Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy

Different kinds of friends -

We all know attachment and some of us may become attached to one spider and be unable to sweep away a web, but here is a chance to befriend tarantulas.  Hmmm!

Tarantulas and human admirers crawl to Concord

Friday, April 24, 2009


If you have an aversion to aggressive, hairy 10-inch arachnids with venomous fangs, you'd be wise to avoid Concord Saturday.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of tarantulas and their human companions are expected to creep into the Concord Veterans Hall for the Bay Area Tarantula Society's Spring Sling Fling.

Arachnophiles from throughout California will trade, buy, sell, discuss and cuddle the most dreaded of spiders.

And, if that isn't enough excitement, attendees can also watch tarantulas mate. In the wild, their mating ritual is an often fatal exercise where the female dines on her beau post coitus. In Concord, the lucky males will be rescued before their girlfriends attack them.


The goal of the convention, members say, is to celebrate the fearsome invertebrates and educate the public about the spiders' many attributes.

"People think tarantulas are going to jump out and attack you. But many of them are very shy and reclusive," said John Troupe, club education specialist and a custodian from Napa. "For the most part."

Experts say tarantulas make good pets because they're perfectly happy to spend their days alone in small plastic boxes, dining on the occasional cricket.

They prefer not to be held, but can be fascinating to watch.

"There's a tarantula out there for everybody," said John Emberton, spider expert and co-owner of the East Bay Vivarium in Berkeley. "Some are flighty, some are slow, some aggressive, some docile."

More and more people appear to be sold on tarantulas as pets. The Vivarium now stocks 200 to 300 tarantulas, selling about 20 a week, and the Bay Area Tarantula Society's membership has grown from five two years ago to more than 100.

Ken MacNeil's can vouch for that because his bug-breeding business is booming. He has more than 15,000 tarantulas in his Concord home, which he sells to zoos and pet stores and uses to educate kids.

"They're great pets," he said. "They're happy to just sit around."

One potential problem with pet tarantulas is that the females can live more than 20 years - an investment many are unwilling to make.

The Oakland Zoo gets calls regularly from tarantula owners offering to donate their furry friends.

"The answer is no," said Adam Fink, the zoo's snake, spider and bug keeper. "We already have three. We don't need any more."

Many tarantulas are ill tempered and dangerous. A tarantula bite can paralyze a human for several days.

Their hair, which is barbed, can also be a highly toxic irritant.

But arachnophiles overlook the fangs, the toxic hair, the crankiness. Simply put, the spiders are great companions, club members said.

"It's like eating potato chips - you can't have just one," Troupe said. "I'm up to about 30. They're addictive."


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