Man discovers black widow spider in broccoli at Ohio Kroger
Man discovers black widow spider in broccoli at Ohio Kroger

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Sometimes you might find a stray bug or worm in your produce, but a dangerous black widow spider? Believe it.

That was the case for Jacob Vaughn, who bought a bunch of fresh broccoli at Kroger in Maumee, only to find a large arachnid alive and acting feisty on the vegetables.

The South Toledo man said he discovered the spider while washing off the broccoli before cooking it when "the spider came out and started waving his hands. It was pretty obvious he was alive since he was throwing his hands in every direction. He did not seem pleased."

Vaughn got tongs and took the piece of broccoli he was on and double bagged it in zip-top bags so it wouldn't get out.

Because Vaughn's roommates had the fridge full, he decided he needed to cook the broccoli right away. If he hadn't, the fate of the spider -- and the roommates -- might have taken another turn. A black widow spider's bite is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake's. Contrary to popular belief, a bite from a black widow generally results in no serious damage or death, but can cause muscle aches, nausea and a paralysis of the diaphragm, making breathing difficult.

Man discovers black widow spider in broccoli at Ohio Kroger

Vaughn's mother, Chandra, posted about the ordeal on Facebook groups as a "reminder to carefully check produce," she said.

Cheryl Garcia, a friend of Chandra's, saw the photo of the black widow spider and realized she could help, since she is with a rescue facility that would give the spider a second chance. As of Thursday night, an adoption was pending for "Broccoli," the black widow spider. Broccoli was being housed with Life with Elliott and Friends, in conjunction with Another Chance Sanctuary, a rescue facility in Fremont.

"Well, not sure how many of you heard about the young man who bought broccoli at the local Kroger and found a BLACK WIDOW in it ... but, well our latest intake... Welcome "Broccoli" to the rescue," the post from Life with Elliott and Friends read Thursday night. "UPDATE: Broccoli has spending adoption. I knew somebody would love her."

Chandra Vaughn said her son called Kroger that night to tell them of the incident.

According to a Kroger spokeswoman, an associate at the store was notified of the concern Monday evening. Upon notification, the associate apologized to the customer and offered to refund or replace the product.

"Kroger works with growers to ensure we are always providing safe, quality food to our customers. We encourage customers to inspect fresh produce prior to consuming. If customers are not satisfied with their purchase they are welcome to return it for a refund or exchange," Kroger said.

Man discovers black widow spider in broccoli at Ohio Kroger

Entomologist Lina Rayor, in an interview with Scientific American, said there is a reasonable chance of finding spiders in grocery store fruit -- especially in bananas from Central or South America and black widows can be found in grapes anywhere they grow. Broccoli was not addressed in her interview.

She advises paying attention to your produce and making sure you rinse off your fruit. Most black widows are about the side of a grape and don't travel well on the ground because of the size of their abdomens -- they are more apt to waddle than run.

If you are bitten by a black widow -- which they are unlikely to do unless they feel they are under threat -- wait 15 minutes to see if she has injected venom. Only females have enough toxic venom to harm humans. After 15 minutes, you'll feel some pain, and should go to the emergency room. Try to bring the spider with you if possible, so the hospital can administer the correct treatment.