If you’re an animal other than a golden retriever, chances are you’ve had a few representations of you in the media that are a tad bit… unsavory. Everyone loves a dog that can hoop, or a dog that can save a kid from a well, but no one, and I mean no one, loves a tarantula.
Except, of course, my mother, Dani Janae. She has shown me love like no human ever before. We met at a reptile expo, and I was the only tarantula that wasn’t running around in their container like crazy. I kept it calm and cool, so she chose me.
Every now and again she’ll shove her face up against my enclosure and just watch me, which I could do without. But I also could do without people calling me ugly, gross, or scary. Usually, my species is used as a prop to represent a bad omen or “something negative to come.”
I gotta tell ya, it kind of hurts my feelings. Which you wouldn’t imagine from a tarantula because of course you wouldn’t. You might even be asking yourself as you read this “do tarantulas have brains, feelings??” and I’m not gonna dignify that with an answer!
In short, tarantulas are the bad guys in movies and TV. You’ve probably seen tarantulas in music videos with people trying to convey how bad and cool they are. Remember that scene in Home Alone, scared ya right? But ask yourself… why? What is so scary about a furry little spider?
Okay, maybe “little” isn’t appropriate. We can be about the size of your hand if we are allowed to live long enough. So let me tell you a little bit about myself to help assuage some of your fears:
I’m an Arizona Blonde tarantula, or scientific name Aphonopelma Chalcodes. Before we mature into males or females, we are all the same color: brown body and a sort of light tan head with legs covered in those same dark blonde hairs. When my mom got me she was told I was female, the most desirable in the tarantula-keeping hobby because females live longer (up to 30 years). But after more than a year of living with her, I surprised her by molting and revealing that I was a male.
Males of the species have a bronze head, reddish body, and jet black legs. I know I know, you’re thinking “let’s skip the formalities and talk about the damn fangs!” Yes, I do have fangs. They are jet black as well, as with most tarantulas. When our fangs are white, that means we’ve just molted and are fragile and shouldn’t be handled or touched.
My mom says she’s seen me in a ton of movies and TV shows, from Home Alone, to The Brady Bunch, to…I’m sorry…Mr. Magoo?? My mom says the tarantula in the Brady Bunch scene looks how I used to look before I molted!
Okay but back on track. It really sucks to have people call you a monster or fear you when really, you’re trying to just live your life and humans keep using you as props or getting in your way when you’re on the hunt for a lady tarantula. And believe me, I’m on the hunt. So is my mother, and if someone— for the love of God—- would date her, maybe she’d spend less time obsessing over me.
Yes, we do have those huge fangs, and we do bite, but only if we’re super hungry and your finger is looking like a lil snack. Most tarantulas or offensive, not defensive. And biting is like…our last line of defense. We’ll throw a threat pose or kick hairs before we bite you if you’re messing with us.
What’s a threat pose? It’s when we rear up on our back legs, and show our fangs, sometimes slapping the ground. What does “kick hairs” mean? It’s when we don’t like what you’re doing so we use our back legs to rub the hair off our butts. The hair, depending on the species, can be a little itchy or can feel like glass on the skin so you don’t want to inhale it or get it in your eyes.
Also, most of us don’t have medically significant venom, meaning (unless you’re allergic) a bite can be comparable to a bee sting if you’re a full-grown adult. If you are a child or elderly things might get dicey for you but again, if you stay away and don’t mess with us you won’t have to deal with it.
I know most of these sets have animal handlers on them but some of them don’t do a very good job of handling the situation if you know what I mean. If you see a tarantula on screen it might be one of the more docile breeds like a Rose Hair (a little pinkish) or a Curly Hair (wild furry body).
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention 1955’s “Tarantula” an entire movie dedicated to comically large tarantulas that wrecked a whole town.
Why can’t we be the hero tarantula that bites an intruder or just minds their own business as we usually do? Why all this riff-raff about being the horror that someone has to encounter unwillingly? Why can’t I dribble a basketball for once?!
Thank you to the people at Autostraddle for providing me with this platform. I feel seen, I feel heard, I feel hungry what’s for dinner??