BATH, Maine — A shipment of equipment from the West Coast to Bath Iron Works contained something a little unexpected recently: about two dozen black widow spiders.
BIW spokesman James DeMartini said the spiders were eradicated by a professional pest service and that none have been seen in the past week or so. The spiders arrived in a shipment of vertical launch system parts from a supplier in California. A warehouse where the crates were stored initially, as well as some compartments of the future USS Michael Murphy, an Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer under construction at BIW, were fumigated, said DeMartini.
“There was some excitement when the spiders were found, but the more we looked into it, the more we’re confident that what we did was all we needed to do,” said DeMartini.
Aside from hiring the exterminator, DeMartini said BIW officials communicated with state and Navy officials as they dealt with the problem. Company doctors also had discussions with several employees who work in the affected areas, but DeMartini said no one was bitten. Despite the fact BIW receives shipments of parts and materials from far and wide, DeMartini said the arrival of the venomous spiders was a first to his knowledge.
“I’ve been working here 30 years and I’ve never heard of it,” he said.
Black widow spiders, which are part of a group of arachnids called cobweb spiders, are extremely venomous, though their bite is not often fatal for healthy adults, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website. Female black widows are normally shiny black with an hourglass-shaped mark on their abdomens. The marking, which can sometimes look more like a dot than an hourglass, can range in color from yellowish orange to red.
Though the species is not indigenous to Maine, in warmer climates it is often found in woodpiles, rubble, under stones, in stumps or in undisturbed indoor locations.
DeMartini said he was unsure exactly when the shipment was delivered to Bath. No spiders have been seen outside the crates in which they crossed the country, he said. Though estimates from various people about the number of spiders found have varied, DeMartini said he suspects there were about two dozen.