In Panamá: The Goliath Bird-Eating Spider
Traveling always offers surprises. Tonight when we came in at about 11 after a great evening here in Boquete, Panamá, Barry told me to go look in the kitchen of our Mamallena Hostel. He wouldn’t tell me why.
Ten hostellers were crowded around – not making any food, but sitting on the cabinets and gathered around the big central island. I saw why –
A big, black, hairy spider sat motionless in the middle of the table – a Goliath Bird-Eating spider, I learned – the Theraphosa blondi is largest spider in the world by mass. It can eat small birds but more often eats earthworms and toads.
A traveling scientist from the U.K. had caught her near the Costa Rican border. He’s taking her back home to study how long she lives in optimal conditions.
According to Extreme Science, the goliath bird-eating spider is – as are most tarantulas – not really harmful to humans. They can bite but usually only in self-defense; the result feels similar to a wasp sting. This spider does have urticating hairs that it can flick from its body when it feels threatened. They are tiny, almost invisible hairs that are extremely irritating to skin especially if they get into the mucus membranes of the eyes or mouth. Unlike most spiders, this species can make noise, stridulation – a hissing sound caused by rubbing bristles on its legs together.
The biggest one on record was a little more than 11 inches (27.94 cm) across. Females mature in 3 to 6 years – and have an average life span of 15 to 20 years! Males live 3 to 6 years, dying soon after reaching maturity. The female Goliath Bird-Eating Spider does not eat the males during mating as do other species of tarantulas.
The one in the kitchen seemed harmless.
The scientist said the spider was afraid of the light since it’s nocturnal and lives in burrows. He feeds it cockroaches, other insects, and sometimes chunks of steak. Will this one live for 20 + years?
I’m off to sleep. Will I dream of spiders? What surprises will we have tomorrow?
Aloha and Adiós, Renée