Natasha’s adventure might be called the grape escape.

She left California with no plan and somehow ended up on Martha’s Vineyard, eating potato bugs and living the good life. Natasha is a black widow spider, and was given her name by Andrew Aliberti, the West Tisbury resident who is currently her friend and care-giver.

Albert and Natasha found each other over sweets from the local grocery store. A snack of California grapes brought them together after Albert discovered Natasha hanging out in his organic fruit. It seems to be a match made in heaven.

Not scared or daunted by this venomous varmint, Albert has shown a respectful restraint. Black widow spiders are feared and maligned and are usually squashed when found.

While black widows are venomous and can be deadly, they generally are more afraid of you than you are of them. They are also reticent to inflict harm, being described as timid, and only biting in rare cases. So don’t poke the bear, especially if it is a black widow spider.

A black widow’s first instinct when faced with giant you is to run and hide. If escape isn’t an option, the spider may drop and play dead. Only in cases of provocation will it bite and inject its potent poison. For most healthy people, the bite will not be deadly, but should be treated immediately.

In the young, elderly and compromised, a bite can be fatal, with about one per cent of bites causing mortality. The venom is an effective neurotoxin. Once injected, it first causes muscle spasms in the extremities, then moves into the abdomen and attacks the diaphragm, causing paralysis of this organ, which can lead to shortness of breath and even suffocation. That is

the worst-case scenario. Black widow spiders are present on Martha’s Vineyard and throughout Massachusetts. Of the three species in North America, two have been observed on-Island. The northern black widow is sparsely distributed on the Cape and Islands and prefer to be outdoors. The southern black widow frequents buildings, woodpiles and assorted other structures, and is much more rare.

Tuckernuck island is a hotspot for black widows, having the densest local population of the spider. In one study, researchers found 38 active black widow webs within a 150-foot area.

If you don’t find one in the wild or in a domicile, you might encounter one, as Andrew did, in your produce. There are hundreds of cases of black widow spiders hitchhiking in foodstuff. Often fruit is the carrier, with grapes and bananas being common hosts. One report even came in of a black widow on broccoli.

Finding spiders and insects on your produce is arguably not all bad. Insects seem to be more often present on organic fruit and vegetables, as they use less chemicals and pesticides in their production. Thus, more insects means less poisons on your produce. Also, since spiders are carnivorous predators, their presence will signal the absence of other insects that they have likely consumed already. One arachnid researcher made a great point when he observed that if spiders disappeared, we would face famine, since spiders eat the insects that would otherwise consume our food.

At this writing, Natasha was still with Andrew enjoying her time on the Vineyard. While we wish Andrew and Natasha great times together, not all of us are looking for friends in our fruit.

It’s lucky that Andrew is not a grab and go (out of the bag) kind of guy — or this story might have ended differently. Consider it a lesson not learned the hard way.

So pay attention to your produce and always wash it well.

Suzan Bellincampi is executive director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary.