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STOWAWAYS: The spiders are usually ok. The snakes can kill you though

PortandTerminal.com, October 6, 2019

Every now and again unwanted critters such as snakes and spiders make their way onto cargo ships and are delivered thousands of miles away to unsuspecting consumers.

Saw-scaled vipers” are responsible for causing the most snakebite cases and deaths in the world

In 2012, the deadliest snake in the world, the saw-scaled viper was found curled up in a ball inside a container in England that had been shipped from India. Experts believe this snake species is responsible for more human deaths than all other snake species combined so it was not a discovery to be taken lightly.

Though there are other snakes with more potent venom, the amount of neurotoxin that a king cobra can emit in one bite is enough to kill 20 people

More recently in 2015, a deadly cobra was found on a vessel that had arrived in New Jersey. The juvenile Indian cobra was a stowaway on a container ship destined for the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal in New Jersey, according to officials at The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo. The snake had been spotted by a crew member hiding in a bilge well.

Spiders are another unwelcome, although usually less dangerous surprise passenger found on cargo ships.

Many of the huntsman spider species grow very large – in Laos, male giant huntsman spiders (Heteropoda maxima) attain a leg-span of 25–30 centimetres (9.8–11.8 in). Here’s one eating a lizard.

Usually, the hitchhiking spiders are harmless but not always. In one study reported on in National Geographic, the most common stowaway spider found on cargo ships were the pantropical huntsman spiders which are found all over the world in tropical areas. Ecuador is where they’re coming from in shipments of bananas a lot.

Despite their sheer size and somewhat scary appearance, huntsman spiders are not known to cause harm to humans, and therefore, are generally not considered dangerous. 

Fortunately, finding any spider in your cargo shipment of bananas is rare. Misidentification of harmless spiders for dangerous ones is a larger problem. Finding one of these scary looking huntsman spiders in a load of cargo can lead to the entire load being wasted.

“Spiders found in international cargo, especially those in banana cartons, are typically harmless species,” 

Sometimes though the worst does happen. In 2013 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin a woman found not one, but two black widow spiders in a bag of grapes from a grocery store.

Black widows are the most venomous spiders in North America. A female black widow’s venom is 15-times more potent than that of a rattlesnake

Hundreds of Americans find these females black widow spiders in bags of grapes each year apparently. The grocery store chain Aldi pulled its entire stock of grapes from Milwaukee stores after a black widow was discovered, foodsafetynews.com reported, adding that similar discoveries were made in supermarkets in Michigan, Missouri and Minnesota.

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