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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

THE TARANTULA AND THE MANTIS

After giving up on the New Mexico commune idea in 1971, I drove my Ford Falcon station wagon. with the 631 daisies painted on it, to Wichita, Kansas. On the way, in the Texas desert, I came upon a large, male tarantula crossing the highway. It was the first tarantula I had ever seen in the wild. I whizzed by him so fast that the wind from my car blew him over, and he was pretty pissed after I pulled over and walked back to him. He was so pissed he hissed! And he remained up on his hind legs, baring his fangs in a threatening pose, and as I walked around him, he turned, keeping his fangs towards me. I was impressed. I went back and rummaged through my car, finally finding an empty, dog treat box, to capture the spider in, and take him to Wichita.

The tarantula made a big hit at my sister Linda's house with her family and visitors. One day, when a couple cousins of her husband Ron were visiting, one of them, Bob, said he had a big, praying mantis that he bet could beat my tarantula in a fight. I poo-pooed the idea, but said that it would be a good meal for my spider. Thus began the big event.

A bathtub was even hauled into the house for the competition, set down in the living room, with a plate of glass over the top. An audience gathered around and some bets were made. I thought the whole thing was silly. Feeding a pet tarantula had never been such a big deal.

The eight-legged, male Texan was put into the "arena." Then Bob took up his jar containing a large mantis, and dropped the insect into the arena's opposite end. I must say that a praying mantis is indeed a formidable-looking adversary. The first time I had ever seen one was on the outside wall of a stucco house in Albuquerque in 1968. When I passed it while walking to the front door, the mantis turned its head to watch my every move. It was creepy!

Well, here in the arena, the tarantula and the mantis apparently wanted nothing to do with each other. They walked around, and when they'd meet each other, they'd both turn away. The boasting and yelling about bets gave way to boredom. Nothing was happening. There would be no fight, not even a meal. I shrugged and said, "Oh well, I guess he's not hungry."

But then came the sad part. All of this effort and to-do was not to be in vain. The arena was built. Bets were made. An audience had gathered. There would be a fight. So we got slender sticks to prod them into combat. Although annoying my pet, I justified the act by telling myself that it'd be good if the critter ate something. And the annoying prodding worked. Finally the two creatures were agitated and fed up, and the tarantula pounced on and bit the mantis. "There you go," I said, "fight's over. Pay up."

Then what I thought was impossible happened. Suddenly the tarantula was on his back, and the mantis stood over him, apparently pinning the spider's legs down with its own! I had watched my pet tarantula at home eat countless times, but never saw an insect strong enough to do this! There were cheers shouted around the room, as I knelt there in confusion.

But after a few moments, the mantis began to shake. I realized that the tarantula's venom was taking effect. The poor mantis grew weaker and weaker, and finally collapsed. And the spider then slowly uprighted himself, got over his impressive victim, picked the mantis up with his fangs, and began to eat.

It was a different fight than expected. My surprise and confusion notwithstanding, there was never a doubt who would win. But both creatures impressed me that day. The mantis was stronger than I thought. And the tarantula was more patient than I thought. Bets were paid off. And I came away from the event, wondering which of the three parties had the most dignity -- the tarantula, the mantis, or we who exploited them.


[Note:  Please excuse the Mexican Red-Leg tarantula in these simulated fight pictures. It was the only tarantula toy available.  No animals were harmed in the writing of this post.]


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If you liked this post, you may also enjoy the following:
How to Care for your Pet Tarantula
A Tarantula Goes to Church
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1 comment:

  1. Aye, there's the rub" Uncle Miltie

    ReplyDelete