The Brown Haitian Tarantula

During my first year at college, my roommate and I did not get on-campus housing. This was both a blessing and a curse. We were placed in off-campus apartments, close to campus – a blessing because we were less supervised and a curse for the same reason. One of the many decisions I made, which I would not have been able to make, was to pursue my fascination with animals and purchase a brown Haitian tarantula from a pet store. It was early 1982, there was no Internet, I did no homework (other than asking the pet store employee a few basic questions) and I came back to surprise my roommate, Bob, with our new pet. We are great friends today. Back then, it was still a big question mark.

I did my best to take care of Caesar (was he male?) and I did purchase one of those small eight by five inch booklets “all about” tarantulas in an effort to do my best to care for it properly. I had the ten-gallon terrarium set up with a warming lamp and I think I had a heated rock (thirty-two years ago!) together with stones, a sandy area, and ending in a small area with water.

Brown Haitian Tarantula

Brown Haitian Tarantula

So, do tarantulas make good pets? Like any other pet, it depends on whether or not you are willing to care for it and what you expect to get in return, right? Obviously, a tarantula is not going to crawl up your chest and cuddle up under your chin! And this brings up an interesting point. To this day, I am shocked to hear that most people believe tarantulas are poisonous. They are NOT, tarantulas are not dangerous to humans, and there is NO record of a tarantula ever causing a human fatality, anywhere! But, if you own a tarantula, you can (as I did) misinform people that they are indeed extremely poisonous while you let it crawl all over your arms and hands. You do come across very brave, as well as crazy. It is also fun to see the extent of arachnophobia in some people – I’ve had some relatives, well over 200 pounds, that refuse to enter my apartment, even if Caesar was in his terrarium. Caesar also made a faint hissing sound sometimes… and that added to the fun of tormenting others!

Now, some species of tarantulas – including the brown Haitian, do have significant fangs and if you are bitten – you will know it! Caesar bit me once… it was entirely my fault, my hand was in his space while there were crickets (his meal of choice) bouncing around and I deserved it. I am just glad I didn’t hurt him from being startled. Note that, like a bee sting, some people can be allergic to the venom of a tarantula – so in that rare case, if you happen to be allergic, you’d need to get to an emergency room. For the allergy, not because you might die! A great way to find out how aggressive your spider is: when you first handle him, wear a pair of gloves thick enough to fend off those fangs until you are comfortable enough to go barehanded. Typically, a tarantula will “rear back” prior to biting (kind of stand up on it’s rear legs) giving you some notice of a bite and you may have time to pull away.

But I digress. Other things to know about brown Haitians (and tarantulas in general) are that they are extremely fragile, so they must be handled with extreme care. If one were to drop from even a couple of feet, it would shatter this invertebrate’s exoskeleton, killing it instantly.

I fed my Caesar almost exclusively insects, mostly crickets, because they are easily purchased at most pet stores, and because he liked them. Other than that, it’s important to make sure clean water is available; I also had a small, clean, wet sponge inside – I must have read that somewhere?

If you want your tarantula to survive, you must keep the terrarium very clean. Tarantulas poop… they are very small (round) poops, but nonetheless they attract parasites and mold that will kill your spider very quickly. If you are not up to cleaning his home regularly, don’t make this investment! It is just money and a tarantula down the drain. What a waste that is.

In the end, I could not keep Caesar. My mother refused to allow me to keep him in HER house after my first year in college. So, he was adopted by a friend who did take good care of him and for several years, I did get updates. Lesson learned!

Now we have the Internet so DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Learn everything, good and bad, about a potential pet! It is the only fair thing to do for everyone involved, especially the pet, and it avoids heartbreak down the road.

Best of Luck, Boston John

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