Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Black Widows in Bath

The Portland Press Herald confirmed stories of an incursion of toxic black widow spiders in Maine. I've been hearing stories about these buggly uglies in recent years from friends working in local kitchens, but usually they are rumored to arrive in tomato shipments, not vertical launch system components!
BIW unpacks a load of black widow spiders
The Associated Press

BATH — Bath Iron Works says it had to fumigate a warehouse and part of a warship because a shipment of parts from California contained about two-dozen venomous black widow spiders.

Bath Iron Works employees discovered the arachnids in a crate containing vertical launch system components.
DeMartini said the spiders were discovered earlier this month. The shipyard is confident that exterminators eliminated any spiders that weren't stomped.

Full article: http://www.pressherald.com/news/BIW-gets-a-load-of-black-widow-spiders.html

Oddly enough, the black widow spider showed up in an informational 1984 article in the Biddeford Journal (pg 9, 8/13/84), appropriately enough in the Science section, although Maine is not mentioned once in the article. The article did, however, describe the occasions in which one might be bitten, and the ensuing symptoms. In other words, do not go unwary into dry, dimly lit, secluded places, do not dangle your hand in their webs, and if you are a child, do not play with them! Even more oddly, another Maine mention of black widows occurred in... you guessed it!... the Biddeford Journal, this time way back on September 24, 1955 (pg 2). Again, no mention of Maine, and again an informational article. Maybe it was a slow news week? "Hey Marty! If ya got nothin' else to run, throw in a bit about poisonous spiders, will ya? That always gets 'em hoppin'." A random tiny paragraph telling of black widow bite symptoms appears in the midst of local news on page 2 of the Biddeford Journal in its 7/3/64 issue, too.

In the March 25, 1977 issue of the Biddeford Journal, the urban legend of black widow spiders in Bubble Yum bubblegum is recounted, including the fact that the company felt compelled to run full-page ads in 30 New York City metropolitan area newspapers telling parents "someone is telling your kids very bad lies about a very good gum." Apparently the company also went so far as to mail copies of the ads to school principals and PTAs (pg 5).

But the black widow has made actual forays into Maine before. Twenty years ago, in a 7/10/91 article in the Chicago Daily Herald (pg 40), picked up from the Reuters news feed from Portland, Maine, is a story about grocery chain Hannaford Bros. refusing further shipments of red seedless grapes from Southern California'a Coachella Valley "after two of the deadly spiders were discovered Monday in packing crates at its South Portland distribution center," and "a woman also reported a spider in grapes purchased at a store in Gorham two weeks ago," according to the 1991 article.

Anyone with their own Maine-related urban legends of black widow spiders is welcome to share them in the comments!

Photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latrodectus

1 comment:

Woolysheep said...

I remember, when I was a child in the early 1980's, seeing a very big black widow spider in a friends barn in Richmond, Maine. They didn't try to get rid of it. I thought they were nuts.