Crystal man recounts black widow spider bite after grocery store purchase

In his decade living in Crystal, Zach Bouma has planted a garden in his backyard each spring. But this May, he’s glad he didn’t ask any of his children for help.

"What would happen if one of them would’ve been bit? That kind of venom in a 40-pound kid versus an adult," Bouma wondered on Wednesday. 

On May 18, he was making good progress in the garden — his beans planted — he was ready to put some onions in the dirt. 

Then he felt a sharp pain on his middle finger, "I was holding the onions in my hand, and I went ‘Ow, what the heck was that?’" Bouma said.

"I have an app on my phone, so I was kind of scanning the spider… it flashed over to widow on the identification, and I was like no way," Bouma continued. "Living somewhere where they’re not native, it’s not on the forefront of my mind that I could be reaching into something venomous or poisonous."

Zach’s wife grabbed a cup of water to douse the spider, which confirmed the hourglass marking of a Black Widow spider. 

Then, they were rushing to North Memorial, where he would spend 24 hours in the emergency room.

"You get cold sweats and muscle spasms and muscle aches," Bouma said.

Hennepin Healthcare emergency physician Dr. Jon Cole is the medical director of the Minnesota Poison Control System. He says venomous spiders sometimes hitch a ride from their warmer homes down south, and make their way north on board fruits or plants that we pick up at the store.

"It’s very unusual to encounter a black widow spider out in everyday regular Minnesota… in our history we’ve only handled a couple of these. It’s pretty unusual in this part of the country, fortunately," Dr. Cole said. "Last year we had zero exposures called to us in the state of Minnesota. We had eight in the Dakotas… the venom is extremely potent… but fortunately for most patients, it’s not fatal."

Zach is recovering at home, after receiving drugs to ease the pain and muscle spasms at North Memorial.

"I saw a lot of nurses and doctors that night because I was kind of a hot topic in the ER," Bouma finished. "A lot of spider-man jokes [about] if I was shooting webs yet or not."