Saturday, December 10, 2011

No Tarantulas Allowed?

Ever since I got Audacia, my Grammostola pulchripes, I've been taking her with me to the assortment of summer camps and presentations that I do to help people learn about spiders. She's very friendly, which is a fact that most if not all of the people at the camps and presentations have learned.

However, it's much harder to convince the people that I encounter to and from these events. I never realized this, until one day when I was going to the annual Bug Camp that I have attended since I was a sophomore in high school.

It was a hot day in late June, Bug Camp was going to begin at noon. My Dad had driven my sister and me to the Camp, which is held on the same campus where I work and attend class. We'd handled check in, and were headed over to the Entomology Building, where the other campers were going to meet in a little over an hour. I had Audacia with me, and was going to store her in the building until the time when I was going to do my presentation with her.

We walked up to the front door, and sure enough, it was locked. Well, I knew that since the professor who had the other key wouldn't be finished checking in other campers for another hour, and it was really hot outside. To top it off, we were all hungry. I looked down at Audacia and knew that I needed to get her inside into an air conditioned space.

We decided to go and grab a burger at one of the local fast-food places. As hot as it was, there was no way that I was leaving Audacia in the car. So I walked in carrying her tank right under my arm. I walked to get a table in the back while my Dad and Sis ordered our food.  I sat down at a table far away from the other patrons, so that Audacia wouldn't scare anyone.

As I sat there, waiting for the food and watching Audacia take a drink from her water dish. I soon became aware of someone standing near the table. I looked up to seeing one of the waitresses staring at the tank. She started muttering curse words, and leaning in closer. She asked a few questions, which I politely answered. Then she did something that really irritated me.

She started thumping the side of the tank, right next to Audacia. I asked her to stop, but she ignored me. She was asking why the spider wasn't crawling around, and proceeded to try and make her. I told her that she was starting to irritate the large arachnid, and she got scared and ran away. I ate my meal in quiet, after that.

The rest of the restaurant was empty, until we were about to leave. I had noticed a school bus pull up outside, but hadn't really paid any attention to it. I picked up Audacia's tank and headed for the door. The door was blocked by nearly 20 cheerleaders. I was holding the tank down, not greatly obvious. I looked for a way to get through the crowd, but they were all crowded in the door.

I asked them to move, but their leader whirled around and informed me that I "needed to be quiet" because they were talking. I sighed, and held up the tank. "Excuse me," I said for the 5th time, "I need to get my large tarantula out of here." The group turned around again, and their faces changed from their previous annoyed expressions to ones of fear.

It was like the parting of the waters as the group scrambled to get away. I walked out, got in the car, and rode away, ready for the fun week of camp activities.

I've carried her into other places, and the reactions I get are mixed. Some people give me angry looks, and others actually ask questions. She's a great traveling companion, but not everyone is happy to see her. So far, I haven't gotten myself kicked out of anywhere because of her, but who knows. Someday there may be signs saying "No Tarantulas Allowed."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Very Special Spider

I want to tell you about my beloved friend, Audacia. Audacia is a Chaco Golden Knee tarantula Grammostola pulchripes. Out of all the spiders that I own, I probably have the tightest bond with Audacia. Her name is Latin for "Courage" and is very fitting of her personality. She's helped many people overcome their Arachnophobia, and some have come to cherish spiders from their meetings with this sweet spider.

I met Audacia on Friday, January 29, 2011. It was a cold night, and I was heading home from a week of college to go see my family. It was getting dark, but I realized that I needed feeder crickets for the seven tarantulas that I already had at home. I asked my Dad, who was driving the car, to stop at a small pet shop in town so that I could go in and get some. He pulled into the store, and I went in. As I walked towards the shelves in the back, I had no way of knowing that my life was soon to change forever.

Sitting in the back of the shop, were two tanks. Neither of the tanks were properly labeled, and the tarantulas inside were misidentified, but I couldn't look away. She was sitting there, next to a water dish and a plastic cup. Something about her was captivating. I knew then that this was soon to be my spider.

As I looked at her, I knew that I couldn't leave without her. The cashier walked up to me and we began to talk. He told me that she'd only been in for a few days.

I looked back into the tank. By this time my dad had walked in, and was looking at the spider, as well. "You've got plenty of spiders." He told me, but I couldn't look away from her. I walked over to get the feeder crickets, when Dad said "Aren't you going to get your spider?" I looked at him, and he smiled. I walked over and picked up her tank. Smiling from ear to ear, I showed her to my twin sister, who was happy that I was happy.

Since that night, Audacia has been my near-constant companion. I spend most of my free time with her. Not just for tending to her, or feeding her. She's also my stress relief and confidant. I now carry her around the state and region doing speeches and programs about tarantulas and spiders in general. She's always super-friendly and calm for the duration of the speeches. Children love her, and enjoy gently petting her soft fur.

She's a great spider, and an even better friend.

Why Spiders?

The question I am most often asked is "Why do you like spiders?" This is a tough question to answer because there isn't any one specific reason why I like them so much.  I've always been a nature person, ever since I was able to first walk and explore the world around me.

My obsession with spiders in particular began when I was very young. Early elementary school was a time of exploring the woods near my home and making the aquaintance of many kinds of arthropods. The spiders in particular fascinated me. I always loved watching them in their webs, or crawling on the ground.

Their natural beauty and individuality have always attracted me to them. Each one is unique, even members of the same species. As I spend more time with my spiders, I learn and love each one as an individual.

At the time of this post, I have 10 tarantulas and a bunch of true spiders, including wolf spiders, black widows, brown recluses, and jumping spiders. I enjoy spending my time in their company, and learning from them.