Martin Nicholas and Fred Kaufman
Arachnologist; Authority on Tarantulas; Executive Producer of NATURE
Monday, February 13, 2006 2:00 PM
Water treatment engineer by day, tarantula obsessive and arachnid guru by night, Martin Nicholas is out to find the most amazing spiders in the world. Featured in NATURE's "Deep Jungle," Nicholas travels the world in pursuit of exotic spiders, including the goliath bird-eater of Venezuela and a small South American spider that creates the biggest web in the world - up to 30 feet long.
Arachnologist Martin Nicholas and Executive Producer of NATURE Fred Kaufman were online Monday, Feb. 13, at 2 p.m. ET to field your questions and comments about the world's spiders and to discuss the NATURE program "True Adventures of the Ultimate Spider-Hunter," which aired on Sunday, Feb. 12 ( Check local listings .)
In "True Adventures of the Ultimate Spider-Hunter," Nicholas' explores the Arizona desert, southern Mexico, French Guiana in South America and the Guyanese jungle.
About the Guests:
Martin Nicholas is acknowledged as an authority on spiders, especially tarantulas, having conducted independent research and participated in joint research projects on five continents. Although technically an amateur scientist, he has served as a research associate and jungle guide for the British Museum of Natural History in London, and is identified with numerous other institutions as consultant, lecturer or guest speaker. Martin's avocation has taken him all over the world, including Belize, Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, North Africa, Turkey, the Windward Islands and Vietnam, as well as Peru, where his startling discovery was seen in Deep Jungle.
Three-time Emmy Award-winner Fred Kaufman has been executive producer of NATURE since 1991, and has been associated with the series since it first went on the air in 1982. Kaufman was executive producer for Thirteen/WNET of AFRICA, a comprehensive exploration of the people of Africa, their rich culture, and the continent's bounteous wildlife and complex ecology. The eight-part miniseries, co-produced by Thirteen/WNET and National Geographic Television in association with Tigress Productions and Magic Box Mediaworks, launched NATURE's 20th season in September 2001. Among his other credits as executive producer for Thirteen/WNET is IN THE WILD, a series that included such episodes as Dolphins with Robin Williams, Pandas with Debra Winger, The Elephants of India with Goldie Hawn, Lions with Anthony Hopkins, and Orangutans with Julia Roberts.
The transcript follows.
Fred Kaufman: Hello, and welcome everyone. Thanks for your interest in last night's show and your kind comments about Martin. Martin will be able to answer your specific spider questions. And, since I am the Executive Producer of Nature, I can answer your questions about the series.
Arlington, Va.: Martin /Fred - how large and what kind of spider was the largest spider ever recorded in history?
Martin Nicholas: Good afternoon all, two answers to this question - largest living spider is the one featured in the show - The Goliath record legspan 12 inches across but there was a fossil spider called Megarachne that measured 25 inches - from Argentina 50 million years ago
Eagle River, Alaska: The Brazilian wandering spider is a beautiful looking spider, also quite toxic as I understand it. You said it was about 15-20 times more toxic than the black widow and Loxosceles reclusa, correct? Does the venom affect the central nervous system, or does it cause necrosis like the brown recluse?
Martin Nicholas: Phoneutria venom is a neurotoxin and goes for the central nervous system like black widow
Nashua, N.H.: Great Show Martin!
Can you tell me where I could find a "tarantula cam" and the magnifying visor like you used on your show? My family and I are attending an arachnid convention in Texas in July and will be doing some tarantula hunting and I would really like to have a camera set-up like you for this trip.
Martin Nicholas: Really sorry I can't come to that conference, T-cam is basically a tiny security camera with LED lights and of course the low rider to get round corners - I'm afraid I don't think you can buy but you can make if you are handy!
Leyden, Mass.: When you were handling the goliath tarantula, you mentioned some of the hairs getting onto your skin and that itching would come later. Does the spider shoot out hairs that are irritating to human (or other) skin?
Your adventure is a fab journey. Thank you all involved!
