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'I was freaking out:' Ontario woman shocked to see black widow spider in her groceries

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An Ontario woman said she was freaking out when she found a venomous black widow spider in a bag of grapes her husband had bought at Walmart earlier that day.

"I remember thinking why are there so many webs on the grapes? Then I could see this spider fighting in the water,” said Ginette Guidi of Oakville who added, “I was freaking out.”

While finding a black widow spider in Canada is uncommon, there is one species that migrated into British Columbia and another into southern Ontario.

Another way you might see the poisonous spider is if it hitches a ride on produce coming from the southern United States or Mexico.

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

The black widow spider will usually not bite unless it is provoked or picked up but if they do bite their venom can cause severe pain, muscle cramps and fever.

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

Guidi said as she was washing the grapes, she saw the spider and she managed 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 was able to see the markings on the abdomen and I couldn’t even believe it. I was in total shock,” said Guidi.

CTV News Toronto took photos of the black widow spider Guidi had and sent them to experts at the Toronto Zoo and they agreed it appeared to be a black widow spider.

Spider expert Jon Spero is the Keeper of Birds and Terrestrial Invertebrates at the Toronto Zoo and he showed CTV News Toronto the one black widow the zoo currently has as they are usually kept on their own as they have a reputation for attacking and killing other black widow spiders in their presence.

"This is the western black widow they have a very large abdomen that's very shiny,” said Spero.

Spero said finding this type of spider in Ontario is extremely rare, but they occasionally show up in fruits shipped to Canada. The grapes Guidi had purchased were from Mexico.

“If one is found it tends to come in produce which could be concerning if it surprised you,” said Spero, who added if you are bitten by a black widow it's generally not fatal, but it does hurt badly and you should seek hospital attention.

“There would be a lot of pain caused by the venom and it can also cause muscular cramping and fever,” said Spero.

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

Guidi said she is relieved no one in her home got hurt and for now she still has the spider.

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

The family was hoping to donate the spider so it could be studied, but according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency if you find a black widow, a scorpion or a blister beetle in any imported food, they should be killed and disposed of very carefully.   

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