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Why The Arachnid Population Explosion During Arizona’s Monsoon Season Attracts Thousands Of People To The State Every Year

Why The Arachnid Population Explosion During Arizona’s Monsoon Season Attracts Thousands Of People To The State Every Year

Arachnids, like spiders and scorpions, are hard to come by in the concrete jungles of Arizona’s most urbanized locations. In fact, the downtown centers in cities like Phoenix and Tucson make even local residents forget that they are living within a desert that contains some of the world’s best known creepy-crawlies. It can be shocking to consider the millions of arachnids that are active just outside of these urban centers, but suburbanites in the state encounter these critters regularly. It is not uncommon for Arizona residents to hunt scorpions at night with the assistance of a black light that makes the creatures glow. However, during monsoon season, and for a few weeks afterward, tarantulas are sometimes spotted crawling into urban landscapes. They are spotted more frequently in suburban homes during this time of year as well. This is due to the arachnid population explosion that occurs during monsoon season, as the heavy rains and lingering moisture allow for vegetation and arthropod life in the Sonoran Desert region to thrive. Due to the seemingly sudden abundance of arachnid life that emerges in the Arizona desert during monsoon season, people from all over the world travel to the state in order to capture a few of their own specimens. The arachnids are captured for a variety of reasons, mostly for profit and research.

According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, monsoon season brings tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world to the state each year. Certain tarantula and scorpion species are the most common arthropods to be snatched up. These creatures are taken for research purposes, or to be placed within zoos. But the largest group of visitors may be the profiteers looking to sell tarantulas and other arthropods to pet stores located all over the world. During the annual “Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference” in Arizona, vendors can be seen selling a variety of arthropods to eager tourists. The most popular arthropods sold during the conference are tarantulas, black widows, scorpions, ant queens and vinegaroons. Every year, researchers discover at least one new arthropod species in the region, such as the recently described northern giant flag moth. Of course, not even these species are immune to the demand of the arthropod marketplace. For example, this recently discovered moth is now sold for around 700 dollars, and they can be even more expensive if a female specimen is included along with her eggs.

Would you enjoy searching the desert landscape for interesting or particular arthropods?

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Are There Any Tarantula Species That Attack Humans Without Provocation?

It is often claimed by experts that spiders, even the largest and most frightening looking, are largely harmless to humans. While it is true that most spider bites are not medically significant and only hurt as much as a bee sting, some spiders are downright deadly, and will not hesitate to attack a human. Most experts would disagree strongly with this claim, as it is common knowledge that spiders will not bite a human unless the spider feels threatened, is provoked or is mishandled. This may be the case when it comes to the vast majority of spiders, but the Australian funnel-web spider is certainly an exception.

One American study claims that the Australian funnel-web spider is the most dangerous spider on earth, and plenty of other researchers do not dispute this claim. It is not just its highly venomous bite that makes this particular spider species dangerous to humans, it is also their habit of attacking humans without provocation of any kind that makes them uniquely hazardous. Funnel-web spider bites are deadly to humans, but luckily, the introduction of an antivenom in the early 1980s drastically reduced the death rate from funnel-web spider bites. In severe cases of funnel-web envenomation, four vials of antivenom is necessary to save a human’s life. However, not long ago, a ten year old Australian boy required a massive dose of antivenom consisting of 12 vials after sustaining a bite from a funnel-web spider. Luckily, after being administered the antidote repeatedly, the boy survived.

In addition to being a serious health threat, funnel-web spider bites are also extremely painful on account of their large fangs and acidic venom. This exceptionally aggressive spider species will bite repeatedly and use its fangs to attach itself to skin, making it hard to brush these spiders away following a bite. Respiratory problems, spasms, seizures, vomiting and circulatory problems are just a few of the symptoms that a funnel-web bite victim can expect within 15 to 30 minutes following a bite. One case saw the death of a young boy within 15 minutes following a funnel-web bite. So no, spiders are not harmless!

