So last year at the conference I got pretty close to the woman known as the @dragonanarchist or Amanda Rachwitz. For lack of a better way of putting it we hit it off and became good buddies. And if there's one thing I know about Amanda, it's that she (really) loves (at least) four things: anarchism, her son, @larkenrose and tarantulas.
So when I shared this post the other night of photos of a tarantula that invaded our house, I knew I'd get a response out of her but the response I got was SO good and SO helpful that I had to go through the effort of copying and pasting her comments here. Guys, this is what it's like to be really interested in stuff.
I'll start with her first comment on the post on Facebook. This was just too good to allow to be lost to facebook land.
Amanda: "That is the famous Brachypelma Smithi, aka the Mexican Red Knee.
Famous for being in the Indiana Jones movie way back.
It's bright colors make it stand out and look intimidating to the ignorant.
It is, in fact, a ground-dwelling, terrestrial tarantula (not an arboreal species), with a delicate exo-skeleton, and is one of the most docile species around. It's considered one of the best species to have as a pet, highly handle-able.
It's why they make great "movie spiders".
Harmless, easy to hold and move around for a camera, but "scary" to those who are unfamiliar.."
Lily: "<3 I knew you'd know what it is. Yep, we left it alone and forgot about it...no idea where it is now :)"
Amanda: "Its probably got a borrow it's lived in for awhile, near your home. Hard to tell for sure, but it could also be a male hunting for a female to mate with. It's their number one job and drive, and this time of year a lot of species are out and about to do precisely that.
Its borrow is probably against the house itself or within a few yards of it.
This time of year in particular is when a ton of them come out to migrate and/or mate. If you notice any herds of tarantulas on the move, capture that shit, because it only happens once a year, in certain parts of the earth with certain species.
Giving it a second look... very closely... I'm going to say I'm more than 70% sure that's a male.
Having obsessively learned to identify the common distinctions between the male and female of any one tarantula species, I'm pretty good at telling an adult male from a female without having to "check the undercarriage" lol"
Lily: "Me thinks it lives in the hole in my garden lol. I'll keep the eye out for herds, that sounds terrifying and awesome all at the same time."
Amanda: "It's mostly just awesome, unless you think tarantulas are anything other than awkward and slightly uncoordinated living 'stuffed animals'.
They aren't out to "get" anyone, and they reserve their venom, by and large, for their prey, so they typically aren't aggressive and ready to bite."
Lily: "Lol xD I've got ex boyfriends that'd beg to differ hahahah but it didnt seem aggressive. Mostly just seemed scared
What do you think it'd do if I try to pet it next time I see it?
And I gotta know, are they the source of the giant webs in my driveway or is that another giant spider?"
Amanda: "Most of the species you're likely going to find in your area of Mexico will be 'terrestrials', or delicate ground dwellers. It means they don't leap 8 feet in a single bound like the tree dwelling tarantulas of the tropics like Nicaragua, Cambodia, Venezuela, Costa Rica.... even though you have the terrain for them to live there you don't necessarily have quite the vegetation or moisture for all the tree species. They seem to be very contained in where they live, a lot of species being only found on a single island or spot in the world.
The ground dwellers range from Arizona, Utah, Texas down to Mexico, and then in some places in Mexico you eventually find the arboreal, brightER colored, more aggressive, large-fanged ones.
You've got the slower moving, delicate ground dwellers. Their number one defense mechanism will be spitting their nearly-invisible fibrous barbed hairs that are designed to imbed themselves into your skin and make your fingers or hand itchy for several hours. "Urticating hairs" is the name of the defensive mechanism, and for the terrestrial species who are "new world species", that is their defining trait.
The more aggressive arboreal species in the tropics, that leap like cats, have huge fangs with medically significant venom, and venom is their only defense so they are feistier.
Unless the webs are against a hole in the ground, or really close to the ground, I doubt it.
The giant webs could just be funnel and/or crab spiders..."
Lily: "Whoa. They're huge and make me think I'm in harry potter lol. I'll stick to my ground tarantulas lol.
I'm likely going to copy these comments onto the post somehow, this is just too good lol. (This is where I decided that this knowledge needed to be shared. She quelled my fears about having these guys around my house...I think the commenters who stated they'd lose it if it entered their house need to read this)."
"Set up a time-lapse HD cam overnight, near the webs that look active still.
It would be cool if you were right on the border of the domain of some arboreal tarantula species. They're super loved and desired in the tarantula enthusiast/pet trade, because they're brightly colored and jumpy as hell, but they also can leap and get away easily if you're transferring them from one enclosure to another, so I've never wanted to own an aggressive tree dweller for the precise reason that I don't want owning an animal to become hyper stressful for them or me. LOL
You've likely got all of these in your relative vicinity in Mexico:
That looks like a lot, but all Brachypelma are ground dwellers.
