For years, Pennsylvania man Anthony Zurlo suffered from arachnophobia so severe, he had regular nightmares about spiders. To overcome this crippling fear, he made the nightmare a reality by hatching 150 tarantula babies (otherwise known as spiderlings) in his bedroom.
On January 17, the proud father of 150 shared a picture of the tarantula babies on Reddit, which quickly garnered thousands upon thousands of reactions. Users responded with a mixture of amazement and horror at the ghostly spiderlings, but one detail gave almost everyone pause – the tarantulas were bred in his bedroom.
In a subsequent interview with Newsweek, Zurlo explained how this hair-raising occurrence came to be. “My arachnophobia was so deep I would even have nightmares of spiders crawling on my ceiling, or being locked in a closet with giant tarantulas,” Zurlo said. “Then when we moved into this house. It was filled with basement spiders and I was terrified. So a friend recommended I get a tarantula as a pet, because I had recently got into keeping reptiles.”
Spiders have enjoyed a rise in popularity among exotic pet owners in recent years, largely thanks to the (arguably) adorable and brightly colored jumping spider. Arachnophobia, however, still remains the most common phobia. Somewhere between 3 and 15 percent of people suffer from the condition.
The Leap From Reptile Enthusiast to Breeder of Tarantula Babies
Though he couldn’t stand the sight of an eight-legged arachnid, Anthony Zurlo has always had a healthy appreciation of snakes and other reptiles, thanks to his grandfather. As a child, Zurlo learned about reptiles through his grandfather’s care of them and now keeps cold-blooded pets himself.
Through his reptile rearing hobby, Zurlo amassed an impressive collection of 20 reptiles and a giant tortoise. From there, the leap to baby tarantulas didn’t seem all that far. “I got a pink-toe tarantula as my first and it was the sweetest creature in the world,” he said. “I fell in love with the pet and have even handled it. His name is Goliath and he is the father to the 150 babies.”
The pink-toe tarantula gets its name from the vibrant pink coloring at the tip of each leg. Depending on their gender, baby tarantulas can grow from a mere 6 mm to over 4 inches in diameter. With fangs folded under their body, tarantulas can – and sometimes will – bite. Their venom, however, isn’t a danger to humans.
According to Zurlo, some of his spiders regularly attempt to bite him, but he loves them all the same. “I love them because they are the same every day and they are themselves,” he said.
As for anyone else suffering with arachnophobia, Zurlo fervently believes baby tarantulas are the secret to overcoming it. “The best tip I could give is keeping a baby pink-toe tarantula to overcome that fear. Eventually, you feel responsible for that life, and you will learn the important role they play in our eco system,” he explained. “We rely on spiders for the air in our lungs and people do not realize it or refuse to recognize it.”