Science of Scary: A Curious Collection of Creepy Crawlers

Some people are dog people. Others are cat people. Still others have a marvelous menagerie of furry, feathery and scaly friends. Sarah Naughton, a Certified Investigator Trainer at Temple University Harrisburg, took a decidedly different path. Her passion is arachnids and insects. Here first eight-legged pet? A rose-haired tarantula (Grammostola porteri) named Doris, who is still with her today, along with more than 80 other friends! Read about Sarah and her pets here.

Here is Sarah Naughton's story in her own words. 

"Hi! I'm Sarah, and my hobby is keeping pet tarantulas. I currently have more than 80 of them, along with some other creepy crawlies like centipedes. People often ask me how I got so interested in these animals that most people are afraid of. Well, there were two things that happened to lead me to where I am today.

The first thing was that several years ago, I received a good camera as a gift. I knew right away that I wanted to take pictures of nature, particularly animals. So I set off on walks through the woods in search of wildlife. Well, it turns out that most animals in the woods will run and hide at the sight of a person. So my quest was proving quite difficult! But then I realized that there was one kind of animal that wouldn't run when I approached. And that animal was a spider in her web. Spiders in webs just sit still all day (except for when a fly or other unlucky critter lands in the web). So I ended up taking many photographs of spiders. As I did so, I began to appreciate how beautiful and fascinating they were.

The other thing that happened was that one summer there was an orb weaving spider (the ones that spin round webs) who spun her web across a sidewalk near my home. It was about 10 feet above the ground and stretched between a streetlamp post on one side of the side walk and a tree on the other. Many orb weavers remake their web daily. This particular spider remade her web in the evenings, right about the time that I would walk my dogs. I ended up walking under her while she worked almost every night. Often, my dogs would have to wait patiently while I watched her reconstruct her web in the light of the streetlamp. This went on until one evening in mid-September when, after a particularly bad rain storm, I looked for her and found that she and her web were gone. But her skill and tireless dedication to her task had enthralled me and earned my admiration.

Those two experiences made me think about having a spider as a pet. The spiders that are most often available as pets are tarantulas. So I brought home my first tarantula, Doris. I still have her! As I started researching tarantulas and learning how many different, beautiful species there are, I gradually added to my collection. Now I can't imagine not having these fascinating creatures in my life."