Deadly spider reported in bananas purchased at Superior WalmartSheila Terry says she got more than just a bunch of bananas from her shopping trip to the Superior Walmart on Tuesday.
Sheila Terry says she got more than just a bunch of bananas from her shopping trip to the Superior Walmart on Tuesday.
After taking them to her home in Hayward, her husband, Dan, went to pick one when a spider about 4 inches long fell out from the stem, she said.
“He yelled, ‘Oh my god!’?” Sheila Terry said. “And then he killed it.”
It turns out that spider may be a particularly dangerous species.
The Terrys, both 53, took the spider to Larry Weber, a retired science teacher, member of the American Arachnological Society and author of numerous nature books, including “Spiders of the North Woods.”
After looking at the insect under a microscope, Weber said he’s “90 percent sure” it’s a Brazilian wandering spider.
“The only way you can say for sure is if you bring it to an expert in tropical spiders,” Weber said.
If it is a Brazilian wandering spider, then the Terrys are lucky they didn’t get hurt by it.
In addition to having extremely toxic venom, the spiders are aggressive and hunt their prey on the ground rather than catching them in webs, Weber said.
“It is one of the world’s most dangerous spiders,” he said.
In the aftermath of their fright, the Terrys want to get word to the public that this type of threat exists in the aisles of their grocery stores. And they’d like to know that a system exists to ensure their encounter was just a fluke. Their dealings with Walmart so far have been frustrating, Sheila Terry said.
After buying the bananas on Tuesday — a colder-than-normal day — she put the bag in her car and drove to Hayward with her dog, Phil. With the snow falling on Tuesday, she left the bag in the car for about an hour and a half without worrying the food would spoil.
At home when the spider fell out of the banana stem, the Terrys said, it appeared lethargic.
“Being in a cold car probably slowed it down,” Weber said. “If it had stayed indoors and warmed up, it could have become very aggressive.”
Terry wanted Walmart to know about what she found in order to protect other shoppers. She called on Tuesday to report the problem, but said the store manager never called her back. When she called the manager again, Terry said she was told there was nothing they could do.
“I told them I’m not looking for anything,” she said. “I’m looking for public awareness.”
The manager hung up on her, Terry said.
She went to the Duluth NBC news station, Northland’s News Center, which aired a story about the spider on Wednesday. That got Walmart’s attention, which called Terry on Wednesday and took her statement about what happened.
“They made me feel like they were doubting I bought the bananas,” she said.
They also set her up with an insurance claims adjustor. But Terry said that adjustor has been of little help.
“She said Walmart gets their products from retailers and all retailers hold Walmart harmless,” she said.
The adjustor sent a form letter to the Terrys saying the distributors, Del Monte Fresh Produce, would be responsible for the resolution of the claim. That was the last she heard.
A Walmart spokesman told the News Tribune on Friday evening that the company did inspect its store and distribution center and found no other spiders.
“We believe this is an isolated and unusual incident,” said Walmart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez. “We regret that the customer had an unpleasant experience and we’re glad no one was injured.”
Del Monte Fresh Produce did not return a News Tribune request seeking comment on Friday.
The Terrys said they’re now considering legal action.
“Had Walmart stepped up to the plate, we never would have called the news,” Sheila Terry said. “But, would you want that in your car with you? Would you want that in your home? What if it had bit my dog or bit me?”
It’s unclear how often tropical spiders hitchhike their way to American grocery stores.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Customs, Cherise Miles, said in a statement that her agency employs “2,200 agriculture specialists that work at ports of entry examining cargo to curtail the spread of harmful pests and plant and animal diseases that may harm America’s farm and food supply and to avert bio- and agro-terrorism.”
“Each day, (Customs and Border Protection) agriculture specialists intercept over 500 pests at ports of entry. These pests are submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for identification,” Miles said.
She said the Brazilian wandering spider has been found in the country since 2007, but did not say how many times.
As for what will happen to the Terrys’ spider now — which they have affectionately named “Charlotte” — they said they’ll keep it until the situation with Walmart is resolved.
After that, they said they’ll give it to Weber.
“He was so thrilled when he saw it, he offered to buy it from us,” Weber said. “But we’ll just give it to him.”