Spiders get a bad rap. Very often, people greet these eight-legged creatures with fearful screams. Yet, others adopt them as pets. On Sunday, spiders will be for sale — among the geckos, snakes, turtles and frogs — at the Long Island Reptile Expo in Brentwood.
“Spiders are much maligned and made out to be bad, but that’s not the case,” says “Jungle Bob” Smith of Jungle Bob’s Reptile World retail store in Centereach, one of the expo vendors selling spiders. “They are secretive and want to be left alone. But they are fun to watch because they are interesting.”
Much like different breeds of dogs or cats, spiders have varying personality traits. Here are some that will be seen at the expo:
Vendors say the most user-friendly spiders are Mexican red knee ($20-$25) and Chilean rosehair tarantulas ($30).
“They are easygoing and you can handle them freely,” says Smith. “They will crawl all over your skin, then sit with you.”
COOL BUT CRANKY SPIDERS
Spiders for the advanced keeper that look amazing but can be prickly are the goliath birdeater ($100-$200) and the cobalt blue ($60) tarantulas. The goliath (known to eat small birds) is the largest species in the world, growing about 11 inches across as an adult, almost the size of a dinner plate. Their temperament is aggressive.
“Goliath birdeater spiders are not ones you want to hold. The fangs are an inch long and can inflict a serious but not deadly bite,” says Smith. “The cobalt blue spiders are quick to defend themselves and are constantly rearing up. But they are beautifully colored.”
The pinktoe tarantula ($25) and the jumping spider ($15-$50) are the most fun to watch. Pinktoes, which get their name from the pink tips of their legs, are quick-moving and prefer to be in clusters. Meanwhile, jumping spiders live up to their name.
“Jumping spiders are very active and often jump around ambushing their prey,” says Rich Shannon of Repxotica in West Islip, another vendor selling spiders at the expo. “They are pretty fascinating creatures to watch, but not something you hold or touch.”
SPIDERS AT HOME
Spiders are low-maintenance pets. They must be kept solitary (except the pinktoe) and at room temperature. They feed on crickets twice a week (goliaths also eat small mice) and need a bottle cap full of water. Males only live a few years, whereas females can survive up to 20 years.
“Males are designed to mate and they die,” says Smith. “Sometimes the female will even devour the male when it’s done.”
But why would anyone want a spider for a pet? Vendors say perhaps it’s the “wow” factor.
“It’s a very unusual thing that will certainly separate you from your neighbor with their golden retriever,” says Smith. “We have everybody from bikers to surgeons from Stony Brook Hospital who are spider enthusiasts.”
Melissa Radefeld, 23, of Miller Place owns eight spiders ranging from a pumpkin patch spider to a green bottleblue spider.
“I love seeing what they come up with and the things they build when you leave them to their own devices,” says Radefeld, a student studying to be veterinary assistant. “It’s truly amazing how smart they are.”
She is especially close to her rosehair spider named Iris, which she believes shows affection.
“My rosehair will be on my hand a little bit, but then he will climb up my arm and chill in the bend of my arm,” says Radefeld. “He cuddles himself into me, which I find adorable.”
Of all her pets (a bearded dragon, multiple snakes, a tree frog and two cats), Radefeld thinks her spiders are the most misunderstood.
“Spiders are not out to get you,” says Radefeld. “If anything, they are scared of people. They would run and hide before they’d do anything to somebody.”