As a long time tarantula owner and breeder, there can be nothing more annoying than reading a totally hysterical account in one of the daily tabloids regarding Tarantulas or True spiders. These are always written with the intention of selling the lousy rag and the sad thing is that millions of otherwise naive readers will digest the information as if it was gospel. The only losers in this scenario are the poor spiders or Tarantulas and the people, like myself, that enjoy this fascinating and rewarding hobby.
Tarantulas and True Spiders are not the same
Let’s get the ball rolling with a little fact that escapes most people, Tarantulas are not True Spiders. This is mainly due to the fact that they belong to the Theraphosidae family and have several physical differences to True Spiders. They tend to grow far larger than a normal spider and they have fangs that are fixed as opposed to moveable ones that True Spiders have. A female Tarantula can live for more than 25 years and despite the unfair reputation, their venom is usually no worse than a bee sting.
Has anyone ever died from a Tarantula bite?
Which brings us nicely onto the next myth, as far as records are concerned, no one has ever died as a direct result of a Tarantula bite. Though we are sure that the daily tabloids would love this not to be true! There are around 900 different species of Theraposidae and although these vary in temperament and appearance, they are less likely to bite you and more likely to turn and run. The New World Tarantulas, mainly from America, will probably flick some rather irritating hairs in your general direction and these can cause some nasty rashes.
Okay, there are some fairly naughty True Spiders
Going back to the Tarantula’s diminutive cousins, these bad boys have a few in their number that are known to carry venom that is powerful enough to cause severe pain and in some cases even death:
• Redback Spider – Latrodectus hasselti – An Australian legend that can give you a bite that you will never forget. The last known casualty was way back in 1950 thanks to an effective antivenin.
• Sydney Funnel-Web Spider – Atrax robustus – It’s your worst nightmare, a spider that you can easily find in your home that has actually caused 13 deaths. Fortunately the antivenin introduced in 1981 has made Sydney dwellers a little happier in their homes!
• Brown Widow – Lactrodectus geometricus – Not as well-known as its darker sister, the Brown Widow Spider has a bite that is twice as deadly! Thankfully it produces less and that has been why this little minx is relatively unknown.
• Brown Recluse – Loxosceles reclusa – One bite from this tiny assassin and your tissue will probably start having a very bad day indeed. Although deaths usually do not occur, kidney failure, comas and seizures are not unknown. .
• Brazilian Wandering Spider – Phoneutria – This little terror is the most venomous arachnid in the world and also has a fairly aggressive streak to boot!
Can You See a Pattern Emerging Here?
None of these unusual suspects live in the UK or even Europe yet we are constantly bombarded with horror stories courtesy of our daily rags. Is it too much to expect a mutual appreciation of some of the finest examples of living nature and just ignore the scare mongering tactics that are dreamt up merely to sell a few more copies?
Come on in! It’s an awesome way to connect with nature!
Compared to the deadly bunch we have just covered, Tarantulas are positively cuddly creatures, it is fast becoming the most popular hobby in the UK and the more we learn about our 8 legged friends, Tarantulas or not, the better we can understand the whole planet!
Phil Hall is a lover of both True Spiders and Tarantulas and has a passionate hatred for newspapers that begin with the letter ‘S’
He also enjoys running an online clothing business and you can often find him wearing aprons with an 8 legged motif on the front!