Cute creatures don't have to be feared

October 31, 2008 7:24:34 PM PDT
It's time for a little fun this Halloween. Plenty of people will decorate their houses and yards with fake spiders and webs, but what about the real thing? There are such folks who swear spiders are cute!

"Oh, you're so cute," said a woman with the Bay Area Tarantula Society.

They say that to fully appreciate an arachnopod, you must reach out and fondle all eight legs.

"I've never held a tarantula. This is too cool. Honey, did you get a picture?" said the woman.

Cuddling with a tarantula, would be a typical Kodak moment at the quarterly meeting of one of our more unusual animal husbandry groups, the Bay Area Tarantula Society.

"We all like tarantulas and other insects, so we all got together and started a club!" said Rachel Elder, with the Bay Area Tarantula Society.

There were so many proud insect owners that they filled the basement of Concord's Veteran's Hall. Men pulled out their millipedes. Women wore their finest roaches, well some women, at least.

"Well, I'm not like some creepy person who puts it on my shoulder and walks around trying to scare people with it?" said Cindy Read, an insect owner.
"That would be what?" said ABC7's Wayne Freedman.
"That would be wrong. Irresponsible pet ownership. These are pets!!!" said Read.

You may have figured out by now that these are not your garden variety, under the kitchen sink, kind of bugs. No. They are collector's items, purebreds. Some of them are worth thousands of dollars.

That leads us to the activities in one Bay Area home which is a continuing source of mystery around the neighborhood.

"We always wondered what went on there," said a neighbor.

What's going on is feeding, that's all. Unless you're a cricket, for whom a trip down a funnel leads to a short-lived tenancy with the roommate from hell, who will eat you.

"Within an hour that cricket isn't in the cage anymore," said Kenneth MacNeil, an insect dealer.

Ken in the climate-controlled and sealed attic, and sometimes in the presence of his wife and newborn daughter, he cares for and feeds some 15,000 critters, stacked neatly from floor to ceiling. Most of them are tarantulas. Ken is a dealer and breeder. He says his love of bugs, not money, got him into this.

"I try to make it easier for people by asking, 'Do you like dogs?'" said Ken.

As a kid, Ken watched insects for hours, just like his customers, who find these creepy crawlies to be fascinating for their biodiversity.

"Some of them are really mean. Some of them will pop up and show their fangs," said Ken.

Meantime, back at the Veteran's Hall. If horse racing is the sport of kings, then the running of the roaches is perfect for the rest of us with bathroom cabinets.

And if, by now, you still aren't smitten by all the creatures in this eight-legged love-fest, then in this place with these people, maybe you're the odd one.

"They're pretty," said Read.
"That could be a matter of opinion," said ABC7's Wayne Freedman.
"Yes it is and my opinion is their pretty," said Read.

By the way, no bugs were harmed in the shooting of our story. That crackling sound you heard under Wayne's foot, was a corn chip!


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