Martin Nicholas: Thank you LL, the goliath kicks out "irticating hairs" that act like nettle rash or poison oak. they make you itch but are much worse when they get in your eyes or nose! very painful!
Chicago, Ill.: How strong is the web of the Golden orb-weaver?
Martin Nicholas: its one of the strongest materials known to man for its weight tougher than top strength nylon or steel thread
Bristol, UK: Hi Martin, Can you tell us when this program will air in the UK. Also are there more in the series?
Very best regards, Mark, British Tarantula Society
Martin Nicholas: Hello young man! I believe that Chanel 5 are interested in broadcasting it sometime this year
Chicago, Ill.: What was it like to search for all those spiders?
Martin Nicholas: It is such a buzz! this is my extreme sport - fighting thru jungles looking for big spiders. lol!
New Delhi, India: Do you accept unsolicited proposals? If so what is your format for a proposal, do you have a sample you could share and where does one need to send it to?
Fred Kaufman: We get proposals all the time. Send a page or two proposal. Include a list of credits so I know who you've worked with before. Send it to Fred Kaufman, Thirteen/WNET, 450 West 33rd Street, New York, New York 10001 , USA.
Chicago, Ill.: How exciting was it to see those spiders up close and hold some of them in your hand?
Martin Nicholas: I never fail to get a real thrill seeing spiders in the wild, the sense of discovery is what drives me and the possibility that what I find could be something brand new
Chicago, Ill.: What was it like to hold a Goliath Bird- eater?
Martin Nicholas: that was the First time I ever picked up a goliath - so the adrenaline was real - she did behave very well though and was obviously unharmed
Alexandria, Va.: Fred, I'm the producer of a PBSKids Web site called Backyard Jungle . Is there some way we can promote your show and feature some of your materials for our members? We'd love to have them hunting spiders!
Fred Kaufman: I would love to promote some of our shows on your web site. But most of our shows have mature themes and sometimes, disturbing images not suitable for youngsters. Although 'Animals Behaving Worse' is very entertaining and is on next Sunday. Our publicist will be in touch.
Riverside, Calif.: Isn't the Australian funnel web spider more dangerous than the Brazilian wandering spider?
Martin Nicholas: No, Atrax, the Sydney funnel web male is is very dangerous but the venom toxicity is not as potent,it does not have the wide distribution and is not as active and aggressive. Still very nasty though
Arlington, Va.: Fred, how did NATURE come up with the idea for this program? Have you received good feedback? Thanks.
Fred Kaufman: Martin was one of several experts in our three-part series, DEEP JUNGLE, which aired last April. That series was a big success and we were looking to spin-off stories/people from it. Martin was a natural. We were able to do something with him in a relatively short time and for not a lot of money. Two things an exec producer looks for.
San Diego, Calif.: My son and I like to capture spiders, and here in southern California we have many colorful ones.
Can you tell me if there is a really comprehensive web site I can use to help me identify my many "captives". For one I want to know if they are venomous, and two I would like to know what kind they are.
Martin Nicholas: a good first stop is the British Tarantula Society site www.thebts.co.uk and this will plug you into a range of people who should be able to help you.
Naples, Fla.: Some years ago I was driving into the mountains north of Tucson. ( the road to Mt Lemon). In the foot hills I came across tarantulas on the road. Thousands of them all walking the same direction. East to west. The migration covered several hundred yarde accrest the road. I stopped and walked into the desert several hundred yards without running out of spiders.
I have never heard anyone else report any such thing. Have you ever encountered such a migration?
Fred Kaufman: You should have had a camera. The footage might be worth something!!!
Martin Nicholas: I would have loved to have seen that!
New York, N.Y.: To Martin: What was the most difficult spider to find? What's the next spider you want to look for? And where will that take you? How are you able to finance your expeditions?
Martin Nicholas: undoubtedly the cave tarantula was the most difficult not only to find but to get to in the first place! 1 mile underground in a very hot damp cave. But worth every second when we found it!
