SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) – It is the world’s most aggressive and venomous spider, normally confined to the tropical forests of South America.
But one family was left ‘deeply traumatised’ when a Brazilian wandering spider was delivered to their South London home – by Waitrose.
The lethal arachnid had been hiding in bananas when drivers dropped off the online groceries.
And although dad Tim managed to trap the beast, it ripped off its own leg to escape, sparking a tense hunt as the couple and their two sons, aged seven and eight, fled the house. They were so terrified they couldn’t even spend the night in their own home once the spider had been captured.
Tim, who declined to give his surname, said: ‘Although people might think these things are funny, I keep thinking that the spider could have killed me or my son if he had gone to get a banana.’
The Brazilian wandering spider has caused 14 reported deaths, and although an antidote to its powerful neurotoxin has been developed, one pest control expert claimed there was no anti-venom in the UK. Guy’s Hospital in London held stocks, but they expired in 2011.
Tim had been cooking breakfast when the supermarket van dropped off their order last weekend. Just as he was unpacking the bananas, he spotted the spider, and, in shock, dropped the bunch into a fruit bowl, trapping the beast by one of its legs.
He took photographs and went online to identify it – discovering it was of a species the Guinness Book of Records calls the world’s most venomous. Tim said: ‘We were terrified. We got ourselves and our kids out of the house straight away.’
He and his wife Lisa called both the supermarket and the RSPCA, which said it was unable to handle such a dangerous animal and advised them to call 999. But police said they, too, could not deal with the spider – whose Greek scientific name translates as ‘murderess’ and whose venom can kill in two hours – and suggested a pest control expert.
Meanwhile, a Waitrose worker arrived, armed with just a freezer bag to trap the lethal spider. They went into the kitchen and discovered the creature had disappeared, leaving only its trapped leg behind.
Tim said: ‘We had no idea where it had gone.’ And when the Waitrose worker lifted up the bananas, they spotted a sac containing hundreds of spider eggs. It was then that they decided to evacuate the house.
Waitrose sent pest expert Steve Trippett to track down the spider he described as ‘hardcore’. He disposed of the eggs – putting them in a freezer to kill them – and, armed with a 3ft stick found the creature at the bottom of the fruit bowl.
Rather than scuttling away, the spider became aggressive, standing on its back legs and showing its fangs. Undeterred, Mr Trippett used his stick to manoeuvre it into a heavy plastic box, which was then placed inside two other boxes. It is understood the spider was then taken to a scientific centre abroad. Tim said his family were ‘too traumatised to remain in the house’ so spent the night with friends.
Waitrose said: ‘The safety of our customers is our absolute priority.
‘We did everything we could to look after our customer during what was a distressing incident and we’ve apologised personally. Although this is highly unusual, we’re taking it very seriously and will be working with our supplier to minimise the risk of this happening again.’
The supermarket offered the family £150 of shopping vouchers and a family day out in compensation.
This is the latest of several incidents of the species finding its way to Britain – which experts say could be down to the trend for organic fruits not treated with chemicals that could kill the spiders.
Last month a woman in Essex found eggs in bananas she bought from Tesco. She had to incinerate her vacuum cleaner after using it to clean them up.
In March, a family evacuated their Staffordshire home after finding hundreds of hatchlings. Last November, a Tesco store in Kent had to close for several hours after a Brazilian wandering spider was found under a box of bananas.
In the same month, a family had their London house fumigated after they bought infested bananas from Sainsbury’s.