One of the coolest ones in that list is Albopilosum -- the Honduran Curly Hair tarantula.
You'll know you found it cause it's exactly what it sounds like. It's long hairs are all curled, rather hysterically so.
Exhibit A: the brachypelma albopilosum .... look at all the little curly fuzzies."
Lily: "Oh geez. It looks like it got a bad perm lol. XD
I technically live in a national forest....no doubt I've got all sorts of stuff I never see. We once saw a giant black and yellow spider like tarantula sized thing outside."
Amanda: "Ok, in researching Mexico, it has more tarantula species identified in it than anywhere else on earth, ... duh, Mexico is HUGE, but it seems most the species known of and found are generally NEW WORLD species, ground dwellers.
I did find that relatively recently, the first KNOWN OF species of arboreal tarantula was identified near Veracruz.
I was not wrong, you do have nearly all the Brachypelma genus there. The Mexican Red Knee, The Flame Knee, the Fire Leg, the Curly Hair...
Particularly, in the Guerrero area, you're going to have all the ground dwellers for sure.
That's not to say you don't have tree spiders, but they won't fall into the tarantula class.
If they're not tarantulas, then they just fall into the "holy fuck that's a huge spider in a TREE" category. At which point... I have learned that bright colors generally mean don't fucking touch, LOL."
Lily: "<3 bahaha. So my consensus is right. Don't go outside at night lest I be killed by the "holy fuck giant spider in a tree".
I will say I've got plenty of spiders in my house but I'm glad that I've only had the giant hairy ones.
You're gonna get me hunting for curly haired tarantulas lol"
Amanda: "This is a Poecilotheria Regalis (all of the Poecilotherias are arboreals), this guy could either be called 'brave' or 'stupid' for handling it, I'd not recommend that. But look at the leg design (they have thicker padding on their feet and longer legs, for jumping), and how crazy the pattern is. Also note the enormous size of those fangs.
This thing cannot "spit hairs" to defend itself. Venom is how it does that, or leaping several feet in a single bound.
A ground dweller can't and won't jump like this... watch:
You don't have any of these in your area, but these hide under the bark of trees and inside the trunks of trees in certain places in the world. :)"
Lily: "Oh man, yeah that sounds like something you'd see in Oaxaca or the Yucatán"
Amanda: "Are these what you're seeing in the trees?
I copied the part of that page that would give you the most helpful info:"
Lily: "I think I've seen one yeah, interesting stuff about the venom!
This is now being made into a whole post, you've taught me so much :O"
Amanda:" Remember, even "super" venomous spiders, typically don't have venom that can kill us.
The most potent venom is still coming from a spider that generally is terrified of you and wants to be left alone. I grew up having black widows find their way in and around my home, never been bit, cause they don't HUNT people lol.
A lot of people assume venom is evil or that fangs mean "OMG i'm gonna die".
The tarantulas with the most medically significant venom are basically going to put you through nausea, intense pain and muscle cramping in the region, headache, vomiting and a miserable few weeks of being sick -- but it still wouldn't kill you.
Like most things that the "average" person fears in the first world, it's not a worthy fear. It's based in ignorance. The giant fuzzies you find are going to be mostly tarantulas, and in your area, you could likely let them crawl all over you, pick them up, etc, and they're just gonna act like bumbling toddlers that are slightly freaked out by you. You may get itchy skin or fingers at worst."
Lily "I am tempted. Its interesting another one of those things everyone's afraid of without reason.
Some spider bites can be sketchy business but I've gotten bites from some scary looking spiders that got me a swollen lip at best.
If I come across one again, I may just try and touch it although I'm fully expecting it to run the fuck away lol
My biggest concern is brown recluse, those are badass little bastards XD"
"If you touch its abdomen slowly, when it's holding still, it may sit and tolerate that. It's the species that would be most likely to, but also if it's wild and doesn't get brushed up against much by things... it will be skiddish. Most likely, it will skitter forward a bit, flinch, or quiver/shake it's hind leg at you (a sign that it flicked microscopic hairs at you, don't be surprised if your skin feels itchy if it was in range at all).
Sometimes, they'll sense YOU, and turn slowly around to investigate wtf just touched them. It's cute when they do that, cause it's a more curious thing than fear, and a lot of them have very individualized personalities if you get to know one. There's always the "general rule", but then there's the "anything with a mouth can bite... doesn't mean it will, or won't".