Tuscaloosa, Ala.: I watched the show last night on PBS and was fascinated. I've always had a slight fear of spiders yet I no longer squash them when I see them. I was wondering what credentials Mr. Nicholas has and how he became interested in spiders? Also, how did Mr. Nicholas land a documentary with PBS? Kudo's for Mr. Nicholas - you made the show one of the most interesting I have seen in a while.
Fred Kaufman: Martin was 'discovered' by the producer of our DEEP JUNGLE series. Martin was one of many experts on that series but his search for the chicken eating spider was a particular highlight. He was very good on-camera so we decided to pursue a show with him alone.
Martin Nicholas: While I am biologically trained, I am not an academic and not affiliated to a museum or university, I'm basically freelance just looking for the stories and spiders that interest me
Gardiner, Maine: I can understand wanting to see spiders and learn about them. But for you, the experience doesn't seem complete unless you're holding them. Why?
Do you hold spiders other than tarantulas? For example, I noticed you left the banana (golden silk) spider alone, although you did touch her web. I realize holding a golden silk spider might be messy, but what about others? When I was a child, I had a shoe box full of brown house spiders (not reclusa) that I collected (live) from the heaters of our old Maine farm house, which I tweezed from the baseboard heaters. I was only bitten once (while trying to give them all baths!)
Martin Nicholas: in truth the purpose of picking them up is to give some scale for the viewer but also to show that not all spiders are deadly venomous (which some people still think) and I think gentle handling helps illustrate this
Chicago, Ill.: were you ever afraid of spiders during your life?
Martin Nicholas: I can't remember ever being afraid - but that wandering spider did give me some raised hairs on my neck!
South Carolina: Firstly, I want to thank you for you TV show... I am thoroughly enjoying it... My question to you is..
you said the wandering spider is the deadliest... is that the deadliest in the world or just south America... is it's venom worse than that of the Sydney funnel web spider of Australia, also, is the trap door spider dangerous?
Martin Nicholas: Wandering spider is more venomous, more widespread and faster and aggressive than the funnel web and therefore qualifies as "worlds most dangerous" but the title is quite subjective
El Cerrito, Calif.: Yay! I'm absolutely elated that they finally did a whole program for Martin Nicholas! I saw him as a guest for another Nature episode and thought that he was absolutely adorable! (Heh, I'm not sure if I should be addressing him in the third or first person) Anyway, though I am somewhat frightened of spiders I found the show fascinating.
Martin Nicholas: Much appreciated - the show was so much fun to make, glad you enjoyed it!M
Chicago, Ill.: If someone went looking for some of these spiders what would you say to bring along on the adventure?
Martin Nicholas: Go out during the day and look for webs and burrows, then return at night when the spider is likely to be out hunting and more visible. But don't forget mosquito repellant, a good flashlight and a long sleeved shirt
San Diego, Calif.: I have a St. Andrew's Cross spider living in my back yard in San Diego, in case you would like to film one, pretty amazing bee wrapping action. -Ellen
Martin Nicholas: Argiopes (st Andrew x spiders) are one of my favorites, so beautiful and such ingenuity!
El Cerrito, Calif.: Yay! I'm absolutely elated that they finally did a whole program for Martin Nicholas! I saw him as a guest for another Nature episode and thought that he was absolutely adorable! (Heh, I'm not sure if I should be addressing him in the third or first person) Anyway, though I am somewhat frightened of spiders I found the show fascinating.
Fred Kaufman: It's called charisma and Martin has it. All good on-camera people have it. And I'm glad the subject matter didn't turn you off. I'm not a lover of spiders but I enjoy watching someone who has a passion for them
Riverside, Calif.: Martin, did you look for the giant spiders near the small village of Cacao?
Martin Nicholas: I don't recall us being near Cacao. Nearest town was Acatzlan or something like that (but that was 40 miles away!)
There's a spider that eats BIRDS? Talk about turning the tables! Unfortunately, I missed your show (I'm hoping my local staion will repeat it). However, after the reading the intro to this chat, I became curious.
