[Pictured: The goliath bird-eating spider (theraphosa blondi), the biggest, heavyiest tarantula is found in rainforests from southern Venezuela, east to Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and north-eastern Brazil]
The first time I held a tarantula I couldn’t have been more than 10-years old. I was on a field-trip to a nearby nature preserve. It was a common-variety brown tarantula, the curator asked for a volunteer, and I raised my hand (although in retrospect, I may have been asking to be excused to use the restroom).
She placed it on my palm, and it was about the same size as my entire open hand. To this day, I don’t know who was more petrified, me, the tarantula, my classmates or my teacher! After a while, I began to notice its details, as I turned my hand to the left and right to get a better look. But what struck me, even to this day, was I could feel the WEIGHT of it!
NOTE: As I’ve said before, “poison” is secreted and implies a high level of toxicity; though any substance is technically poisonous if taken in a large enough dose, poison always refers to a biological organism as its source (“toxic” can refer to BOTH biological organisms AND non-biological substances) making ingestion or touch a requirement to be affected. “Venom”, on the other hand, is injected with a bite or sting.
There are more than 850 species of tarantula, and as far as I know, they are ALL edible and there are NO tarantulas with a fatal bite to a normal adult human. In fact, their venom is generally milder than a bee/wasp, and though painful, their bites are not harmful. However, there are a few species with more serious venoms that may cause muscle cramping, sweating, and even heart palpitations a few hours after envenomation... and tarantulas CAN jump, so be careful. 😉
In the United States, tarantulas are found in the southwestern states and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. New World (North, Central, and South American) tarantulas have urticating hairs, these are the hairs they can “flick” to ward-off predators and can be very irritating (including to humans), however while Old World tarantulas (Africa, Asia, Europe) don’t have these hairs, their venom is usually more potent.
All tarantulas are carnivores. Some tarantulas, like the goliath [Pictured], can have leg-spans of up to 12 inches long! Tarantulas spin web silk, but they don’t use spider webs to catch prey, they are ambush predators of insects, though some will go after mice and similar prey up to bird-size. Instead, they’ll spread their silk around their borough and rely much more on their sense of touch since, although tarantulas have eight eyes, their vision is weak.
The males have longer leg-spans and can live up to about 12 years, while the females are usually stockier and can live for up to about 30 years.
Tarantulas are common fare around Asia and particularly in Cambodia (during the rule of the Khmer Rouge food was in short supply), where they are generally fried and dipped in garlic/soy/chili sauce. Some say they “taste like chicken”, others say they taste like peanut butter (remind me NEVER to go to THEIR grocery stores!).
That said, my experience is a little more like soft-shell crab; the legs were slightly crunchy with a softer center and a fishy/prawny taste. The thorax and head were like the legs but slightly stronger but “delicate.” The abdomen had a brown paste with a fishy/earthy taste (the organs, maybe eggs and possibly excrement, YIKES!).
If you DO have a chance to eat one, DO remember to remove the fangs, but DON'T throw them away just yet, you can use them as toothpicks! 🙂
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