For those with arachnophobia, any kind of spider is bad news. But tarantulas — those massive, hairy, eight-legged crawlers — seem to hold a special place in fiction and in the popular imagination when it comes to scaring people. Which brings us to Cardiff, Wales, where a tarantula infected with asbestos might be on the loose.
Might be. It’s still a bit of a mystery, you see.
The Independent reported on Friday, March 22, that the only clue thus far is what remains of the shed skin of what local experts (Cardiff Reptile Centre) confirmed was that of a tarantula — what little they knew of it. They were only shown a photo of the skin in a bag. However, they weren’t quite certain as to the actual species, although they thought it looked like a Chilean rose tarantula.
The shed skin was found by asbestos removal business Kuston Vorland while cleaning out a 19th century house. Surveyor Katie Parsons-Young told the website Wales Online that she was the first to spy a large hairy leg.
“We had lighting in there,” she said, “so we moved the lighting to the other area of the attic where I was and could see there was something…I was the first in. I sort of saw a leg, screamed and went.”
The website reported that most of the removal team fled the house. However, a few remained and eventually bagged the shed skin.
Here’s the thing: Tarantulas get larger after shedding their skin (which is one of the reasons they shed their skin; they’re outgrowing it). The Independent notes that the tarantula could be twice as large as its discarded skin suggests.
The Chilean rose tarantula, other than being a creeping arachnid, is relatively harmless, its bite no worse than that of a bee or wasp. However, the skin was caked in asbestos and is currently being tested to see if the spider itself was infected with it.
It is unclear what kind of health hazards an asbestos-carrying asbestos-coated tarantula might present. The skin is currently being tested.
It is also unclear if the spider is a lost pet or if Cardiff might have a rogue tarantula population.
The Cardiff tarantula scare is just the latest in a series of weird spider tales that have grabbed attention in the media.
Last week bat-eating spiders became a trending rage on the Internet after a study was posted online (via Discovery and other sites) about the various types of spiders that weaved enormous webs that were capable of ensnaring creatures as large as bats in them.
Last month, the strange story of Brazil’s skies suddenly becoming full of spiders also swept the world wide web. That phenomenon, which CBS News reported is said to be common, is apparently caused by gusts of wind sending local nests of social spiders, prevalent in trees throughout Brazil, flying through the air to alight in another area in what appeared to be a rain of spiders.