How big is this spider that eats birds? Is it a type of web-spider or trap-door spider?
Martin Nicholas: Bird-eating spiders have been described all over the world, usually big tarantulas that catch and eat small birds, so the name has stuck
Owensboro, Ky.: Have you been bitten by a spider? If so, what kind and how did you react to it?
Martin Nicholas: I have been bitten several times - all my own fault. but I have never had a bad reaction and still have all my limbs! This may not be the case for everyone however and some people may be allergic to the venom and have a bad reaction so always be careful
Farmington, Conn.: Thanks for a great show last night. Martin, I have also loved spiders since I was 6 years old (24 now) and I'm trying to get into a career involving spiders. I recently graduated college with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. Do you have any suggestions on the path I should take? Thanks.
Martin Nicholas: There is a lot of work going on with genetics work into endangered spider species and also the pharmacological active ingredients in their venom both very cutting edge and both fascinating topics if you wanted to pursue them
New York, N.Y.: If you could have one spider super power what would you choose? Also, which spider was the most difficult to find? What is the next spider you're going to look for and where?
Martin Nicholas: Difficult one! Climbing walls would be really cool though!
Chicago, Ill.: What was it like to discuss spiders with Stan Lee?
Fred Kaufman: I know Stan Lee and Spiderman were big influences in Martin's life and Martin was thrilled to be in his company. I was shocked that Stan agree to do the interview with us since he is a very busy guy. But he said he would give us an hour and we filmed him in that time.
Chicago, Ill.: What's your thought on people capturing and keeping spiders?
Fred Kaufman: My view is to leave nature alone...capturing any living creature is dangerous and caring for them can be time consuming and expensive.
Martin Nicholas: Yes, removing any animal from the wild is clearly undesirable. Captive breeding techniques in North America and Europe mean that people can keep spiders without raiding the environment. But before anyone goes out and buys a spider PLEASE read up about how to keep one first, there's lots of advice out there
Irving, Tex.: The program was fun. I hope that it opens up the fascinating world of nature to many more young people. Not just spiders but everything else. (heck, if your alright with spiders, all the rest will fall into place!) One thing I did not see on the program was a description of how effective a hunting technique "looking for eye-shine" is.
Fred Kaufman: Thanks for the compliment. I have never heard of 'eye-shine?' Do you mean reflection?
Anonymous: Which venomous spiders are found in Maryland, and how can we recognize them? Are their bites dangerous, or just a nuisance, like a mosquito?
How is the health of an ecosystem measure in terms of population and diversity of spiders?
Martin Nicholas: I think you may be ok in Maryland as Brown recluse and black widow are found further south and west than you. but I can't be 100% on that.
Spiders are mid-way up the food chain so a healthy population is good for low end control and for food further up
Washington, D.C.: Are there any spiders that would go out of there way to harm a human even when they don't have reason to feel threatened? (Leave their web area and proactively go bite someone?) I know your job that you want to dispel myths and fear of spiders. I like spiders too. Just curious.
Martin Nicholas: We are really not on the menu for any spider so any bite is purely a defensive reaction to stimuli. That said some are more apt to bite than others and the wandering spider is a prime example and is the only one I have ever seen jump onto an intruder and bite it ferociously several times
Deep River, Conn.: Is it Van Der Waals forces that enable spiders to walk up walls and on ceilings? Does Van Der Waals forces work on all surfaces and in all conditions?
Martin Nicholas: exactly - electrostatic attraction created on the branched hairs on the feet. highly polished ,0.38ra and below causes problems though
Reno, Nev.: Dear Martin -- I just wanted to tell you that I absolutely loved your program, it was great! The best thing I've seen on TV in a long, time. I too love spiders. I think they are just one of the coolest parts of all of God's creation. I think that spiders are incredibly beautiful and functional, absolute wonders of the world.