Have you ever experienced secondary symptoms (other than pain at the site of the bite wound) following a bite from a spider?

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Tarantulas In Arizona Often Consume Lizards And Rodents

There exists 800 documented tarantula species in the world today, and the state of Arizona is home to 30 of these species. Arizona is well known for its tarantula population, and for good reason, as some tarantulas in the state are large enough to prey upon and consume mammals. These mammals include several different rodent species as well as lizards. According to one study, the western desert tarantula of Arizona regularly preys upon kangaroo rats. In fact, the study described one instance in Tucson that saw a western desert  tarantula specimen carrying a fully grown rat on its back. This specimen was likely carrying the dead rat to its burrow in order to gorge itself on the rodent.

The body-size of the desert tarantula grows to be around three inches in length, and this measurement, of course, is not counting the tarantula’s long hairy legs. Males of this species live for around 10 to 12 years, but the much larger female lives for a period of around 25 years. The female produces between 200 and 300 offspring at a time, and luckily, their venomous bites are not considered medically significant to humans. This tarantula’s most common rodent prey, the desert-dwelling kangaroo rat, is not the tiny creature you may assume it to be considering the desert tarantula’s ability to consume the animal. This rat species grows to be around 4 to 5 inches in length, not counting its tail, and it lives a solitary existence within the blazing hot Sonoran Desert. The kangaroo rat has evolved to avoid tarantula predation by jumping as far as ten feet, and they are able to change their direction immediately upon landing.

Researchers have documented the existence of mammal-feeding tarantula species in seven countries located on six continents. Some mammal hunting spiders spin ultra-strong webs in order to capture rodents, and they all produce strong venom designed to incapacitate the vertebrae nervous system.

Have you ever witnessed an encounter of any kind between a tarantula and a rodent or lizard?





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Tarantula Rights On Hollywood Movie Sets

There was a time when a film about an enormous 50 foot tall mutant tarantula would have been a guaranteed hit. But B movies such as these are not too popular in our contemporary post-atomic age. And this may be a good thing, as it is apparently difficult to make a horror movie about swarms of killer tarantulas without killing a whole lot of the spiders in real life too. This is what occurred during the 1977 filming of the low budget B horror movie called Kingdom of the Spiders. Amazingly, much of the footage showing unlawful arachnid killings and abuse incidents were included within the movie itself. Due to the frequent incidents of indiscriminate mass tarantula killings and other inhumane acts toward spiders during the film’s production, movie productions today are required to conform to numerous regulations concerning humane spider treatment and spider safety.

It is accurately believed that a film like Kingdom of the Spiders could not be made today due to the emergence of an intricate legal framework concerning spider rights in Hollywood. In fact, it was this 1977 film that prompted the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to push for regulations concerning humane spider treatment on film sets. This institutional response is understandable considering the many inhumane actions committed against spiders by actors and crew members while on set. For example, during one scene in the film, two characters are being surrounded by hundreds of living tarantulas within a lodge. During the scene, the actors could clearly be seen stomping on large groups of clustered tarantulas while fulfilling their roles as frightened tourists. During a scene where the tarantulas are attacking a town, hundreds of tarantulas were carelessly stomped on by crowds of extras. In one unforgivable scene of tarantula cruelty, a police cruiser drives on a street covered in real-life tarantulas, resulting in their real-life deaths. The appalled reaction that animal rights activists had toward the film prompted the enactment of spider safety regulations on Hollywood sets. For example,13 years after Kingdom was released, another horror film about killer spiders, Arachnophobia, was released. During the filming of this movie, killing spiders was prohibited, so the crew used the corpses of spiders that died of natural causes to fill in as freshly squashed spider victims. When a spider was killed on screen, a rubber model was used in place of actual spider-murder.

Have you ever witnessed arthropod mistreatment in a movie?


