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Creepy critter caught in grapes


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POSTED: Thursday, November 06, 2008

HILO » Julie Klaz of Kealakehe, Kona, dropped the big, red, shiny bunch of grapes from her hand and screamed.

Crawling out of the grapes, just inches from her fingers, was a 2-inch-long black widow spider.

Klaz grabbed a bottle of Windex during Tuesday's close encounter of the arachnid kind and sprayed it.

"That didn't have much effect. Bug spray was next and that worked much better," she said. "The spider is now in a gallon Ziploc in my freezer along with the grapes."

Yesterday, a day after the encounter, she said, "I'm still getting chicken skin."

Klaz makes her living as a scuba instructor, so has to be given some credit for spunk. And she has encountered black widows before and lived to tell the tale.

"The black widow was one of the largest I have ever seen, and I grew up in Southern California where there are plenty of black widows," she said. The telltale red hourglass mark was visible on the bottom of the spider's abdomen.

Klaz thinks this one escaped agricultural inspection because growers are using fewer pesticides in California. Klaz contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but officials told her they can't inspect every bunch of grapes.

Black widow poison can cause a severe reaction, but the spiders "rarely" cause death, according to the Encarta online encyclopedia.

"A small child would have been made very sick or killed from the bite of this venomous spider," Klaz said.

She found the spider in a 5-pound bunch of grapes she bought at Kona Costco.

Store manager Noreen Chavez said Klaz should bring the spider to the store and fill out an incident report. The store may send the spider to a laboratory to confirm that it is a black widow, and will then inform the grape shipper in California, Chavez said.