Warman man's grocery trip leads to encounter with black widow spider

Calvin Bruneau came home from grocery shopping with something he didn't pay for: a black widow spider.

The Warman resident went shopping at the north Saskatoon Costco Saturday. Going through the self checkout line, he picked up a box to put his groceries in. That box, originally used to haul grapes, had come from California.

It wasn't until he got home that he saw the eight-legged critter emerge.

"I was a little caught off by it," said Bruneau in an interview Monday. "It's not something that you'd expect to see when you unpack your groceries."

Submitted by Amanda Bruneau

Bruneau was able to identify the species after spotting the red hourglass-shaped marking on its stomach — a marking unique to the black widow — and its shiny, black body.

"[It] was within half an inch of my fingers, so knowing it was a black widow I might have kept my distance a little more," he said.

Bruneau put the spider in a container and passed it off to a local spider hobbyist, who is keeping it at her home.

His wife, Amanda, also posted about the encounter of Facebook, warning people to double check their groceries in case the arachnid hops on for a ride. The post has since been shared thousands of times since Saturday.

Costco Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Black widows not uncommon in province: Expert

Black widows do live in Saskatchewan.

Chris Larsen, who runs the website Sask Arachnids and has collected and studied spiders since he was six years old,  identified the spider as a western black widow. He said he wasn't surprised by Bruneau's find.

"The western black widow is normally found in southwest Saskatchewan, so down around Val Marie [and] Grasslands National Park," Larsen told CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition. "They're not terribly common to see but they do exist."

Submitted by Amanda Bruneau

He said he doesn't think this particular black widow came from Saskatchewan.

"It was likely a hitchhiker," he said.

There have been similar reports from other countries about black widows being found on produce, but Larsen said it isn't the fruit that attracts the critters.

"There might be some insects around the fruit that they'll happily eat."

Bites painful, but not deadly

Larsen said black widows don't move very quickly on the ground and will only bite if they are squished. The bites, he said, are now considered non-lethal thanks to the development of antivenom, but can be painful and should be looked at by a medical professional.

The spiders tend to die quickly when exposed to extreme cold, so Larsen recommends placing a cup over them and dumping them outside in winter or in a freezer.

Submitted by Amanda Bruneau

As for Bruneau's black widow, it's resting comfortably in a new home, according to Larsen. He said a hobbyist took it in.

"She has a nice little enclosure now," he said. "She's happily eating crickets."