by Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist
My boss sent me a link today from Reuters, called "Got a pet tarantula? Better protect your eyes":
The article discusses a medical case involving doctors who discovered tarantula hairs in a man's cornea. According to the article, the pet tarantula was a Rose Hair, which is one of the most common types that are sold as pets. These are also the kind that our department keeps in our laboratory and that we show at museums and schools.
The message here: a tarantula really isn't the best pet for everyone. A lot of people ask me about pet tarantulas, and I usually advise against the idea, especially for kids. Although it is possible to safely keep a tarantula in a terrarium, they shouldn't be handled, especially not by children. And, honestly, they aren't very interesting. In the wild? Sure. Tarantulas are really cool to observe. But in a terrarium they don't do very much and people usually get bored with them after a while. If you just like they way that tarantulas look, download a high-resolution image and put it on your desktop. It's free!
There are a few situations, though, where pet tarantulas ARE a good idea. No K-12 science or biology classroom, for instance, should be without a live tarantula. A tarantula is cheap, easy to take care of, safe (as long as it is not handled--the same is true for hamsters!), and kids enjoy watching it and feeding it crickets. Sure, the kids will get bored with it after a while, but a new group of kids will arrive soon enough.
Here is a link to our guide: selecting and caring for pet tarantulas.