Nicaraguan Farmers Capture Tarantulas For Cash

Nicaraguan farmers such as Leonel Sanchez Hernandez search every day for their latest cash crop: tarantulas.

Hernandez sells these spiders to breeders, getting a little over a dollar for each one. This might not seem like a lot of money, but for a dollar he will be able to buy rice and milk for his family. In the last two weeks alone, Hernandez has caught over 400 tarantulas with the help of his aunt Sonia and cousin Juan. It adds up.

These farmers have been forced to find other sources of income, as northern Nicaragua has suffered a severe drought for several months and their field crops suffered tremendously.

Greenbottle blue tarantula

Greenbottle blue tarantula

At first, Hernandez was afraid to catch the tarantulas, but he found the courage to overcome his fear when he thought about his wife and four children going hungry. He said:

“It is the first time we have gone out to look for tarantulas. We were a bit afraid, but we sucked it up and did it because of the drought.”

Once the tarantulas are caught, Hernandez travels over 60 miles with his aunt to just outside the capital Managua to give the spiders to Exotic Fauna, a firm recently created to breed spiders for export. After getting approval from the country’s environment ministry, Exotic Fauna has set up appropriate housing to breed 7,000 tarantulas.

Exotic Fauna owner Eduardo Lacayo explains:

“We plan to sell them at a price even higher than that of boas. It is easier to handle a boa than a spider.”

Each tarantula has its own tank, to respect the spiders’ territorial nature. As females can lay up to 1,000 eggs at birth, Lacayo expects to get from 300-700 baby tarantulas from each sac.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Americas, just behind Haiti. The country hopes to diversity its exports with the sale of tarantulas. Although there is demand for the spiders from the United States and China, Nicaragua faces competition from Chile, which sells the Chilean Rose Hair – a more docile species than the ones found in Nicaragua.

Biologist Fabio Buitrago of the Nicaraguan Foundation for Sustainable Development said:

“There are a lot of people that love to have them at home, some as pets and others because they like danger.”