Eight-legged immigrant


A St. Albert resident found an eight-legged surprise in her grapes this week in the form of a spider from California.

Sandra Arsenault says she found what may have been a male red-backed jumping spider Monday in a bunch of grapes she got from the St. Albert Costco the previous week. The grapes’ packaging suggests they came from California.

Arsenault says she typically washes grapes as she needs them, and had already eaten most of the grapes when she spotted a “little white netty kind of thing” in amongst the stems last Monday night.

“I took one of the twigs from the grape vine and I ripped (the web) apart and the spider fell out,” she said.

“It was kind of creepy.”

The spider was about a centimetre long and had a red back, Arsenault said. It was still alive and moving, so she quickly scooped it up into a glass jar and burned the rest of the grapes.

“It was very much active,” she said, and had actually started spinning a new web in the jar by the next day.

Arsenault’s description and a picture she took of the spider suggest that it may have a red-backed jumping spider – one of the most common jumping spiders in western North America.

When asked to examine the spider picture, Edmonton arachnologist Robin Leech said its blocky shape meant that it was definitely a jumping spider of some sort, but it was hard to confirm it was a red-backed without closer examination.

Jumping spiders have powerful legs that let them leap upon prey from a distance as well as two big eyes up front for binocular vision, Leech said. This one was clearly a male, as it had two club-like “claws” by its mouth known as pedipalps that are used to transfer sperm to the female. The webbing in the grape would have served as its home in between hunts.

Jumping spiders make fun pets, Leech said.

“They’ll usually jump right onto your hand,” he said, and will pounce upon mealworms if offered one when hungry. You can even get them to jump between your fingers.

“It’s got no interest in biting you at all,” he added. If you did threaten one by squeezing it, its one-millimetre fangs might break your skin. Your biggest worry then is a bacterial infection, as spiders don’t brush their teeth.

Arsenault said she returned the spider to Costco Tuesday and got a refund on her grapes.

“It’s not uncommon to get little things in your fruits and vegetables,” Arsenault said, although this spider was a first for her.

“It’s not going to stop me from eating grapes or anything like that.”

Staff at Costco would not comment on record about the spider, and weren’t sure where it had ended up.

The spider is unlikely to survive outside as it’s not adapted to our climate, Leech said. (Male spider haves very short life-spans in any case.) Still, he advised against chucking imported bugs outside, as some do thrive and become threats to native species.


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