Stephen McKellar was told he was most likely bitten by a brown recluse spider that found its way to the Maritimes in imported fruit from southwest of the U.S., but an expert says there are no confirmed reports of the spider in Canada.
McKellar, from Middle Cornwall, N.S., is recovering after being bitten by a spider that left a painful reaction. He says he noticed the bite on Aug. 2 before leaving on a family vacation.
Biologist, Calum Ewing urges the public not to be afraid of nature, but to be aware and protect against infection.
“I think because people have become more concerned about chemicals and sprays on food, there’s more things living in our food, and produce,” says Ewing.
Ewing is a spider specialist and he says a few other nasty relatives of the brown recluse have turned up in Canada, along with the more common black widow spiders and even a scorpion in a bag of spinach.
He says food distributors are now relying more on chilling food than spraying it with chemicals or insecticides to preserve the produce until it’s put on sale.
“Things like arachnids and insects, when you cool them down, their metabolism drops really low, they just grow quiet and still and they wait it out, and very often the first time they wake up again is when they’re unpacked in the back room of a grocery store,” he says.
Ewing says if you do get bitten by an insect that causes a painful reaction, it’s best to capture the creature and show it to a doctor who can help with getting the right treatment.
There are more than 400 species of spiders native to Nova Scotia, but Ewing says there’s no need to fear the great outdoors altogether.
“None of our spiders that are here in Nova Scotia are dangerous in a medical sense,” says Ewing. “There’s always the risk that individuals may have particular sensitivities, as sometimes happens with bee stings, and other things like that.”
McKellar says he will be taking extra precautions after his experience last week.
“They may not be shaking out every pair of pants and shorts they put on for the rest of their life like I am, but yeah, they can keep an eye out at the grocery store, something like that,” says McKellar.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ron Shaw.