Hi! I’m a red-knee tarantula. I’ll be at Tony’s Creepy Crawly Zoo at Discovery World on Saturday, February 15. I’m in the show! Ask me anything!
You look familiar. Have I seen you in movies and/or TV shows? Or do you live in my basement?
Yes! Red-knee tarantulas are some of the most famous tarantulas in the world. You might remember us from Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the opening scene where Indy and Satipo are making their way through that ancient, Peruvian temple filled with deadly traps and other assorted horrors, I was one of the assorted horrors! I got to hang out on the back of Harrison Ford’s leather jacket. And I crawled on Alfred Molina’s face! So much fun.
I’ve been in other stuff, too. I starred alongside William Shatner (KIRK!) in the 1977 horror film Kingdom of the Spiders.
Movie and TV directors love us because we look awesome and terrifying, but we’re easy to work with.
So you don’t live in my basement?
Unless your basement is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Guerrero, probably not.
What was it like working with Harrison Ford?
Oh, he was great! I’ll admit that I was super-excited to work with Han Solo! Harrison and Alfred were total professionals, and they made all of us feel comfortable on set. They didn’t squish any of us, which was nice. And Harrison made sure craft service had all the insects, frogs, and baby mice we could eat. He’s awesome. They were both great.
I’ve heard that there is more than one species of red-knee tarantula. Is that true?
Yes! There are two! Brachypelma hamorii and Brachypelma smithi. I’m a Brachypelma smithi. It’s not all that easy to tell us apart.
I see why you’re called a red-knee tarantula. Do spiders actually have knees?
We do! We have 48 knees! From what I understand, humans have four knees. Two on your bottom legs and two on your top legs.
Yeah, the ones you usually don’t walk around on.
Do you mean arms?
Oh, our “top knees” are called elbows.
Okay, wow! I’m learning so much. This is awesome.
You have eight eyes. What does the world look like to a red-knee tarantula?
Well, that’s difficult to answer because I’ve never seen the world any other way. But if I had to guess, I’d say… blurry? Spider eyes aren’t that great, at least compared to human eyes. I rely on vibrations to find prey and make my way through the world. The world is alive with vibrations! It’s really cool.
If the Discovery Channel had Spider Week like they have Shark Week, what would they totally get wrong about you?
Ha! Almost everything. First of all, we don’t make webs like orb weavers and a lot of other spiders do. We make silk, but we don’t catch our prey in webs. We live in burrows and ambush our prey instead. I mean, they probably wouldn’t mess that part up, but you never know.
What everyone gets wrong about us is that we’re actually pretty shy. We only come out of our burrows to pounce on prey and to mate. We are venomous, but our venom isn’t deadly to humans. In the extremely unlikely event that one of us bites you, it would hurt, but that’s about it.
Again, the reason we’ve been in a lot of TV shows and movies is because we’re mostly harmless, and we get along great with our co-stars. Except Shatner. He never really warmed up to us.
You’re furry, unlike a lot of spiders.
Yes! We’re the teddy bears of the arachnid world!
Just kidding! Don’t cuddle us. You’re much larger than we are, and we don’t enjoy being squished. Also, we have what’s called urticating hairs – hairs with little hooks on the end of them. And we can launch those urticating hairs into the eyes and mouth of anything that’s trying to hurt us. That can cause a lot of damage.
Not that you would try to hurt us, but it’s not always easy for us to tell the difference. So be careful is what I’m saying.
You’re nightmare fuel for a lot of people. Does anything scare you?
Yeah. There are a few things that scare us. Predators like birds and lizards, mostly. Sure, it’s the Circle of Life or whatever, but it’s not fun to think about.
Don’t be. These are great questions! Curiosity is the best thing ever! Honestly, the only thing that really gives me nightmares is the tarantula hawk wasp. It paralyzes us with its stinger and then drags us to a burrow and traps us there. Then it lays an egg on our abdomens. When the egg hatches, the larva burrows into us. The baby wasp grows up inside of us. It eats us as it grows. We’re alive while this happens. Paralyzed. Can’t move. Can’t do anything about it.
Yep. And that’s all the time I have. Thank you so much for your super-awesome questions! You can see me and a whole lot of other wonderful arachnids and insects and other creepy-crawlies at Tony’s Bug Zoo at Discovery World on Saturday, February 15th!