Before heading off to Taiwan, I’d heard rumors about giant, mammal-like spiders (mammal in the sense that trying to hit one would be like trying to hit a squirrel) popping up in the Far East. I wondered if such things were myths or the exaggerations of foreigners too far from home for too long. Or if in fact, such mutant creatures were a reality.
I discovered the truth after about three months of living in Taiwan. One night while sitting in my room in Hsinchu, I heard something scamper across the kitchen floor. Out of the corner of my eye I saw what appeared to be a rat. After my eyes focused however, I saw something that would put me on guard for many nights to come. An abnormally large spider, roughly the size of my hand (including outstretched fingers) was paused in the doorway between my bedroom and the kitchen, one eye gleaming in the darkness. It seemed to be waiting for something … my reaction or perhaps just to taunt me with its presence.
As if sensing my disdain, the spider ran under the refrigerator, flattening its body and sliding out of sight.
Horrified, I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of raid. I sprayed a bunch of it under the fridge and then hurried into my bedroom and shut the door, stuffing blankets under the crack of my doorway to keep out the fiend during the night.
The next morning, I cautiously opened my bedroom door and took a look around.
There, splayed out on the wall, was the spider. Just hanging out in the kitchen, unscathed by the stream of Raid I’d fired at it the night before. I reached for the raid again, and aimed. The spider fell from the wall and began to hop toward me. I used the entire can of raid to no avail. The creature didn’t meet its demise until I ran and grabbed a rather large bug-zapping racket and hit it repeatedly. I left it under the racket and asked my boss at the buxiban where I was teaching if such large spiders were a common sight in the city. He didn’t say one way or another, but came to my apartment after work and disposed of the creature. Yes, I was a wimp.
This would begin the start of my magnetic spider attraction. Over the course of the next two years, I encountered many of these spiders, which I now know are called Huntsman spiders. While local Taiwanese would inform me they’d only seen a handful in all of their lives, I had the pleasure of meeting several of these spiders during the two years I lived in the country.
One of the most intimidating encounters happened one day after I used a squat toilet at a temple out in the mountains. As I reached up for the rope to flush the toilet, my hand almost brushed against a spider measuring the length of two of my outstretched hands put together, hanging out on the wall.
Somehow, I survived. I screamed and fled for my life, only to return a moment later to take a picture –so when I told the tale later, people would believe me.
Apparently Huntsman spiders are harmless. They are too large to build webs and though their bite may be but fierce, it is not poisonous. They supposedly feed on cockroaches and small birds.
There are many types of spiders in Taiwan, but Huntsman, in my opinion, are some of the most frightening. Though many of these live in forested areas, I would sometimes see them in more urban landscapes (such as in my apartment in Hsinchu) and climbing on building walls or running across the road.
Check out this funny video of a guy trying to capture a Huntsman.