In general, spiders are quite helpful creatures. They feed on insects us humans find bothersome, such as flies and mosquitoes. Unfortunately spiders have gained a negative reputation because of their creepy appearance. Spiders found on the islands of the Caribbean are even more feared by travelers simply because of their larger size and unfamiliarity. Anyone planning to travel to the Caribbean and enjoy some hiking in the wonderfully beautiful countryside should take note of the spiders listed below.
Orb Weavers is a class of spider that is found on all the continents, as well as the islands of the Caribbean. They have eight eyes, hairy or spiny legs and many are quite brightly coloured. Some varieties do not spin webs at all, but actually produce sticky balls which they hang from their front legs in an effort to attract male moths. Once a moth is caught on the gummy surface of the ball, the spider reels it in and begins eating the moth. Those species that do weave webs create incredible sticky spiral webs that stand vertically in the branches of trees. The center spiral is, of course, meant to catch, bite and wrap prey in preparation for eating. At the end of each day, when the sun begins to descend, an orb weaver will consume its web. After resting for a while, it will then build a new web.
Black widow spiders do reside in North and South America, and the Caribbean islands. They can be identified by their eight black legs protruding from a black body with a bulbous back end. The back part of the body will be marked with either a red hourglass, red spots, red stripes and sometimes white lines surrounding the red markings. Some species of black widow are aggressive, but bites only usually occur when the spider is protecting an egg sack, or a finger is stuck in a web and mistaken for prey. The female black widow bite is the nastiest, but they can be avoided. Black widows like dark places amongst fallen vegetation, so when hiking keep to the trails.
Tarantulas can be found on the islands of the Caribbean, but don’t let that stop any plans from visiting! They may have a threatening appearance, in fact it is downright spine-chilling, but there is no tarantula known to have a bite deadly to humans. Those species found in the Americas in particular, have urticating hairs on their underside which the spider will throw as a first line of defence. The hairs are irritating to sensitive areas like nasal cavities, the mouth, eyes, and ears. Generally a curious animal sniffing around a tarantula will end up with a painful snout full of urticating hairs, but unless a hiker plans to sniff the ground as they walk, it is unlikely a human will be affected.
Hiking the wilderness of a foreign country can be an exciting experience! There are so many different species of birds, plants, trees and wildlife for the avid outdoors enthusiast to appreciate. Even those travelers who are knew to the hiking hobby will enjoy the Caribbean. The region offers a colourful canvas of nature to photograph, document and remember for a lifetime.
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