Not an Itsy-Bitsy Spider

     (CN) – A Home Depot customer was hurt jumping back in terror from a store “pet,” a “large, hairy tarantula-type spider” that dropped down on its web, “nearly landing on her nose,” she claims in court.
     Susan Padilla sued Home Depot in Palm Beach County Court.
     After she was injured, Padilla claims, “Defendant’s employees stated to plaintiff they called the spider their ‘pet’ and said it liked to come out at night and look around. They allowed this dangerous condition to exist and exhibited a callous disregard for the safety of customers on their premises.”
     Many people keep tarantulas as pets. Its bite is no more dangerous than a bee sting, entomologists say, though it looks more frightening. Large specimens can be 10 inches across – as big as a dinner plate.
     Tarantulas are reclusive and seldom bite.
     One fan of tarantulas, a vocational agricultural teacher, told Courthouse News: “They won’t bite unless you pinch them.”
     The teacher spoke as he scooped up a wild tarantula and let it crawl up his arm, around his neck, and down the other arm back to earth.
     Padilla was not so blasé.
     She says in her complaint that she was in the garden section of the Home Depot in Jupiter, Fla., at around 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2011, shopping.
     “Suddenly and without warning, a large, hairy tarantula-type spider dropped down on a long silken strand from its web above where patrons walk, into her face, nearly landing on her nose.”
     The complaint continues: “Susan Padilla gasped in horror at the large spider suddenly appearing in her face. She reacted by jumping backward and sideways and struck her body against the shopping cart and the display shelves.”
     Padilla claims she “suffered bodily injury, and resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, permanent impairment, mental anguish, loss of capacity of enjoyment of life, expense of medical care and treatment, and aggravation of a previously existing condition. The losses are either permanent or continuing and plaintiff will continue to suffer the losses in the future.”
     She is represented by Joseph Bilotta with Vassallo, Vilotta, Friedman & Davis.
     If the spider did have a web, it was not a tarantula, as tarantulas do not spin webs. They do spin silken strands like other spiders, though. Perhaps it was a tarantula, and plaintiff Padilla assumed there was a web up there.
     If a tarantula feels threatened, it may not bite but scrape barbed hairs from its abdomen and fling them at the threat. The hairs can cause a rash. They do not grow back, so the tarantula will end up with a bald spot on its tummy. Tarantulas can grow a new leg if they lose one, though. The leg reappears when it molts.
     Female tarantulas can live 30 years or more, though males seldom make it past 10. Once they reach maturity, they stop molting, so no new legs for an old male tarantula.
     Large tarantulas may hunt frogs and even small birds. They pounce on their prey, paralyze them with venom, then shoot digestive enzymes into them to dissolve them and suck them up like soup.
     A smallish black wasp called the tarantula hawk preys on tarantulas. Much smaller than a tarantula, it lands near a spider, uses a foreleg to flip it over, then bites and paralyzes the tarantula, sucks some of it up and lays eggs in it, and the baby tarantula hawks eat what’s left when they hatch.
     Courthouse News has no official policy on tarantulas. All opinions expressed in this story are those of the author, or of plaintiff Padilla.

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