We have great spiders here in Nevada--Great big tan spotted ones that build wonderfully symmetrical webs under the eaves of our houses in the summertime .They look kind of like that Brazilian guy on your show. We also have the jumpers like they do in Tuscon, and they are my favorite. I'm just like you, I love to let them climb on me. I am absolutely enthralled by their perfect symmetry, perfect acclimation to their environment, and perfect functionability. ( Sorry, I couldn't think of the right word!) I know they won't hurt me unless they bite and I know most of the time they are just crawling from one spot to somewhere else (or jumping!). I am always finding spiders in my house, especially in wintertime, and I usually pick them up and transport them out into the yard. Sometimes, if they're out of the way, I let them stay in. I consider them part of the decor, not a nuisance to be gotten rid of.
We don't have any giants like they did in the tropics, but we do have a huge variety of small guys. We have these creepy looking dark brown guys, that I don't let climb on me, that always show up in the sink and the shower. They have sort of a deep orange, faded red body color. These guys I transport in a glass or cup. We also have Daddy Long Legs, or at least their close cousins, that really love it inside my house. Sometimes I let too many of them accumulate at once and I have to go around and take out 5 or 6 at once. They are really cool, with a body that is about 1/20th the length of their legs. It's like they're walking around on giant stilts.
Anyway, I was just glad to see someone else who appreciates the beauty and the wonder, instead of being afraid. Keep up the good work!
Martin Nicholas: Thank you glad you liked the show - sounds like I have some work to do on the spiders of Nevada sometime too!
St. Louis, Mo.: Have you ever had to give up because you simply couldn't find the spider you were looking for? With editing it seems as though you simply stumble upon these creatures (luckily with tuning fork at the ready!), but realistically, it must take quite a bit of time to locate an example. -Terri
Fred Kaufman: I'll let Martin also respond but as a Nature producer I can tell you that failure is the norm. For example, a big cat in Africa will hunt and be successful one in twenty attempts, yet, of course, you will think it is successful most of the time based on what is left in the program.
Martin Nicholas: Luckliy we found all the animals we were looking for but as you correctly asked, it does take a long time getting to the right area then finding the spider. The cave spider was tough and goliath took days to pin down too
Riverside, Calif.: Comment. I've been to French Guiana and have seen in person those giant bird eating spiders. They're huge!
One of them had found its way into the hotel bar I was drinking at. Scared the heck out of everyone who saw it.
Martin Nicholas: He must have wanted a beer!
New York, N.Y.: What a pleasure it was to see Martin Nicholas back on the air, and with more spiders! Your passion for animals that are not ordinarily considered glamorous or fetching is contagious. After the DEEP JUNGLE episode it occurred to me that you are the true "spider man," so I was amused to see that as a theme of last night's show.
Fred Kaufman: Thanks...by the way, we wanted to call the show 'The Real Spiderman' but we would've had a copyright problem with Marvel Comics.
Hondo, N.M.: Where in southern Mexico were you searching for the blind Tarantula? It looked a lot like the Pacific watershed of Chiapas. Was I close? I have collected herps, bats and other small creatures in a couple of Chiapas Caves near Ocotzocoautla when I worked as a Curator/collector for both major Chicago zoos. Exceptionally fine job you did on your program. --Ray
Martin Nicholas: Thank you, No the caves were south eastern mexico nearest town Atcatzlan (I think) butthat was 50 miles away
Anonymous: Hi Fred Kaufman
The eye-shine technique for hunting spiders at night involves holding a flashlight close to your temple. The flashlight (or torch I think the English call it) should be pointed out towards the direction you are searching. Using this technique you will be astounded to see what appears to be many many jewels sparkling back at you. Those "jewels" are reflections from spiders eyes. This technique is highly effective at finding the smallest of spiders! Try it in your backyard in the summer. (I once ruined some bodys trip to the rainforest by showing them this trick, they did not like spiders)
Fred Kaufman: Thanks, makes sense. I know when you do the same thing is a croc infested river you get that same spooky look.
