February 21, 2010

Tarantula Tales: Arachnophobia




     The young man I invited to my high school prom wasn’t. He raised tarantula spiders in the basement of his parent’s corner store. Occasionally when one would escape the store would close until the spider was found.

     Perhaps you are either a spider person, or you are arachnophobic. I’m neither, as long as there is a barrier between where the insect is and where I am. I spent two summers watching a yellow garden spider spin its web on the opposite side of the window by my desk. It was only twelve inches from me, but it could have been a world away, as long as that glass remained unbroken.

     I shuddered my way into the basement with Stan just once. Curiosity had overcome my reluctance to look the spider in its eyes. Amazingly, my hands didn’t become clammy, my breathing stayed regular and my heart didn’t race.

     The store is long gone. I don’t know where Stan is. Nor do I know if he still raises tarantulas.

     But I’m left wondering: was he the owner of the orange tarantula with venomous fangs that was rescued by the SPCA serving Smithton, New York, when the owner could no longer care for it?

     “This is the kind of spider that nightmares are made of,” said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He noted that the rescued spider is “so aggressive, it will bite you just to bite you. It’s not a pet you want to cuddle up with at night.” The bites made by its large half-inch fangs are dangerous to humans.

     It can jump three feet, when it rears up on its back legs. It does this, as well as showing its fangs, when it becomes moody and angry. This behavior is a sign it’s becoming a danger to keep as a pet. This is why the pet’s owner gave up the spider.

     The male has a leg span of about eight inches and the female has an even larger leg span. Its fat, five inch long body is covered with orange hair—thus, it is known as an “ornate golden baboon.” (Link to photos:  and )  Native to southern Africa, its life span extends upwards to twenty-five years, most of which is spent near their nests, usually holes in the ground.

     According to a web tarantula sales site, if you truly want to start having a pet tarantula, choose the Chile Rose variety. It’s ideal since its nature is calm and docile, rather than aggressive, and can be handled to a minimum degree. You might want to study a reference book on the spider—the perfect title is The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide.

     There’s not much information on the Internet on the ornate golden baboon. That is, sites that were “Google-checked” for safety. The majority of these were related to the news story about the New York man who rejected his pet. There were many sites with question marks, which I felt cautious in clicking on and so didn’t.

     Gross said he was glad the owner called the SPCA instead of dumping the spider. The spider was taken to a sanctuary for reptiles and other animals. The SPCA took the spider to a sanctuary for reptiles and other animals. 

     He didn’t release the name of the spider’s owner. Which still leaves me wondering: was it my high school prom date? Wouldn’t you wonder?


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BRAMBLES (Brief RAMBLES) 1-8 August 1, 2008

BRAMBLES (Brief Rambles) 2:2008 May 5—Temporary Art, Bull-Headedness?-Arachnophobia




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