Coming across a tarantula unexpectedly can send shivers up your spine. Tarantulas are huge, hairy, and, like many spiders, are often misunderstood. With more than 35,000 spider species worldwide, many myths surround these creatures. Some beliefs about tarantulas — and other spiders — are misconceptions, but others bear nuggets of truth. True or false:
Some tarantula species are quite colorful.
Tarantulas are aggressive and deadly to humans
False: With more than 800 species across the world, tarantulas vary in aggression, but they're normally slow-moving, docile creatures. A tarantula's bite will hurt, but its venom is milder than a typical bee sting. Even so, appearances can be frightening. One South American tarantula known as the Goliath bird-eater has 1-inch-long fangs and an 11-inch leg span. In addition to birds, the Goliath eats bats and other prey.
Tarantulas defend themselves by ejecting hairs from their abdomens
True: Threatened tarantulas usually run to their burrows to hide. But if cornered, they show their fangs and stand on hind legs. Tarantulas native to the Americas have an additional, porcupine-like defense in barbed hairs on their abdomens. Some species press the barbs into enemies when close enough; others eject them like spears to drive them deeper into their enemies. Tarantulas in other parts of the world don't have these irritating, defensive hairs.
Only one black widow species regularly eats its mates.
Female widow spiders always eat the males after mating
False: Black widow females are famous for lunching on their smaller mates, but not all males get eaten; some are quick enough to escape. In several species, females rarely eat their mates, especially in the wild. But the male of the red widow spider actually puts himself into the female's mouth. If she refuses to eat him, he keeps trying until she accepts. Widow spiders rarely bite humans, but their venom causes intense pain.
People frequently swallow spiders that crawl into their open mouths when asleep
False: Fortunately, entomologists say this is a rare occurrence – if it ever happens at all. Spiders perceive vibrations as signs of imminent danger. So they would likely avoid a sleeping human because of normal breath and heartbeat vibrations that occur when dozing. Also, the sensation of a crawling spider would wake most humans. In some parts of the world, humans do eat spiders, but they're considered delicacies.
Some daddy long-legs spiders aren't really spiders at all.
Daddy long-legs are deadly spiders that lack fangs long enough to inject their venom
False:Several different creatures go by the common name of daddy long-legs. They can bite humans, but their mild venom isn't deadly. One species doesn't even have venom. The common daddy long-legs, also known as the harvestman, isn't even a spider. All true spiders have a two-section body, but the harvestman's body is a single section.
Finding spiders or spider-like creatures in your home can cause distress, but separating fact from fiction can help you stay calm. If you need help ridding your domain of these unwelcome visitors, AMDRO spider control products stand ready to lend a hand.
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By Justin Hancock, Monrovia Horticultural Craftsman
Photographs courtesy of Monrovia
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