You could suddenly have the one of that species, who is super defensive, and jumpy, and has had a rough day, and is stressed out..... and just tosses up a threat pose the second you touch it (unlikely, but not impossible).
Typically that'd be the behavior of the more aggressive and highly defensive species, but tarantulas have personalities, we just can't read their "faces" so we have to have attention to detail. They're the cats of the spider world, trapped in super awkward bodies that make them appear mildly retarded.
If you want to understand a bit how it feels to be a tarantula, know that they have poor vision, and that means their other senses are highly sensitive. Tarantulas are extremely sensitive to changes in environment -- shift in moisture/dryness, noise, light/darkness levels, touch, and general presence. They've been known to "dance" to music, captive ones."
To which the conversation moved to private messenger. I'm not usually one to share private messages but these just are so worth sharing, too.
Amanda "If you want to read something amusing, read this page. It's a nerd out fest, but you'll love it. Tarantula should never have been the name of these spiders, you'll see how it got to that though, LOL humans are hysterical.
"How did that get that name?"
"Oh that? A long series of several misunderstandings of reality, miscommunicated." "
Lily: "Man to see someone do that dance would be hilarious lol"
Amanda:"I suspect that the history books are describing the phenomena of DANCE itself. Some people were overcome with joy and a new level of consciousness, and so were inspired to dance to music they could conjure and feel in their minds... and the others who were non-musical and non-inspired would think the first time/newbie dancers were crazy... if they'd never seen a dance before.
I don't know the context of the writings or who decided to call it a "dance", but I can't help but wonder if that spider's venom had "tripping" properties, lol.
Sort of like the famous Colorado River toad/Sonoran Desert toad, which is found in Arizona mostly (or exclusively?)... and it's the only one in the world that has glands that produce DMT. Makes me wonder about the connections to that and "kissing a frog" and it turning into a prince. You can lick these toads and TRIP BALLS.
Bet this spider just raised people's consciousnesses and forced them to detox, but the result was they were inspired TO DANCE lol
and I like how the fact that there was a spider, which "made people dance" was unrelated entirely to the name of the spider, or the reason tarantulas got that name
And yet they got linked... because people"
Lily: "When you put it that way its interesting. I am a human who's pretty awkward about dancing so I could see that point of view of it. Those weird humans, dancing and shit lol
You are the tarantula whisperer lol"
So today, I'm watering my garden plants and I see something giant and brown walking into the house. Low and behold it was a tarantula, likely the same one coming in looking for a mate. I immediately took pictures and deterred it from walking in the house where it would be killed by the dogs. I then sent Amanda a message.
Lily: "There is a tarantula possibly the same crawling around my house 🙂 I have more pictures. I could touch it if I want but I don't wanna scare it. I did deter it from walking in and getting killed by my dogs lol
It just came inside and scared the shit out of these puppies I'm taking care of lol. I made them back off before my dog rebel tried to smash it with his face....cause that's how he kills things...with his face. I successfully led it to the outside of my house where it jumped off into some brush. No idea where it is now but last I saw it was booking it across a boulder lol"
Amanda "Yay, it's free! And free of doggy face-smushing! Lol
Your dog doesn't grab with his mouth lol
I'm picturing this
He smushes things with his face"
Lily: "He's more of a smash with his paws and face kinda dog. With little bites here and there that are more like smiles then bites. He's weird.
He's always liked to smash bugs, scorpians ect with his face.
I'll film it sometime lol"
Amanda: "Lol "stoner dog" comes to mind.
Stoner dog is love. Stoner dog is life.
I'm sure I'd love him"
** Lily:** "He's a dabber dog, he is. And he likes smashing all sorts of things with his face including us."
And here's where it ends for now. Amanda taught me a lot about these guys most importantly to stay calm and leave them alone if possible. I totally could have pet it and picked it up if I wanted and I just didn't want to scare it. I also didn't want any possible rash just to scare the thing, so I settled for chasing it around with my camera.
When it came inside it came in where the puppies are and it for lack of a better way of putting it scared the shit out of them. So I shooed it outside and have not seen it since. Honestly, it was a cute little guy and I hope the best for it. Some of the photos from the post are from the internet, some from the conversation and the nice ones of the red kneed one are the photos I took today when I saw it. I took a few photos with John's camera that I'll share another time.
And Amanda, thanks for quelling my fears on this fuzzy home invader and informing me about something I have no idea on. Turns out my house is more of a danger to it then it could be to me! I've got a lot of knowledge in a lot of areas, but tarantulas is an oddly relevant one I know nothing about, so thanks again.
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