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Black Widow Spiders Are Acclimating To The Growing Urban Environments In The Southwest US

Black Widow Spiders Are Acclimating To The Growing Urban Environments In The Southwest US

The southwest United States is home to a variety of venomous animals, such as rattlesnakes, scorpions and on some occasions, Africanized honey bees, or killer bees, as they are more commonly known. Considering that urban and suburban developments are expanding more rapidly in the southwest than in any other US region, animals are being displaced by urbanization at a particularly fast rate in the southwest. Although urbanization leads to environmental degradation and the disruption of native animal habitats, one particularly venomous animal group does not seem to be negatively affected by encroaching urban developments. Unfortunately for city-dwellers in the southwest, this animal happens to be the black widow spider.

Phoenix, Arizona is the country’s second fastest growing city, and as a consequence of this city’s rapid expansion into the natural environment, many desert-dwelling animals are being robbed of the resources they need to survive. However, black widow spiders are having no problem adjusting to big city life. As it happens, black widows are making the best of their new urban landscape. For example, researchers with Arizona State University have found that black widow populations in the city are denser than they are in the natural environment. Not only that, but urban black widows have larger body sizes than their rural counterparts. Black widow populations in the city are 10 to 15 times denser than rural populations, and it has been found that urban black widows are genetically dissimilar to rural black widows. This fact has led researchers to believe that urban black widows in Phoenix did not originate from the rural dessert; instead, it is now believed that they may have originated from another region located outside of the southwest.

Urban black widows are better off than rural black widows for many reasons. Urban landscapes offer black widows superior forms of shelter, a greater abundance of food and prey, and most importantly, typical predators of black widows, most notably parasitic wasps, have a difficult time surviving urban habitats, making the most significant predators a non-issue for urban black widow populations. Naturally, these highly venomous spiders are being spotted regularly within homes and buildings in Phoenix. So if you live in Phoenix or another city in the southwest, check your shoes before putting them on in the morning.

Do you think that urban black widows in Phoenix are mostly represented by a non-native variety of black widows?

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A Look Inside the Tarantula Black Market

A Look Inside the Tarantula Black Market

You wouldn’t think that tarantulas are a particularly valuable commodity, considering the fear they induce in most people due to their frightening appearance.  Why would anyone pay much money for an ugly, hairy spider? Who would want to actually keep one for fun as a pet? Well, you are in for a surprise because the illegal market for tarantulas is booming, and illegal activity involving tarantulas is only increasing over time. There are many people that are fascinated by these creatures and can’t get enough of them; and they are willing to pay insane amounts of money to add more to their collection.

The illegal tarantula trade may be a little known section of the black market, but it is rampant, and with people becoming more and more interested in exotic animals, it is steadily increasing. The expanding number of people traveling to places that have exotic tarantulas, the rising awareness of these creatures people have gained through social media, as well as the growing commercial interest in these and other exotic animals are fueling the illegal trade of tarantulas. Many scientists have reported a great deal of illegal activity in relation to tarantulas, and most believe it is fueled mostly by people that make a hobby out of collecting these exotic pets and are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for just one of these spiders.

The demand for tarantulas is growing rapidly, and traders are having to find ways to meet that growing demand. Traders are now having to hire locals to hunt down tarantulas in the wild. The captured spiders are then smuggled out and sold to collectors and breeders searching for the newest, most distinctive and exotic tarantulas on the black market. While some become pets, others are killed and mounted on display in a box or enveloped in resin. What makes tarantula poaching especially cruel is that these spiders are long-lived, with some reaching 30 years old, and the females procreate late in their life and infrequently. Poaching takes a serious toll on the tarantula population, and they take a long time to recover from these harvests. Scientists are afraid that this could have a much wider negative effect on our ecosystem in general, and other problems such as climate change and the destruction of their habitats are threatening their different species even more. Many of the most exotic and interesting tarantulas that people collect through the black market could end up being wiped out completely. The collectors buying the tarantulas may not have bad intentions, and actually have a love and appreciation for these exotic creatures. Unfortunately, that love could spell the end of their pets existence.

