specimens of black widow, scorpion or blister beetle found in imported foods must be killed and disposed of very carefully.