Jan 12 2013

Update: Bugs in Costa Rica

Remember in our last newsletter when Paul wrote, “Bugs. I have never liked bugs and it was one of my main concerns about moving to the tropics, to Costa Rica. I’m here to tell you that the bug scare was just a false alarm” ?? Well, the very night we published that newsletter, we had a furry visitor show up uninvited in our bedroom.

Our cat, Tori, was fixated on a corner of the bedroom. When I went over to check it out, I saw a tarantula the size of my fist cowering in the corner. Here’s a picture of it next to Paul’s size 12 shoes, just for perspective of how big it was. Eeeeeeeekkkkk! There’s nothing like a big, black, furry insect to make you jump into action! We quickly scooted Tori out of the room, grabbed the broom, and swept it outside onto the porch where it proceeded to climb up the wall into the crevices.

I have to say that it’s the first time in almost four years that a bug has freaked me out. We mentioned it to a Tica friend the next day and she said that we’d see lots of them here (oh, joy) but that they are harmless. Evidently, they are attracted to banana plants. Who knew?

Not totally convinced, I looked them up on the Internet and here’s what I found:

The spiders known as tarantulas are famous for being large, hairy, and poisonous. While in some places there are enormous spiders…in Costa Rica the tarantulas are not so gigantic. For having an intimidating appearance, the tarantula is quite a fragile creature and steps delicately around the forest floor habitat. It uses its front legs like antennae to feel around in front of the spider’s body, which gives the spider a stronger sense of its surroundings than the spider’s eight small eyes.

(The tarantula)…is common in Costa Rica but not necessarily commonly seen. It is nocturnal, emerging at dusk or later to mate and hunt. This primitive species of spider does not spin a web, but does dig a burrow, and never strays terribly far from home. Some live for 5 to 10 years in the wild.

All tarantulas, like all spiders, have poison, but tarantulas are relatively shy creatures and are very unlikely to bite. Most tarantulas need venom to stun their prey and defend themselves, and their bodies do not replenish venom quickly. Hence they are hesitant to waste venom unless they are threatened and cannot escape. If a tarantula feels cornered and scared, it will first use its backmost legs to flick thick urticating hairs off the back of its abdomen. These hairs sting, especially if they come in contact with the eyes or mouth. Another warning sign that a tarantula is becoming aggressive is when it rears up onto its back legs, sometimes adding an angry hiss. The spider’s fangs are underneath its head and the spider needs to come down on top of what it will bite. While the venom of a tarantula is not fatal, the bite can still be deep and painful. It’s better to just admire one where it stands.”

Admire it from a distance? I can do that!

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