Do you know anyone that owns exotic tarantulas? How do they find ones to purchase, and do they know whether the seller obtained them legally?

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An Arachnophobic Man’s Terrified Screams And Profane Shouts Over A Spider He Found In His Home Nearly Gets Him Arrested

While the world is full of people who suffer from arachnophobia, not all sufferers respond to the physical presence of a frightening-looking spider in the same way. For example, some people freeze upon finding a nearby spider while others literally cannot help but to reflexively scream when spotting an unwanted arachnid. Considering the fact that most experts claim that spiders are largely harmless to humans, as well as the fact that most arachnophobes are aware that their own fear of spiders is not at all rational, you would think that such a fear could be controlled well enough to at least approach a spider with a wad of kleenex in order to flush it down the toilet. But, many arachnophobes are not even able to do this; instead, they rely on a friend or relative to dispose of the hideous arachnid specimen for them.

For arachnophobes, having one of these helpers on hand is important when a spider is spotted crawling around within their home, but how do such people respond to house spiders when no such helper is available? For one arachnophobic man who found a spider within his home, the answer to this question happened to entail screaming and shouting profane words in a desperate attempt to kill the invading spider that had been responsible for causing his fear-induced panic attack. Obviously, pedestrians that had been outside his home overheard his tantrum, which prompted one of them to contact the police out of concern for the man’s safety, as it sounded as though the man was being pursued by a murderer.

After an individual heard the man scream the words, “why don’t you die?” The individual called the cops, as he believed that the man was being attacked. This meant that the frightened homeowner was forced to explain that his screams resulted from his cowardice in dealing with an unwanted spider pest that frightened him. However, the man probably emphasized that the spider had been really big and super-scary.

Have you ever screamed in response to spotting a spider or insect within your home?





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Bites From Old World Tarantulas Can Be Deadly Due To Their Need To Compensate For A Lack Of Defensive Features


Tarantula spiders are divided into two categories: old world tarantulas and new world tarantulas. Old world tarantulas include the tarantulas that lack urticating hairs, and instead rely on nothing more than their venomous bites for defense. Old world tarantulas get their name from being more common in Asia and Africa. New world spiders are largely limited to the Americas and they comprise spiders that possess urticating hairs in addition to fangs that deliver venom. New world tarantulas are able to fling their abdominal hairs into their enemies faces, which causes severe irritation in humans. These defensive hairs are known as urticating hairs, and many tarantula owners must exercise caution in order to avoid them. Old world tarantula venom is typically more potent than new world tarantula venom, as old world tarantulas have no other method of defense available to them when faced with enemies. This makes old world tarantula bites relatively dangerous to humans. In fact, sustaining a bite from an old world tarantula can cause muscle spasms, cramps and eventual death unless an antivenom is administered to a human victim in time.

People all over the world keep and breed tarantulas as pets, and the creatures are typically dismissed by experts as being harmless. Most pet tarantulas are new world specimens and while their urticating hairs can cause allergic reactions in humans, medical literature describes the consequences of their bite in humans as being trivial. However, this is not the case with old world tarantulas, as one study described two old world tarantula owners who suffered severe medical problems following a bite from the Lampropelma nigerrimum and Pterinochilus murinus species. The two men experienced identical symptoms, which included severe localized swelling and persistent and agonizingly painful muscle cramps that lasted more than a week. A third man who sustained a bite from the old world Poecilotheria regalis species developed muscle spasms in addition to the symptoms experienced by the other two men. According to researchers, the toxic effects of old world tarantula venom has been documented but largely ignored in medical literature. Although antivenom for old world tarantula bites do exist, researchers have yet to uncover the particular toxins responsible for the serious medical symptoms that result from their bites. Discovering these toxins would be of great scientific and therapeutic benefit.

