Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A-Z Day 7

Copyright ©2015 Mark Kelly.
G is for Grammostola rosea.

Otherwise know as the Chilean Rose tarantula - so, warning for those who are arachnaphobic:


The Grammostola rosea, otherwise called the Chilean Rose, is the ideal beginners spider for any wishing to take up keeping tarantulas as a pet/hobby, as did I back in the early 90s.

I've been fascinated by spiders ever since I was a kid. We were fortunate to have a victorian terraced house and as such the garden walls were lovely, old, hand cut stone of irregular shape and size - a perfect habitat for giant house spiders. On days when ants were spewing from their nests in the heat of the sun in preparation for their queens to take to the wing, I would cheerfully hand feed the myriad of spiders living in our garden walls.

I had even perfected a technique of teasing them out with a blade of grass, which would both thrill me and terrifying me at the same time. I also discovered the garden spiders loved to wander from their miniature caverns in the dark of night, so armed with a torch I was often found in the garden during balmy summer nights watching them repair their webs and clearing out the debris of their larder.

So, now out on my own in life with my very first bedsit flat and a door I could shut out the outside world whenever I chose, I wanted a tarantula. I bought my first tarantula for £30 from a pet store on City Road in the Roath area of Cardiff where I lived.

I hurried home with my cardboard box and new pet contained within. My wife, then my girlfriend at that time arrived at the flat. She is absolutely terified of spiders of any shape, size or colour. So when she asked what was in the box, and I told her, all colour drained from her face and she climbed on top of the settee, hunched into a ball, eyes transfixed on the small brown box on my carpet floor.

Copyright ©2015 Mark Kelly.

Once she felt secure and safe enough, my wife gave me the nod to open the box. Carefully and gently and teased open the flaps of the box and just left it sitting there. After about 30 seconds a single, tentative, hairy brown tarantula leg emerged and groped about the endge of the box. My wife burst into tears and climbed futher up the settee away from the box, even though she was a good 12 feet away.

I will say now, my choice of spider couldn't have been more perfect. Pheobe - yes, that was her name - was as docile as anything I could have hoped for, and not the least bit skittish, or aggressive.

Pheobe lived in an 18 inch tank with the best of everything, and fed at regular, set times. Often I would take Pheobe out of her tank and let her wander the floor, but surprisingly she never ventured far from me, and quite often would be content to sit on my leg as I read a book - no tv in those days for me. We really did have a great dynamic. And much to my relief, and surprise, my wife's fear of spiders gradually lessened to the point where she could stand in front of the tank and look at Pheobe without freaking out.

Copyright ©2015 Mark Kelly.

I then got the tarantula bug - excuse the poor choice of wording there - and stared collecting different species. I had arboreal types: Pink Toe (Avicularia avicularia) and Indian Ornatmental (Poecilotheria regalis), and a Mexican Red Knee.

Eventually, with breeding tarantulas I had a total of 33 spiders. But ultimately I developed an allergic reaction to their urticating hairs and all spiders had to be rehomed, which was not difficult as I had become a member of The British Tarantula Society by then, so all were found good, reliable and trusted homes.

Sadly Pheobe didn't live long enough for me to have to make that awful decision - but to be honest, even if she had, I would have kept her for the remainder of her life, allergy or not. As to her demise, she was tragically killed by another spider that had broken into her tank with the sole intent of killing. An event I still, to this day, feel terrible about as it happened whilst I was out of the flat. Judging from the chaos in Pheobe's tank, there had been a fierce struggle, but she was over-powered by a larger tarantula: a Curlyhair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum). What makes me think the larger spider wanted to kill Pheobe? Simple - the spider could have easily have escaped and make a getaway, but it chewed through the tank roof in order to get at Pheobe.

Copyright ©2015 Mark Kelly.

In memory of a lovely tarantula that deserved a better end to her life, but whilst alive she was loved and cared for to the best of my ability.


  1. I just passed out, not a fan of any types of spiders... you seem to have cared for the one you had... me I am a wuss. Welcome in the letter "G"... thank you!
    Jeremy [Retro]
    AtoZ Challenge Co-Host [2015]

    There's no earthly way of knowing.
    Which direction we are going!

    Come Visit: You know you want to know if me or Hollywood... is Nuts?

    1. Sorry Jeremy, but the warning was there ;)

  2. Gah! Really? You just had to post huge pictures of huge spiders... nice, real nice...
    Ok, so now that I have shivered every last part of me I think I can move on now. See you tomorrow!

    1. But they are so beautiful - amazing creations of nature that have barely changed since the time of the dinosaurs.