Often times we focus on the “bigger” moments in traveling, but sometimes the smaller dramas are just as interesting. And so you have it — an unusual “how to” guide based on first hand tropical spider experience.
The situation: You are currently traveling in Australia. You awake in the morning and, just like any day, you stumble into the kitchen, switch on the tea kettle and begin to cook “brekkie.”
As you move about the kitchen, something goes a bit wrong with your slightly uncoordinated morning body, a spill occurs and a tea-towel is urgently required. As you reach for the towel, you catch a glimpse of something alien out of the corner of your eye; and you immediately jump two feet back from the kitchen counter as you realize you’ve nearly put your hand directly onto a fuzzy, 8-eyed, 8-legged arachnid the size of a small dog. (Only a slight exaggeration here mind you.) And like a dog, it looks at you almost as if begging for a slice of your bacon.
It’s embarrassing, but you are now reduced to a tantrum-throwing 5 year-old upon encountering a spider like this. Surely, this is a nightmare ….
Nope. You are definitely awake. And you are face to face with a Huntsman spider who has wandered in because you left the window open yesterday evening. What do you do now?
The background: Huntsman spiders (Sparassidae family, formerly Heteropodidae) are common to the tropic regions of the world and are widespread in Australia with nearly 94 known species. These species vary in color but long crab-like legs and size make the Huntsman easy to identify.
With a slightly scary appearance and a leg-span reaching 15cm to 30cm (6 to 12 inches), it’s no wonder these spiders inspire fear. For travelers, Huntsmans cause intense panic when they turn up in a rented room, a tent, a shower, a campervan, or even a backpack ….
As these arachnids do not make webs but rather hunt like their name implies, they frequently wander into unexpected places while stalking cockroaches and other small insects.
Huntsman spiders are not considered poisonous to humans and rarely bite. In fact, they are more likely to simply run away upon being disturbed. Thus, the Huntsman is a friendly neighborhood spider merely providing a pest control service.
The method: The Huntsman spider deserves respect, so do not try to harm or kill them. What would you squish it with anyway? A frying pan?
The best way to handle the situation is to humanely trap the arachnid and release it outside. And this may take a tribe. No joke.
If you are lucky enough to be in a group, you will need to quickly nominate a “warrior,” “a seer,” and maybe even a “healer” to calm “the tribe idiot” who is likely blathering uncontrollably after a surprise spider encounter. Sometimes these roles overlap into one person depending on the size of the tribe. (In situations where you are solo, you must become the warrior … or phone a friend who can help.)
Ideally, the nominated seer will watch the arachnid while the warrior prepares for battle. You don’t want that Huntsman creeping off to some mysterious spot while you are not looking.
While the seer is at work, the warrior should be carefully selecting tools for battle — an appropriately sized Tupperware container with lid. The cheaper plastic food containers work best. If you are still unsure about any potential gaps between the bottom part of the plastic container and its respective lid, try using the bottom part of the container and a piece of cardboard.
Using large cooking pots or other opaque containers for this task are not recommended as these items are awkward for one person to handle and you cannot keep an eye on the spider.
Once the warrior has his/her tools, action must be swift. Be aware: Huntsman spiders are speedy and they can jump. Yep, that is potentially the most horrific bit of news considering the spider in question is easily the size of your face. So, the warrior should take a few seconds to envision successfully trapping the Huntsman spider under the plastic container. Any hesitation may lead to failure followed by a tribe freakout.
Trap the Huntsman with your plastic food container and slide the lid or cardboard underneath. Take your time with this step as rushing may lead to harming the spider, and you will want to keep the tribe idiot calm by not doing anything alarming.
Once the lid is in place, firmly hold the trap together and lift from whatever surface — floor, counter, wall. Lastly, escort your friendly foe back to the great outdoors where it can happily get back to hunting.