December 2 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 52  

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Cop saves his grapes, black widow in custody

OTTAWA (CP) — A provincial police officer caught a known killer Sunday that may have been hiding in his refrigerator for days.

Const. Larry Sandell was sitting down at home with a bunch of grapes to relax and watch TV before his evening shift when he noticed a live black widow spider clinging to the stem.
“Because it was so docile I was able to move the twig around a bit and then I could see the hourglass mark on its abdomen,” Sandell said, noting he confirmed his suspicion in his six-year-old son Matthew’s insect book.

“Once I saw a flash of red mark there on its belly I knew exactly what I had,” he said.

Black widows are considered the most venomous spiders in North America. Their poison is a neurotoxin delivered through two fangs and affects the nervous system, causing pain, swelling, dizziness, blurred vision, stiffness, nausea and respiratory distress. About five per cent of bites to humans are fatal.

Sandell said he bought the red seedless grapes at one of two mainstream grocery stores near Ottawa and he believes the spider had been living in his refrigerator crisper for five or six days.
The spider spent Sunday night in police custody in a mason jar at the Kanata office of the Ontario Provincial Police. Sandell said he would offer it to the University of Ottawa biology department or the Museum of Nature.

While he was not frightened by the discovery, the thought that his son could have gotten to it first was worrying.

“He eats a lot of grapes and we send grapes in his lunch to school” Sandell said. “I did a bit of research and found for somebody like me, I wouldn’t have to worry very much to be bitten, but a young person or an older person obviously with a heart condition, it could be devastating.”



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