Have you ever sustained a bite from a pet tarantula?


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A Mysterious Chemical Component Of Brown Recluse Venom Promotes The Development Of Tissue Necrosis Following A Bite

A Mysterious Chemical Component Of Brown Recluse Venom Promotes The Development Of Tissue Necrosis Following A Bite

Brown recluse spiders have become well known as the house spiders with a “deadly” bite. While brown recluse spiders may be a little larger and a bit hairier than your typical house spiders, they have traditionally been dismissed as mostly harmless to humans. Of course, when brown recluse spiders feel threatened, or when they are handled, they will not hesitate to deal out one of their notoriously painful bites. As it turns out, the result of a brown recluse bite can be much more serious than a sting. Researchers at the University of Arizona have recently found that brown recluse venom produces a different and far more harmful chemical within the human body than was previously assumed. This chemical is responsible for causing the tissue necrosis that sometimes develops around the bite wound.

For years researchers assumed that brown recluse bites were not much more harmful than any other spider bite, despite the necrotic infections that sometimes form at the site of the bite wounds. Now, researchers have a better understanding as to why these necrotic infections take form. One of the many toxic proteins contained within brown recluse venom causes lipids to alter their function in a particular manner that results in cell-death. While the properties of these lipids and how they lead to necrosis is not exactly understood, it is believed that a pronounced immune response occurs, which results in blood being cut off from the site of the bite wound. This loss of blood flow to the bite wound results in the death of skin cells, which is what causes the well known necrotic black lesion that sometimes appears at the site of brown recluse wounds. In rare cases, a systemic infection can result from a brown recluse bite, which can lead to kidney failure and death. Luckily, the discovery of this new protein will allow researchers to develop more effective medical treatments for brown recluse bites.

Have you ever known anyone who sustained tissue necrosis from a brown recluse bite, or any spider bite?


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Residents From 48 States Sent Brown Recluse Spiders To A Researcher Who Claimed That Their Habitat Is Limited To Only A Few States

Brown recluse spiders are among the most well known of all arachnids, which is understandable considering the deadly reputation that the spiders have generated during the past several decades. The brown recluse group of spiders started to become well known in America during the late 1950s when the first medical reports describing this spider’s potentially deadly bite became available to the public. These early medical reports, as well as several subsequent reports, described how brown recluse bites can sometimes lead to necrotizing infections at the site of the bite wound. Although many Americans have heard of brown recluse spiders, very few are able to recognize them. A study in the Journal of Entomology clearly demonstrated that a vast majority of Americans are convinced that they know what brown recluse spiders look like, despite identifying the wrong spiders as brown recluses. For one thing, brown recluse spiders are only endemic within a handful of American states. Despite this fact, residents of 48 states sent the author of the study brown recluse specimens in order to prove that they can accurately identify the spiders within their home state. Consequently, the researcher received spider specimens that were not brown recluses, and many of the specimens did not even resemble the notorious spiders.

Considering the numerous studies that have been published on brown recluse spiders in America, researchers are certain that this spider’s distribution only lies within the southernmost states as well as a few midwestern states. Although the study’s author claimed that brown recluse spiders do not exist within states located in America’s northern, northeastern or northwestern territories, residents of all the states located within these regions attempted to prove him wrong by sending their own captured brown recluse specimens. Of course, the participants sent the wrong spiders, but this was a part of the study.

The researcher challenged Americans in each state to locate and submit brown recluse specimens that they had captured. The lead researcher did this in order to determine if any brown recluse species migrated to any new states. Based on the submissions, the answer to this question was “no.” The second question that the study’s lead researcher was attempting to answer was where the brown recluse is perceived to exist by the American public, and the answer to this question is “everywhere.” Despite the fear many americans have toward brown recluse spiders, it turns out that Americans are surprisingly ignorant of the brown recluse spiders’ distribution and appearance.

Do you think that you would be able to accurately identify a brown recluse species?