El Paso, Tex.: Mr. Nichols, I enjoyed the Nature program very much. Any efforts to familiarize people with spiders has to be a good thing. My question concerns your cameras. What kind of camera do you use and how is the remote camera that went into the burrows set up?
Thank you and have fun! --Paul, Ph.D.
Martin Nicholas: Paul, the Tarantula cam is simply a tiny security camera linked to the input on a PD150 digital camcarder and a microphone then we put LED lights on the back and mounted the whole thing on a toy car - simple but it does the trick!
Washington, D.C.: Does that story about thousands of migrating tarantulas that someone posted fit with anything you've ever seen or heard about? Where are they migrating? To mate?
I'm not doubting the authenticity of the story, but I've never heard anything like it.
Fred Kaufman: Yes, it is true. It is a well known migration. It is seasonal.
Las Vegas, Nev.: After watching your show my husband and I noted that we had a brown T. spider, as big as the one you pulled out at the end of your show, in our kitchen. We had an even bigger black one on our porch. Needless to say we were pretty horrified to find them. Are they native to our neighborhood of Sunrise Mountain, Las Vegas, NV?
Martin Nicholas: I'm not sure goliath comes that far north (I'm certain of it actually!) but large long legged scub tarantulas like the Tuscan Blond can get to be 6" across and look even bigger when they turn up in your kitchen. Hope you put him safely outside and did not squish him?
Raleigh, N.C.: In your quest for the "cave tarantula," you ran across a stygobitic (blind, white) crayfish. Where was that cave located, and do you know the scientific identity of that crayfish species?
J. Cooper, Ph.D., Curator of Crustaceans, North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, www.naturalsciences.org
Martin Nicholas: I'm afraid I ran a blank on the ID of the crayfish even my caver friend could not help -sorry I can't help
Irving, Tex.: I am much like Martin in that I am able to finance my lifelong interests in the natural world with a regular day job. I am a software engineer. My time away from the office is likely to be spent in a South American rainforest at night. I have a piece of photo equipment I built and use for doing night photography. If you have time, visit my site at http://www.nightfocus.info/ andtell me what you think.
Fred Kaufman: Thanks, I will.
Mount Juliet, Tenn.: Hello, we have watched your documentaries on spiders and really enjoyed learning about the different types of spiders. We have two children, ages 3&5, and they enjoyed seeing the different types of spiders that were shown. The way that you present the species helps to dispell any fears that people might have about spiders. When our oldest son was a year old, I was changing his clothes on the bed and a spider ran up the side of the bed and jumped on his leg. I immediately brushed it off and caught it in a jar to determine the type. We had seen some similar spiders before around the house, and we wanted to learn more about them. The spider was a brown recluse. We researched this spider and found out that it is common in this area and not much is known about treating an infestation. We are very interested in any information that you have about this type of spider and what we can do to remove them from our home before someone is bitten. Thank you very much from concerned and loving parents.
Martin Nicholas: I do understand your concern and Brown recluse bites can be very nasty. Unfortunately our home make very good homes for them as well. The best risk prevention I can recommend is to minimise clutter in out buildings and your home, reducing spaces for them to hide and build their webs. Check behind picture frames and behind TVs as well.
Be safe and my best wishes
Lindsy Ontario, Canada: Hi Martin, I just finished watching your show and would like to say how brilliant it was. I myself am captivated with spiders especially the jumping breeds. Can you tell me how many species of jumping spiders there are in North america? Thanks.
Martin Nicholas: Jumping spiders are the biggest spider family so there are probably 100's of species in North America and probably 100's yet to be discovered. Jumping spiders are one of my personal favourites too
Jacksonville, N.C.: Mr. Nicholas:
I enjoyed your adventures with the world's tarantulas. Although not even close to your comfort level with personal contact, I have a deep admiration and respect for spiders and their kin. My mother was a self-educated naturalist and she passed on her love of the natural world to me, giving me skills for observation of the often "unseen" in our lives.
