Spider hitches ride in broccoli bunch
Rockland — Brenda Thomas of Rockland chose a particular broccoli bunch due to its favorable appearance. Apparently, a black widow spider shared her taste.
Thomas purchased the produce about two weeks ago and said nothing was amiss until supper time. That night, when preparing the broccoli for dinner, Thomas found a web in the center of the crown with a black spider tucked inside.
The spider sported an unusual red marking in the shape of an hourglass on its abdomen — markings consistent with descriptions of black widow spiders.
Thomas placed the arachnid in the sink and doused it with scalding water to dually kill and preserve it.
"It was a very scary thing to happen," she said.
Thomas has two young children, ages 22 months and 5 months, that were in the cart with the groceries that day and said she is fortunate nothing happened.
In her research of black widows, she said their bite can be particularly harmful to children and the elderly.
Thomas described the incident as a "one in a million chance."
"This is not an urban legend and can happen even right here in Rockland," she said in an email.
Thomas said preparing for the possibility of finding a foreign species is necessary and wants the public to be mindful that produce is often shipped all over the world. Thomas said the broccoli she bought containing the spider may have been from a Central American country.
Black widows are found in North America, but not in Maine.
Thomas said she does not plan to pursue legal action although a lawyer saw her postings on Facebook about the spider and offered to write a letter to the company on her behalf.
A spokesperson for a local supermarket said, "occasionally these situations occur, which is why we encourage our customers to always wash and inspect their produce. If we do see a case where a customer returns produce that may have contained a spider, we will refund the money and notify the supplier of the situation."
Despite the surprise, Thomas said she still loves broccoli.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext.118 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.