June 12, 2014

Black widow spider found in grapes

PLATTSBURGH — A man who purchased a bunch of grapes at a Plattsburgh store found an unpleasant surprise hiding among them: a live black widow spider.

Peter Friesen, who lives in Hemmingford, Quebec, and is a professor and technology coordinator at SUNY Plattsburgh, said he purchased the grapes on Friday, June 6, at Sam’s Club. 

He returned home, placed the container on the kitchen counter and got the other groceries out of the car. 

Then, he said, “an unexpected small movement caught my eye.”

He looked at the bunch of grapes. 

“At first, I thought a rather dark stem was settling.” 

But then, he realized it was a spider.


Friesen did not immediately recognize it as a black widow, but he did realize that it was different than any other kind he had seen in the area. 

So, his immediate concern was that it was an invasive species. 

“I thought, don’t let this go wild — catch it now and explore it later.”

Friesen quickly reached for a glass jar. 

“I live on a small farm, so we keep lots of canning jars around.”

He slowly opened the container and then trapped the arachnid in it.


Friesen’s wife, Mary Strate, is a biologist, and she recognized the spider immediately as a female black widow. 

To confirm the identification, they looked it up together in “The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders.”

“I live with a biologist in a country house full of field guides,” Friesen said. “We’re always looking up bugs and blossoms and birds with our children.”

The female black widow spider can be identified by the bright-red hourglass pattern on its abdomen.

“I figured it would be prudent to alert both shoppers and the store,” Friesen said, “so within an hour of finding the spider, I stopped at the Press-Republican with the spider and the grapes and then went back to Sam’s Club.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
CVPH Job Opportunities