Glenwood’s spider woman treasures growing collection

Toni Kinghorn with Curly Sue, a curly haired tarantula or Brachypelma albopilosum.

MOST women are petrified of ‘creepy crawlies’, but not Glenwood resident, Toni Kinghorn.

Toni is passionate about her hobby of collecting spiders and currently owns 20 beautiful specimens. Her interest in spiders was piqued when her son Jade, who has a collection of 64 spiders, gave his brother a spider for his birthday.

“I saw pictures of the spider and thought I would like one, and hinted to him. He gave me a Chilian Rose tarantula for my birthday in November and like any addiction, I couldn’t stop at one. The rest is history,” she said.

Toni said she had never been scared of spiders and as a child would feed insects to spiders she found in her garden.

“When my son gave me my first spider, I did a lot of research as I couldn’t go into this hobby not knowing what I was handling. I learnt what was best for me and the spiders, as I wanted to get it right,” she said.

Toni Kinghorn with some of the tanks of spiders she collects.

After the spider bug bit, she wanted more and bought another three spiders. In her quest to gain as much knowledge and information as she could, Toni joined Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups such as Tarantulas Durban, to learn more about spiders, their habitats and feeding habits.

“The groups and pages also have adverts for spiders for sale, so I bought three more in December and was then given a further two specimens. One of the spiders I bought in December climbed out of its container into my bedroom and I was on tenterhooks as my husband didn’t know! I only found it two months later. Another escapee got into my grocery cupboard, and again it was lost for about two months before I found it,” she said.

Regaling anecdotes about her hobby, Toni admits her husband thinks she is mad, but has come to accept her unusual collection of pets but makes sure he keeps a safe distance between himself and her spiders.

“My daughters were interested at first, but then the novelty wore off each time I got another one,” she said.

Toni houses her spiders in glass and plastic containers which are well ventilated. She has spiders of varying species and sizes.

When asked whether she handles the spiders physically, she explained the different types of spiders.

Toni Kinghorn with Curly Sue, a curly haired tarantula or Brachypelma albopilosum.

“There are old world spiders, which are from the Asian, European and African continent. These are not the friendliest and tend to be aggressive and fast. I wouldn’t be able to handle these. The new world species which are from North and South America are more docile and I would be more prone to handle them. I don’t handle my spiders often, but I check their temperament out before I take them out of their containers. If they are agitated, I won’t attempt it,” she said.

Toni said new world spiders disperse urticating hairs as a defense mechanism, and said she had been victim of this type of ‘attack’ before, and described it as the worst ‘run-in’ she had ever had with her spiders.

“The hairs get under the skin and itch. I battled for two weeks to get them out of my skin. It all depends on how you handle them. Personally I haven’t been bitten by any of my spiders, although it is a possibility,” she said.

Toni has colonies of three different species of cockroach which she feeds to the spiders. The spiders only eat once a week to once every two weeks and tend to fast up to eight months.

“This is a very low maintenance and enjoyable hobby. It is very misunderstood,” she said.

When asked whether 20 spiders was enough for her, she said that in all honesty, there would probably be another one, although she couldn’t say when!



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Lauren Walford

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