The Spider Myth

"Whoa that's a huge!!"

Many people wonder why someone would want to keep, or for that matter, why they would find anything interesting about keeping spiders or insects as pets. When someone sees a giant hairy tarantula for the first time, their reaction may be shock and even fear. Of course, we have all seen giant insects in a large number of Hollywood movies (Indiana Jones etc.) and they definitely have the desired effect of creeping the audience out! However, things are not always as they seem at first glance. Nature has a way of fooling the untrained eye. Big may seem nastier and more dangerous but with spiders and scorpids in particular, smaller is more likely to be the more dangerous of the two. That's why in film the more gentle giants are used, they have the desired effect of looking scarier yet they are safe for the actors and film crew to work with. No one making that film wants to be exposed to a dangerous spider I can assure you! Most of the small spiders used are computer animated or fake for ease and safety of filming.

So why keep one as a pet even if they are relatively "harmless"? Well, the reasons are as varied as the number of insects available to keep!! They can be kept for educational purposes or for personal ones. Maybe you have allergies to traditional pets such as cats and dogs, or are unable to keep them due to lifestyle (traveling). Your apartment building may have pet restrictions, or perhaps space in your home is an issue? Maybe you have a great love of nature and respect the small nuances that all creatures can teach us. With spiders, you have the option of choosing an easier, smaller, less time consuming companion.

My journey began in 1989. As it happens, at that time I was somewhat terrified of large spiders! Yes indeed. I knew people kept them as pets and that there were clubs devoted to the study of Tarantulas and other insects, but I avoided large spiders as much as possible. I didn't know why I was nervous about them just that I WAS. I decided to explore why I was so timid about them, I mean, I had never been attacked or bitten so why the fear?

On a beautiful spring day I headed to my local pet store with the intention of buying a tarantula!! Was I crazy or what?? As it happened, the shop had just received a rather impressive shipment of Tarantulas and I spied the largest, meanest ( or so I thought ) hairiest spider of them all. I had the store clerk help me with all the basics I needed to house this beast. He was a 6 inch monster known as a Honduran Curly Hair Tarantula. I quickly made my way home with my new "pet" to get it settled in it's new home. Once home, I set up the new house and contemplated how to get the spider from it's travel container into the Terrarium. Would I have to touch it!? A disturbing thought. In the end I upended the container into the tank as gently as I could and very quickly put the mesh lid on, lest my little friend decided to quickly climb out. What happened over the next few months was an eye opener. And what happened was this... very little. The spider was content to check out it's surroundings initially and soon settled into it's favorite corner, the only excitement and flurry of motion would be when I placed a few crickets in for it's meal. It would occasionally do a lap around the tank to check things out but otherwise was pretty calm and mellow. Even when the day came and I had to clean the tank it was calm and undisturbed at being moved into a holding container while I cleaned the main tank out. I came to enjoy watching the careful movements and mechanical explorations of "Attila". In the end "Attila" was the first of many, many spiders. She lived for close to 20 years.

What I discovered was this: sometimes in order to appreciate something better you need to understand it better. Appearances can be deceiving, and even spiders have personality and charm. Whether you love them or hate them, insects are a vital component to our planet. They have an immense value to our ecosystem and are a great tool with which to teach future generations about respecting all forms of life. Besides, they don't complain, have very easy requirements to stay healthy, and don't require cuddles or walks several times a day. They don't get lonely when you go on vacation.

Now that is a wonderful pet!! So take a moment and watch our many-legged friends may be surprised to find yourself admiring them after all.

by Kreig LeBlanc