TarantuLana Del Rey: An Inquiry Into Fear

I own a Tarantula. Her name is TarantuLana Del Rey, named after the pop star. Nine times out of ten, a pet Tarantula will be female. This is because female Tarantulas are bigger, live longer, and are typically less aggressive than their male counterparts. Tarantulas are a low-maintenance pet and easy to take care of. A Tarantula’s diet consists of six to eight two-week old crickets, which they eat monthly. Two-week old crickets cost $0.25 apiece and are sold at every major pet retailer. In addition to monthly crickets, Tarantulas require moist air, so most terrariums housing a Tarantula include a small bowl with a sponge. A Tarantula enclosure also includes soft substrate, which commonly takes the form of wood chips or topsoil. Tarantulas can only be kept in rooms without windows because direct sunlight can raise the internal temperature of a terrarium to a fatal degree. Occasionally, Tarantula enthusiasts will have “drawers and shelves” with glass covers containing Tarantulas. For practical reasons this shelters the arachnids from windows, and for voyeuristic reasons this creates a gallery where viewers can see different species of Tarantula in one place.

Tarantulas are of the class Arachnida, distinguished by all species with eight legs. The name “Tarantula” comes from the European Wolf Spider, a real spider native to Taranto, in the South of Italy. The European Wolf Spider, while an Arachnid, is of the family Lycosidae, and is not actually what is now commonly referred to as a Tarantula. “Tarantula” is a misnomer for this reason.

Tarantula is a colloquial term for arachnids within the family Therophosidae, which contains over 700 species. Tarantulas are distinguished from other spiders by their dense body hair, which they can shoot as a tactic of defense. For this reason, a Tarantula owner should always wash their hands after handling their Tarantula. TarantuLana Del Rey is a Chilean Rose-haired Tarantula, which is the number one most common type of “domestic” Tarantula. This is because Chilean Rose-haired Tarantulas are ultra common, easy to care for, and extremely docile.

Growing up I was terrified of spiders. As a child, I slept in the basement. Basements are a haven for “house” spiders, such as cellar spiders, or cobweb spiders. Whenever I’d find a spider in my room, I’d call my mother in to trap it under a cup and pour it into the backyard before I could get comfortable. On nights I’d find a spider near my bed, I wouldn’t sleep. Stories of Black Widows and Brown Recluses would circle in my head and when I’d see a spider I’d be reminded of media I’d seen that perpetuated this fear. “Man vs. Wild”, “Eight-legged Freaks”, and news articles of Black Widow sightings in Alberta were reminders of the perceived danger associated with spiders and bred an ideal that spiders should be avoided and watched out for.

So, why do I own TarantuLana Del Rey? Because fear is a restrictive force, it prevents people from living a full life. A girl could have innate natural abilities as a snowboarder, but be afraid of snow. A future of Olympic Gold and World Championships could be tossed aside because she was “too scared” to just try. Skydiving looks awesome! I won’t not skydive because I’m afraid of heights. I intend on living life to its fullest, and striving to reach my potential. In order to do that, I must strike fear in the face. Fear and failure are cut from the same cloth. As JK Rowling says, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” “Living cautiously” is a fancy and tricky variant of saying “I’m scared”. As a guiding philosophy in my life, I recognize my fears and inhibitions and tell myself, “do it”, hence TarantuLana Del Rey. Playing the game is always more productive and more fun, than sitting on the bench.

I’m not scared of spiders anymore, and I know a lot about them and the positive aspects they provide. Spiders, like sharks, are stigmatized creatures. Spiders are crucial to biodiversity. They eat small insects, such as mosquitoes, that would otherwise spread rampantly (and damage crops and invoke other harm) if it weren’t for spiders keeping their populations down. Like many of life’s simple treasures, they possess intricate details that make them uniquely beautiful. The Cobalt Blue Tarantula of Thailand has a striking pattern and radiant electric blue colour.

Spiders are a small fear on the scale of life. And if one can overcome a simple spider just trying to move through life, one can overcome other fears and insecurities, such as the willingness to put forth a memoir exposing inner-aspects of themselves, or dance in public, or say “I love you.” Spiders are my gateway to a full life. What’s yours? Jump from the airplane and fall through the clouds, the parachute will protect you. Run a marathon. Start your dream business. Write a letter to an old friend. Trust. Love. Live.