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.


Goliath Bird-Eating Tarantula

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.


This one is young and so not as big as it can get.

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


The visitor in our kitchen


Tags: ,

About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

3 responses to “In Panamá: The Goliath Bird-Eating Spider”

  1. Rosita says :

    When I saw the photo of the spider, I remembered that when I was a child, I used to be scared of them 🙈 Now, I don’t have so much fear of spiders, but… And I also remembered that when I was a child I used to dance calypso, a Caribbean rhythm who’s VERY popular here on my city 😉 I was bitten by an unvaccinated puppy during one of those my trips, and, I have to tell that I was concerned about the possibility of catching rabies, because i don’t took the vaccine, but it occurred 40 days later and the dog still alive, so, I’m out of risk, thankfully. I have to tell yours that, unfortunately, stray BSDs (you know what I’m saying when I use this acronym, no? :D) can be potentially rabies carriers, and, consequently, initiate a rabies outbreak, as it occurred in some Brazilian cities, as Corumbá, in Mato Grosso do Sul. To talk the true, luckily, dogs aren’t major rabies carriers in Brazil nowadays, but yes cattle are more prone to catch rabies and bats are major carriers of rabies in Brazil, who can cause an enormous injury to our economy, and, if you consider the fact that we’re facing an economical crisis here, it could be catastrophic, in both economic and public health. My city is rabies-free since 2008, but we can’t say the same of other cities at Pará state, sadly. Although rabies is 100% lethal, it’s 100% preventable also. And Brazilian government, despite the fact of being bad administrated, pay a lot attention to both human and animal rabies prevention, who’s good, and, although we don’t have eradicated rabies from our territory, we’re doing efforts to catch up our target and I had heard that Hawaii is rabies-free, it proceeds? Do yours have heard that canine rabies outbreak who’s occurring in Bali started with an infected dog brought from a neighbor island, probably Flores island, and, before that, Bali was rabies-free? Yes, yes, the “Island of Gods”, is, now, “Island of Rabid Dogs”, and, worst of all, the outbreak started in 2008 (coincidently the year that my city became rabies-free), and, with that, it still during EIGHT YEARS of unnecessary canine and human deaths due to that painful, but totally preventable disease, and it don’t achieved the target of eliminating the disease of its territory, due to a hypocritical government politic of killing healthy dogs instead of vaccinating them. And, do you know that, now, a dog can’t leave Bali legally due to the current rabies outbreak, but my Bali’s from jakarta, a rabies-free area of Indonesia. But I’m so sad by those poor Bali dogs and children that die unnecessarily on a stupid, miserable way that can be prevented by some shots of rabies vaccine. But Balinese government don’t see it neither feel sadness by human lives who’re lost due to rabies and still unnecessarily killing dogs by a horrible way, with strychnine-poisoned darts when children still dying of rabies around all the island. How sad! 😭 But I hope that both BARC and BAWA (two Balinese NGOs who’re helping Bali dogs and cats) will teach balinese government an important lesson: never hurting a sentient creature, because bad karma will follow them. I believe that one life is one life, and should be protected and live free from harm, independently of its specie. Luckily there are some rabies-free countries and cities, and how’s rabies situation in Hawaii? I heard that it’s rabies-free, but do yours have the fear of rabies entering in Hawaii by any infected animal of a neighboring state or country?

  2. Rosita says :

    Why most Muslims don’t like dogs and thrown stones on them?

    • reneeriley says :

      The Muslims I’ve met in Indonesia and Israel – and the U.S. for that matter – don’t throw stones at dogs. Some uneducated people do in many places. It’s more a lack of education than a religion in my experience.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: