• Sunday , 18 February 2018

Imagine Tarantulas Climbing All Over You at Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Photos, video, story by Cassie Hepler

We like to get our hands dirty furry here at Explore Philly. And if that means holding a huge, fuzzy spider, so be it. Meet Misty, a rose haired Chilean tarantula with blue tones on her butt. She’s 8 years old and was very calm, cool and collected.


We were eager to hold her which really resulted in her climbing all over our hands. She felt weightless and we only spazzed out slightly once but fortunately Invertebrate Specialist Karen Verderame and Misty didn’t even notice.

Now you too can see the biggest, baddest and most fearsome of all spiders in Tarantulas: Alive and Up Close opening Saturday, Jan. 30 to May 30, 2016 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

Tarantulas usually have a bad a reputation… you know – terrifying, fast, hairy and scary (they are hairy, that we agree with). Put your illogical fear of large spiders aside (they can’t eat you, duh) and come face-to-face with nearly 20 species of live tarantulas, fangs and all, with only a pane of glass protecting your pansy ass. Because creatures with eight-legs are surely more evolved than humans.

See them up and close through large scale video magnifying glasses, colorful graphics and interactive activities to learn about the 900 known species of tarantulas, which are found all over the world.

Love them or loathe them, test yourself every Saturday and Sunday at 11:45 a.m. when visitors will be able to experience a tarantula outside of its enclosure, and a tarantula keeper will talk about its features and answer questions. You can also get to know these secretive creatures by:

·         Examining tarantula hairs, fangs, silk and eyes under a microscope.

·         Touching the skin, or exoskeleton, that a tarantula has shed, in a similar fashion as a snake.

·         Playing dress-up by donning fun props or a tarantula costume, including one large enough for an adult (and use #tarantulas to show everyone how nerdy you really are)

·         Finding all the hidden spiders in our scavenger hunt.

·         Experiencing an air current to discover why tarantulas are so hairy.

·         Playing the “Name That Tarantula” game.

·         Exploring where tarantulas live with the “Tarantulas of the World” interactive map.

·         Stepping into a giant collecting jar to feel what it’s like to be collected by the Academy.

·         Seeing live tarantulas from the Philadelphia region.

Among the species on display are the Goliath bird-eating tarantula (the largest of all tarantulas), the rare green bottle blue tarantula, and the Indian ornamental tarantula, a species troubled by loss of habitat. And each has a unique story to tell. Tarantulas live in diverse habitats around the world, from the tallest rainforest treetops to deep underground in the most arid deserts. Some people keep tarantulas as pets; others eat them for dinner.

While habitat loss and pesticide use are threats to some species, scientists are still trying to understand some of the creatures’ attributes. One recent study, reported on in National Geographic, sought to solve the mystery of why some tarantulas are a beautiful vibrant blue. They’re still not sure. More fun facts below the photos!


This tarantula’s got back. We thought originally is was pregnant but it’s just got a big butt.


Who knew? They hiss too! There’s an option to hear the noise, which is strikingly similar to a snake.


They are all female tarantulas at the exhibit actually, we assume so there’s no spider anarchy. This lady was trying hard to hide but build her web against the glass so we got a shot. Her colors are amazing and beautiful.


This tarantula was busy building up her web and was kind of suctioned to the glass. You can see her red fangs in this photo.


Misty was on the move while we had the light on her in the cage. Spiders naturally move away from the light like vampires (except for the lame sparkly ones in Twilight).


Not only can you dress up like a tarantula, you can also put your face in the holes above and either be the dinner or the predator.

Fun Facts About Tarantulas:

Tarantulas are large, hairy-looking, quick-witted, fierce predators. They can be scary-looking, but they also possess a unique beauty, and scientists continue to make new discoveries about them.

  • Tarantulas are spiders, and spiders are arachnids.
  • There are some 900 species of tarantulas.
  • Tarantulas range from the size of a fingernail to the size of a dinner plate.
  • All tarantulas can produce silk, which they use to line their burrows.
  • Some people in South America roast tarantulas and eat them.
  • Tarantulas have tiny hairs on their body that they kick off when threatened.
  • The Goliath bird-eating tarantula is the largest spider on Earth.
  • Tarantulas are among the most fearsome predators. All tarantulas are venomous, but most are quite docile.
  • Some, like the Goliath bird-eating tarantula, inflict fatal bites with venomous fangs.
  • Habitat destruction and the effects of pesticides are threats to some tarantula populations.

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