Living in the country, I have had several opportunities to observe writing spiders, a common garden type often seen in Southern flower beds. I have protected their egg cases through the winter and happened upon one or two of them when the miracle of hundreds of baby spiders spilling out could be observed.
One summer, a rather large writer had set up a web low in the flower bed. I would visit her several times each day, with my three year old daughter keeping a watchful distance. Each time I approached, I cast an offering into her web, an unlucky cricket, a doomed moth or two, whatever insect I could catch and partially cripple. The spider zipped across the distance, pounching on the offering, having it wrapped up in a blink of the eye. My daughter would clap her little hands and say Again! Mommy Again! I'd always tell her later we'd come back for the next mealtime. The spider got to where she'd see us coming across the yard and would set her web to vibrating back and forth as if in anticipation of the goodies to come. Crickets seemed to be her favorite, the wrapped package never sat around long. I never saw any other crickets in her web, except for the ones I provided. She mostly caught small moths, flies, mosquitoes, etc.
I know from observing her behavior that there was some "connection" established between the spider and me. Was she intelligent enough to connect my appearance with a food source to me being a "friend"? The spider did not act the same way when other adults accompanied me to her web, or if visiting her without me. She was very shy if approached by any other adult human, running to the backside of her web. If I took someone to see how she'd vibrate the web, she just sat there, neither running off or reacting in any way. The only other person to see her actions at a feeding was my three year old, not a very substantial witness.
I know that all living things have greater substance than most humans would think to credit them with. As people like Martin Nicholas, with his passion for a species and Fred Kaufman, with his passion for putting a subject into such relevant format, continue to bring enjoyable learning to the woefully uninformed, more can begin to care and respect the fragile environment our fellow creatures exist in.
Thank you for the show, Cathy Page
Martin Nicholas: Thank you for such an interesting account and your kind comments, glad you liked the show!
Fred Kaufman: Many of you have written about personal experiences with spiders. Thanks for sharing your stories. I want to let you know that next Sunday's PBS NATURE show, 'Animal Behaving Worse,' is about what happens when animals invade our territories and some bizarre and fascinating stories are told. Of course, it is us who are invading the natural living spaces of the these creatures but I do think you'll find the show very interesting and it will have you talking about it the next day. Thank you all.
Syracuse, N.Y.: Hi Martin
How did the English school system help to either support or discourage your life-long fascination with spiders?
Just saw the show and it was great.
Martin Nicholas: Thanks Colin, I did have a very good biology tutor who taught me study and searching techniques - his thing was butterflies but his enthusiasm definitely rubbed off on me
Northern California...: seems to be full of wolf spiders! Are these poisonous? Or just gross? Also please settle the long standing question of whether or not they are in fact related to TARANTULAS. Thank you!
Martin Nicholas: Wolf spiders do look a little like tarantulas but they are actually unrelated - they are "true spiders" mostly harmless they are just out and about looking for food. The bite is not dangerous to humans unless you have an allergic reaction and they are not that aggressive so don't worry - think of all those roaches they are eating!
Irving, Tex.: If Martin likes gadgets and gizmos for doing his research, I would like for him to check out a tool I use for doing Night photography in the tropics: http://www.nightfocus.info/ I would love to work with him on this if he is interested.
Martin Nicholas: thanks - I'll take a look later!
Clemson, S.C.: Dear Spider Hunter, How do you make the tarantula cam? I mean, how could I make one?
-Josiah, age 7
Martin Nicholas: Hi Josiah
T-Cam is just a tiny little security camera mounted on a toy car with some lights that we link to the TV camera .Good luck trying to make one hope it works for you!
Winton, N.C.: Great show, Martin! You should team up with the guy from Australia, Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter). You both have such wonderful enthusiasm for nature.
I work with a lot of females and none of them are fond of spiders. What does your wife think about your avocation? Does she take care of and feed your pet spiders while you are on expedition?
Martin Nicholas: I love Steve's shows, his enthusiasm knowledge and the care he has for the environment - it would be a privilege to work with him sometime!
My wife is a zoologist and comes on many of these trips with me so she is Mrs Spiderhunter!
