Face-to-face with a cou­ple of taran­tu­las

Auckland City Harbour News - - MILESTONES - JU­LIAN RAETHEL

It’s been a while, but I find my­self driv­ing back down this long, fa­mil­iar drive­way in the mid­dle of the West Auck­land bush.

The nerves start jan­gling a lit­tle but I know that we can’t turn back now.

My date with a taran­tula has fi­nally come.

Bug man Brian Law­ton, owner-op­er­a­tor of Hands on Crea­tures and Crea­tures Un­lim­ited, greets us with a dev­il­ish smile at his front door.

It’s taken two years since I held an Avon­dale spi­der. But I have re­turned.

When I was a lit­tle kid spi­ders ab­so­lutely freaked me out.

As I’ve grown older my fears have sub­sided but still, I’m about to get up close with an arach­nid that has fright­ened and fas­ci­nated.

Law­ton tells me there are about 800 species over the world, pre­dom­i­nantly in trop­i­cal cli­mates. Most tend to be tree dwellers and are good at hang­ing. The name pos­si­bly orig­i­nates from the ‘‘tar­entella’’ dance, he says, which was per­formed by Ital­ian cul­tures cen­turies ago. They be­lieved it helped with the heal­ing if they’d been bit­ten by these huge spi­ders.

First up is the Chilean rose haired and my palms are sweaty.

Law­ton has a strong calm­ing pres­ence, I’m about as ready as I’ll be.

‘‘Their bite’s no worse than a bee sting,’’ he says re­as­sur­ingly, mo­ments be­fore the gi­ant spi­der slowly crawls onto my hand and be­gins mov­ing up my arm.

It’s a lot heav­ier than I first imag­ined - the tiny claws are dig into my skin as she prowls along, it’s a sur­real feel­ing.

Law­ton takes her off me and I feel (sur­pris­ingly) great. Then he brings out the much big­ger Peru­vian pink toe. The hair on this thing is in­cred­i­ble, kind of like fi­bre op­tics when it catches the light.

I’m a lot more con­fi­dent but the claws are much stronger and her legs are flail­ing ev­ery­where. Where’s she go­ing to go? This is what I reckon freaks peo­ple out the most about spi­ders - the un­pre­dictable move­ments.

The spi­ders are now safely back in their en­clo­sures and we say our good­byes. I leave with a dif­fer­ent im­pres­sion, see­ing these fas­ci­nat­ing crea­tures in a whole new light.

How­ever I can’t help think­ing I’d feel a lit­tle dif­fer­ent if one un­ex­pect­edly dropped on my shoul­der while I’m hik­ing in some re­mote rain­for­est.

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