Jacob Vaughn was washing some vegetables when he noticed something moving within his broccoli. Upon closer investigation, he realized that the culprit was a dangerous black widow spider. But instead of panicking, Vaughn knew exactly what to do.
Vaughn lives in Ohio, where he studies at the University of Toledo’s college of Medicine and Life Sciences. However, the young man recently learned an important life lesson after a recent trip to the supermarket – always wash your vegetables.
In June 2018 Vaughn had visited his local Kroger to stock up on some groceries. However, as the student placed a stalk of broccoli into his cart, little did he know that he’d picked up much more than he’d bargained for.
When Vaughn returned home, he set about preparing the vegetable. But as he was giving his broccoli a rinse, he noticed something was moving. Upon closer inspection, the student realized that a spider was nestled within the vegetable’s green stalks.
But the arachnid in question wasn’t your average house spider – it was in fact a black widow. The spider’s venomous bite is believed to be 15 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake. However, despite the spider’s deadly reputation, black widows aren’t actually killers.
The arachnids tend only to bite when they feel threatened. If they do attack, their bites can cause nausea, aching muscles and paralysis of the diaphragm, which in turn can make it harder for their victims to breath. But with that said, attacks are rarely ever fatal.
Although it’s unlikely a black widow bite would kill a person, Vaughn wasn’t going to take any chances. As a result, he picked up a pair of tongs and carefully placed the broccoli and its resident spider into a zip-lock bag.
As Vaughn moved the spider, he noted that it had a pretty prickly demeanor. In June 2018 he told WTOL, “The spider came out and started waving his hands. It was pretty obvious he was alive since he was throwing his hands in every direction. He did not seem pleased.”
With the immediate danger seemingly averted, Vaughn began to share what had happened with his family and friends. And when his mom Chandra heard about what had happened, she felt duty bound to remind other shoppers to check their produce carefully when bringing it into their homes.
The concerned mom presumably hoped to prevent black widow bites in the future. However, she couldn’t have anticipated the series of events sparked by her post. Because, when one of her Facebook friends read about Vaughn’s ordeal, she reached out to help.
That person was Cheryl Garcia, who works at Another Chance Sanctuary, an animal rescue and rehabilitation center in Clyde, OH. As a result, she decided to reach out to Vaughn and offer to take his unexpected intruder off his hands.
Speaking of the first time she saw the black widow spider, in June 2018 Garcia told The Dodo, “She looked so frantic. How she managed to survive all the steps that broccoli had to go through before getting to the store is a surprise in itself.”
The spider’s arrival at Another Chance Sanctuary was announced on the Life With Elliott and Friends Facebook page, which shares news on the organization’s rescued animals. Introducing the black widow, the update read, “Welcome ‘Broccoli’ to the rescue.”
Because black widows aren’t native to Ohio, there was no prospect of Broccoli ever being released into the wild. But luckily, she had found herself in expert hands, since Garcia had already cared for many spiders in the past.
Explaining her obsession with arachnids, Garcia said, “I’ve always had a soft spot for the animals other people might not really care to save. Most people might say, ‘It’s just a spider. Squish it and move on.’ But she’s so much more than that.”
Unsurprisingly, Broccoli’s big adventure had taken its toll on the little spider. Her abdomen looked like it had lost volume, and she appeared tired. “She was extremely hungry,” Garcia explained. “They’re supposed to have that classic big abdomen with the hourglass marking, but she was so skinny you could barely see it.”
To aid Broccoli’s recovery, Garcia built her a terrarium filled with foliage and twigs to explore. And while black widows are normally quite shy, it didn’t take long for the little spider to come out of her shell. In fact, after just one night in her new home, she had completely transformed.
Commenting on Broccoli’s progress, Garcia said, “As soon as she realized she wasn’t in danger, she was doing great. She’d already started building a web, and as soon as we offered her some fruit flies, she ate them immediately.”
Now that Broccoli was feeling better, Garcia set out on the search for her forever home. And after posting about the spider on social media, the animal rescuer found the perfect suitor. It was a lady who had recently lost a black widow and was looking for a new eight-legged friend.
So thanks to Garcia, Broccoli got her happy ending. Now the rescuer hopes that her story will help to improve the reputation of black widows as a species. “Spiders are not for everyone — but a lot of people have told me, ‘Wow, I guess she isn’t the vicious killer I thought she was,’” Garcia enthused.