Irving, Tex.: Martin
You know with valentines day coming up, the following is a valid question... How did you meet your wife and how does she feel about all of this?
Martin Nicholas: lol! I really did meet my wife when she was working running a zoo - she hired me as her spider consultant!
Ojai, Calif.: How do you control spiders in your own home ?
Martin Nicholas: best advice I can give is to minimize clutter and debris in outbuildings and your home this gives spiders fewer places to hide and build webs
Abbotsford, BC, Canada: I was wondering what you think would be the best exotic animal to own. I have owned spiders but found most to be to aggressive to have so now I own a bearded dragon.
Martin Nicholas: The essential thing is always to research before you get any exotic animals, learn how it lives in the wild and relate that to its captive care a goodfirst tarantula would be a Chilean Rose Hair. But remember - always buy a CAPTIVE bred animal not one that has been taken from the wild
St. Joseph, Miss.: Comment: About 20 or so years ago my wife and I witnessed a very interesting phenomenon. We have a few acres here in St. Joseph and on our property, coming from the main road, is a 220 electric line to an electric post on our property. One summer day we looked up and saw a beautifully woven spider web hanging from the 220 electric line. It was hanging down and from its bottom extended a single spider web that hung down to about 12 inches from the ground with two small pieces of gravel held together by spider webbing, which acted as a drag so that the main web,containing the spider in the center of his web, would not swing too much due to the wind. To us this was amazing because it indicated that the minicule brain of this spider had the capability (actuality) to solve a problem and come up with a solution much like a human would solve the problem by employing a weighted drag to control the wind affecting the main web above. I called the Biology department at the local college and spoke with their resident spider expert and told him what we had and asked him if he could drop by and see it. He indicated that he was too busy to do so. I tried to take pictures of the drag containing the two pieces of gravel but I did not have a micro/macro(?)at the time to take such a picture. Just wanted to share the story with you. Regards, Bob
Martin Nicholas: Thanks for the story Bob, I am constantly being surprised at the ingenuity and apparent "intelligence" of spiders- there is still much that we don't fully understand about them
Riverside, Calif.: In french guiana, that big arboreal spider, does it spin webs up in the tops of the tree's? When I was down there, I saw a huge web high up in the canopy with what looked like a huge spider in the middle of it.
Martin Nicholas: could have been the big communal spider web or possibly the golden orb weaver (they live there as well as Mexico) the webs can be truly huge!
East Lansing, Mich.: Just a question regarding advice for resources on web-weaving spiders: Is there any Internet site or book you recommend as to how to identify such spiders? We had an interesting spider on our back porch for most of the past summer and fall and enjoyed watching it process and eat moths that happened into its web. However, I could not identify the species when I tried to look up about spiders on the Internet. Thanks for any advice.
Martin Nicholas: the best little book I can recommend is one by a chap called Paul Hillyard call "Spiders" by Collins I'm sure you can pick it up from an on-line book store - good luck
Alsip, Ill.: Martin, one of my favorite spiders is the little tiny painted jumping spider. I always look forward to seeing them on my windowsills in the spring through fall.
Tarantulas though would be a bit much for me!
I missed your program on Sunday, but will definitely look forward to catching it in repeat.
Martin Nicholas: Hope you enjoy, Rob.
I do love jumping spiders as well!
Raleigh, N.C.: Do you think the collection and subsequent mounting of Goliath Tarantula Spiders as novelty items for tourists is their primary threat?
Martin Nicholas: It is a very significant threat, I never appreciated the scale at which they were collected - much greater than that for the pet trade which is moving over to captive breeding more and more.
The one thing that may limit this trade I think is inaccessibility. The deep jungle is very difficult to get to and this may prove to be Goliaths' salvation
Martin Nicholas: It's been a real pleasure chatting to you all and thank you for your interesting and intelligent questions. Really Hope to do it again sometime
Take care, Thank you all again for watching and remember -be nice to spiders! - Good Bye!
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