Obie was an odd sort of fellow at school. His short frame carried more weight than necessary for his age. He wore thick glasses and most of his schoolmates considered him to be somewhat of a nature nerd. He was always catching snakes and bringing them to school to show to the other students. His father was a teacher in the agriculture department and his mother a first grade teacher. He was an only child and because he had no other siblings his parents were able to allow him to have more than most children.
Obie had converted an old barn behind his house into a science lab of sorts and kept all of his creatures in cages and jars on shelves. The barn was old but still useable and Obie took full advantage of it.
“Dad I want to have a new pet. I am bored with cats and dogs. I want something more interesting.” He whined.
“What type of pet would you like Obie. You have a menagerie out there in the barn now. You must be sure to care for those you have before getting another one. Once you capture an animal you are responsible for feeding and caring for it completely. Otherwise you need to let them go so they can live their lives as God intended.” His father explained.
“I want something that no one else has like a real poisonous snake or a python!” Obie continued.
“Heaven’s forbid Obie your mother would have a stroke with something like that around here. Those two are simply out of the question. I tell you what; I will look into it and maybe surprise you with something new if you keep your grades up.” He emphasized.
So Obie waited and each day looked for his new surprise.
Then one day his father came home with two boxes. Obie opened the first one and found it to be a new cage. Carefully he opened the other box. His eyes were wide open and his heart raced with excitement. At least he knew it was something that would live in a cage.
“First you must read the instructions!” His father said interrupting Obie’s frantic actions.
Opie took out the white paper and began to read. It was a spider! It was a big spider!
As he gazed into the container he say a large black hairy body with long legs.
“Gosh Dad this gives me the creeps!” What kind of spider is this?
“It is a Tarantula. It is harmless to humans because their venom is weaker than that of a bee. However it can bite and the bites is not a pleasant thing. You must be very gentle and not squeeze or frighten him with sudden movements.” Obie’s father explained carefully.
“This article says that they normally live in burrows underneath the ground. Maybe I can make him a house of mud.” Obie’s mind raced as he read.
“The tarantula sheds its skeleton by molting. It also is able to replace its internal organs and can even re grow any lost legs.”
“Gosh it would be neat to be able to have a new stomach or change your private parts if you wanted to!” Obie said with a grin upon his blushed face.
“They move slowly because that is their nature and their plan. They eat insects but will also eat larger things such as frogs, and mice. I figured it could catch some of the mice from the barn.” He father said with a wink of his eye.
As Obie read he found that the tarantula doesn’t spin a web like many spiders but will grab quickly any victim and inject it with its venom paralyzing it. Then it would use it long deadly fangs to secrete an enzyme that would turn its body into liquid. Once it was liquid the Tarantula would just literally suck it out through his straw-like mouth.
“They don’t eat often especially if they eat something big. So I figure he will get his fill of mice out there in the barn. You can of course catch flies and insects for him as well.”
The Tarantula doesn’t have many enemies. The one dreaded enemy is the Pepsis wasp. This particular enemy will paralyze the tarantula with its sting and lay eggs on the spiders back. When the eggs hatch later all of the little wasp gorge themselves on the still living tarantula. The female can lay up to 1,000 eggs.
“Imagine having a thousand wasp all over you eating you alive!” Obie’s father said.
“The female also eats her husband!” Obie said in a gagging display.
The tarantula’s mating ritual begins when the male spins his web and deposits his sperm on the surface. He copulates by using his short leg-like appendages near his mouth. Once he does this he quickly scuttles away to avoid being eaten by the female.
The female will wrap the eggs and sperm in a cocoon and watch over it for up to nine weeks. Then she will watch as all the hundreds of little spiders hatch and begin a life on their own.
“Golly Dad what a neat pet! I can hold him and let him crawl all over me. I’ll bet all the kids at school will love to see him or her.” Obie’s eyes looked up at his dad as if waiting for a reply.
“Just remember he or she CAN bite you!” His father added! “We don’t need any children being bitten by a spider. Do you understand?” He emphasized quite clearly.
So it came to be that Obie added Henrietta to his collection of wild creatures. Within two years the old barn floor and ceiling began moving with black hairy legs.
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Question for children: ” Is the Trantula poisonious?”