Mama Tarantula and Hummy the Frog
by Susan Bruck
“Watch the egg sac,” said Mama Tarantula. “I’m taking out the garbage.”
Mama Tarantula gathered up the edges of the round web she had spun to use as a plate. There were some left over bits of the cricket she’d had for lunch in it. Mama Tarantula always kept her house tidy. She didn’t want anyone to find her home in the bottom of the strangler fig. She had found a hole in the wood of the Guanacaste tree that was decaying inside and made a nice cozy nest, lining it with a web and bringing in some soft leaves to rest on.
Her home was cozy and safe, just the right place to raise her babies. She prepared the egg sac and waited for her babies to hatch. Not long afterwards, Hummy the frog had showed up. Mama licked his back and liked him right away. Hummy liked her, too. He liked her long furry legs and thought her egg sac was just beautiful. He promised to help her take care of the babies if she would let him stay. Hummy ate the ants that found their way into the cozy burrow. Hummy could eat lots of ants, and that was good, because ants liked to eat spider eggs and Mama loved her babies.
She rarely went out of her house, but sometimes she needed to take out the trash or get some food. She felt better knowing that Hummy was there, but she still didn’t go far.
Mama finished wrapping the garbage and carried it out the door. There were a few ants underneath and Hummy caught them with his sticky tongue and pressed his eyes down to swallow them. When that work was done, Hummy wandered around the house. It was big for him, and so was Mama. He walked over to the egg sac. He often admired it, with all the beautiful round balls that would one day be spiders. But something was happening. The egg sac was moving. Had something gotten in when he wasn’t paying attention? Mama would be very upset.
He sat very still and watched. Something was definitely moving in there. He didn’t see any holes in the sac, but the back was against the wall. Maybe something got in that way. Hummy tried to reach behind with his long sticky tongue, but all that happened was that his tongue stuck to the egg sac and he couldn’t move.
Hummy tried to pull his tongue away, but it stuck fast. He was afraid he would tear the sack. Hummy started to cry, which is quite unpleasant when your tongue is stuck to a sticky wiggling egg sack. He hoped Mama would return soon.
“My babies!” shouted Mama Tarantula.
Hummy tried to say he was sorry, but he couldn’t really talk.
“My babies!” shouted Mama Tarantula again.
“Hummy, what on earth are you doing? Give them some space.”
Hummy ripped his tongue off of the sac, making a small hole in it.
Soon the little baby tarantulas started crawling out of that hole. Mama Tarantula danced on all of her eight legs, she was so excited. Hummy watched in amazement as the babies came out. Many of them stopped to give him a kiss as they went by. Mama was here and there and everywhere, kissing her babies, admiring them, nudging mealworms into her house for them to eat.
And when the babies were all out of the sac and fed and sleeping, Mama snuggled up with Hummy. “Thank you,” she said, “for taking such good care of my babies.”
Hummy smiled and fell asleep next to his friend.
I wanted to write a story about orange kneed tarantulas because they are really cool and we saw a couple of them–one in a nature preserve and one crossing the dirt road that is the main street in Monteverde. But these tarantulas are pretty much solitary creatures. The females can live for up to 30 years! The males, when they are ready to mate, deposit their sperm on their web and walk in it. Then they find a female, usually in her home. They approach with caution (to prevent being eaten), but once they get close, they use special arms to hold her pincers to keep the female from biting them and they deposit the sperm into her pocket. Pretty cool, but not necessarily a kid’s story.
But as I was researching, I found that there are tarantulas in Peru ( and other places, too, but not where I was) that have a symbiotic relationship with these little hummer frogs.
I even found a cartoon about them:
And a book!
Who would have thought? Certainly not me. The tarantulas protect the frogs from predators and the frogs eat the ants that can destroy the eggs.
Also, the strangler figs were very cool. They drop their roots down from a host tree and eventually surround it and often kill it. The one in the photo is one of the largest ones. I had never heard of it, but my daughter tells me that people from all over the world seek it out. It is near the school where she is teaching–up the road and down a sort of path (and just before a very steep drop), but there were other people there when we went.
Also, I would have worked on the painting a little more–mostly the tarantula, but came down with a fever and cough today (AWWWW!) so decided to just let it be.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the story. Thanks for stopping by.