Arachnophobia Cured By Brain Surgery

Don’t worry, I’m not advocating having brain surgery to cure a fear of spiders!  This article is about a “positive side effect” caused by brain surgery on a patient suffering from sarcoidosis.  Apparently the rare condition which affects a number of organs of the body, including the brain, was severe enough in a 44 year old businessman that it was causing seizures.  Doctors decided to operate and removed a very small piece of brain, and since the operation the patient’s fear of spiders had entirely vanished!

Other side effects from the operation apparently waned over time, but his new found lack of arachnophobia stayed with him and appears to be permanent.

Anyway it’s an interesting article so check out the full story at New Scientist, and if you want all the geeky details there is a downloadable paper from Neurocase Journal called Abolition of lifelong specific phobia: a novel therapeutic consequence of left mesial temporal lobectomy  But don’t worry, there are much less invasive ways of curing arachnophobia than having doctors remove part of your brain ;)

Resources For Spider Lovers

Whether you’re a tarantula enthusiast hunting for new information, an arachnophobe trying to educate yourself about spiders to help conquer your fear, or simply interested in learning a little more about the wonderful world of spiders, I wanted to put together a list of resources and places to start.  This list will be a work in progress, and I’ll add to it over time as I come across new and updated information. It will be mostly online but I’ll also include some books, and I’ll link to those whenever possible.

Tarantula web sites

RFUK Invert Forums – The spiders/inverts section of Reptile Forums UK, packed with info and people to answer your questions

Arachnoboards Forums – Another great forum packed with useful info

The British Tarantula Society

The American Tarantula Society

 

Tarantula books

The Tarantula Keeper’s Handbook by Stanley and Marguerite Shultz

Tarantulas and Other Arachnids by Samuel D Marshall

The Legacy of Annie Rose by Carolyne E Swagerie – a great story of a lady who, like myself, overcame her arachnophobia through tarantulas

 

Spider/arachnid web sites

The British Arachnological Society FAQ – Not just a FAQ, but also a WIKI giving a ton of information about spiders in general (both domestic and worldwide), specific species and info on other arachnids.

The Society Of Biology – What Spider Do I Spy? – Small but helpful PDF guide to help identify the most common spider species in the UK.

The Natural History Museum ID Help – info and forums to help with spider IDs

Do Spiders Have Super Powers? – a multimedia fun facts list from the BBC

 

Spider/arachnid books

Spiders: Learning To Love Them by Lynne Kelly

The Private Life Of Spiders by Paul Hillyard

Biology Of Spiders by Rainer Foelix

Spiders : The Ultimate Predators by Stephen Dalton

Spiders of Britain and Northern Europe by Lawrence Bee

 

Avicularia versicolor – Martinique pinktoe Tarantula Caresheet

species-avicularia-versicolor

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Scientific Name: Avicularia versicolor (Walckenaer 1837)

Common Name(s): Martinique pinktoe (Martinique pink-toed tarantula), Martinique red tree spider, Antilles pinktoe

Range: Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean

Habitat: Trees and shrubs

Experience Level: Beginner/intermediate

Type: Arboreal, climber

Size: Leg span up to around 12cm (5″)

Growth rate: Medium

Venom: Mild

Urticating hairs: Yes*

Temperament: A generally docile species, though they tend to be more nervous and skittish than some of the other Avicularia (pinktoe) species. They do occasionally bite (though the venom is considered mild) and they can and do jump.

Description

The beautiful Antilles/Martinique pinktoe is a beautiful and unique species of new world arboreal tarantula, popular with enthusiasts due to their beautiful and unique coloration (especially as spiderlings), relative ease of care, and good temperament.

range-a-versicolorYou only need to lay your eyes on one of these beautiful spiders up close to instantly see the appeal.  A medium sized spider, as juveniles they have a beautiful metallic blue colouring. As they mature, the colours change and the spider ends up with a metallic green/blue carapace and purple/red hairs on the abdomen and legs. The long, colourful hairs on the legs and abdomen give the spider an almost “cuddly” look to it, and even people who are generally adverse or fearful towards spiders often remark at this species’ beauty. Males are usually more brightly coloured than females, tend to be smaller and more slightly built with longer legs in comparison to their body size.

Being arboreal (tree dwelling) species, members of the Avicularia genus (Avics for short) tend to be smaller than many of their ground dwelling and burrowing cousins, are excellent climbers and are able to jump. They build elaborate funnel type webs in trees and shrubs where they spend most of their time.

Keeping A. Versicolor in Captivity

The Antilles pink poe is suitable for the intermediate tarantula keeper, or the confident beginner.  As an arboreal they have different requirements to most of the tarantulas typically regarded as “beginners species” such as the Mexican red knee or Chilean rose. A tall enclosure allowing them to climb and build their funnel web, with good ventilation is essential. Ground space is of little value since these spiders will rarely descend to the bottom of their enclose. Suitable foliage should be provided for the spider to climb and anchor its webbing to is essential. While real plants can be used with some success, artificial plants are generally a better bet especially for the beginner. Good ventilation is essential, and stale air will kill these tarantulas. Many sources claim that high humidity is also required, but this is often taken to far by people new to keeping Avics and can be just as dangerous as too low humidity. You should avoid maintaining high humidity at all times, preferring to allow the enclose to dry out in cycles. If high humidity is maintained at all times (especially if the ventilation is less than ideal) it can promote mould growth which which can kill these spiders.

One or two shallow water dishes, combined with good ventilation allowing the air to circulate should be be fine. Many keepers mist the enclosure, but I prefer to simply dampen part of the substrate. Then allow the enclosure to fully dry out before dampening again.

These spiders, while generally docile, are not generally suitable for handling.  They tend to be quite skittish, and they can and do jump and have been known to bite.  Like all Avicularia they do possess urticating hairs, but unlike most new world tarantulas they tend not to flick them (though they can push them into the skin if being handled).  They also have a tendency to defecate as a defence and are able to squirt their poop some distance so be warned!

avicularia_versicolor_juvenileA diet of crickets, cockroaches and locusts is ideal.  As with all tarantulas, feed prey items of a suitable size – no larger than the spider’s abdomen.  These versicolors tend to be good eaters, so if they seem uninterested in food you can be fairly sure they will soon moult.


Further reading

Stanley A. Schultz, Marguerite J. Schultz. The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide  (2009)