The Brazilian wandering spider – perhaps the world's most aggressive and venomous spider – is a rare visitor to these shores, but has recently been turning up in shipments of bananas, most recently in Colchester.
Such is their fearsome reputation that a woman who found its eggs in bananas she bought from Tesco on Monday had to incinerate her vacuum cleaner after using it to clean them up.
Abby Woodgate, 30, was told by pest control experts that she would have to burn anything that had come into contact with the spider eggs, as the arachnids are highly venomous. At deadly concentrations, their venom causes loss of muscle control and breathing problems, resulting in paralysis and eventual asphyxiation.
The Brazilian wandering spider has a tendency to hide in banana bunches or plantations and is occasionally found as a stowaway within shipments of bananas, hence its other name – banana spider.
Woodgate first thought the bananas had mould on them after noticing a white lump when they were delivered to her home. When she poked it with a toothpick, a cocoon opened, revealing dozens of tropical eggs.
She immediately threw the fruit in the bin, but a few eggs dropped on her kitchen floor, which she vacuumed. She called Tesco's Highwoods store, which had delivered the shopping to her home and it said it would collect them. She then received a call to say pest control experts would call round instead.
Tesco has offered to replace her bin and the cleaner.
"We set ourselves high standards for the food we sell and were concerned to hear of this incident," said a spokesman. "We've offered Mrs Woodgate a gesture of goodwill and will be asking our supplier to investigate."
British supermarkets source bananas from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia, home to some of the world's most venomous spiders.
A Tesco store in Kent was forced to close for several hours in November last year after a Brazilian wandering spider was found under a box of bananas. In the same month, a family had to have their house fumigated after they bought bananas from Sainsbury's.
In 2005, A chef bitten by the Brazilian wandering spider in his pub kitchen was saved after experts were able to identify the creature from a picture on his mobile phone.
Matthew Stevens was attacked by the spider, which was hidden in a box of bananas delivered to the Quantock Gateway pub in Bridgwater. Despite the shock, he managed to snap a picture, which he later showed to doctors. Experts at Bristol zoo were able to identify it and suggest an antidote.