It seems only natural to start this story with a letter-extended ‘eeeeeep.’ Maria Layton, who lives in Bristol, let out a similar eeeeep when she found a cocoon of a deadly spider in her bag of supermarket-bought bananas. She first opened the bag at home when her six-year old daughter asked for some fruit, and noticed something was off.
The cocoon reminded her about the spider stories she had read before, stories that had gathered considerable media coverage in United Kingdom, and quickly Googled for some results. The spider turned out to the Brazilian wandering spider, one of the deadliest spiders you can find. Fun fact: It also has a cozy space in the Guinness World Records as ‘the world's most venomous spider.’
To reiterate, because I still can’t believe it, the bananas were infested with spider eggs, gah! It doesn’t help that the Greek name of this species is ‘Phoneutria’, which means murderess.
When the cocoon began to move, she sprang into action and put the fruit in a sealed container inside the freezer. She had read it was the way to kill such spiders. Known to be aggressive and venomous, wandering spiders are so-called because they wander around at night and don't reside in a web. During day time, they hide under rocks, logs, and in banana plants – which is why they’re also known as ‘banana spiders.’ Armed with one of the most active neurotoxic venom of any living spider, only 0.006 mg of its venom is enough to kill a mouse.
Maria says her husband bought the bananas from a Tesco branch in South Wales and the bag was in her house for a full day before she opened it. Worried about the potentially dangerous spider and spider eggs in her house, and to seek some advice on how to act, she frantically called Tesco but was less than unhappy with their response. She also tried to get in touch with Food Standards and Trading Standards, without much luck. Reportedly, a spokesperson for Tesco has responded and said, "we’ve apologized and asked her to return the product to our store so we can conduct a full investigation."
The Brazilian wandering spider. Photo Credit: João P. Burini via WikiCommons
Terrifyingly, this isn’t a one off case. In the past, a Tesco supermarket had to be closed down for a few hours after similar spiders were found in a box of bananas. In September 2014, a woman in Essex found wandering spiders in her box of fruit too. Pest control specialists advised her to burn anything had come in contact with the spiders since they’re toxic. In 2005, a chef in Somerset was bitten by this spider that came from his restaurant’s banana delivery but was treated by an anti-venom. In another case, food delivered to a house in South London by Waitrose, another British supermarket, was infested with the creepy crawlies. The family was quoted as saying they were "too traumatized to remain in the house."