Exploding Cactus Spider Hoax
Message warns that certain kinds of cacti can harbour large tarantula spiders that will be explosively released from the plants when they reach maturity.
The claims in the message are untrue.
The story is an urban legend that has circulated since the 1970's and has been set in many different parts of the world.
Subject True story - Australian Quarantine Inspection Service
A true story and its source was the Australian Quarantine
Inspection Service in Adelaide.
A bloke and his family were on holidays in the United States and
went to Mexico for a week. An avid cactus fan, the man bought a
one-metre high, rare and expensive cactus there. On arrival back
home Australian Customs said it must be quarantined for 3 months.
He finally got his cactus home. Planted it in his backyard, and
over time it grew to about 2 metres. One evening while watering
his garden after a warm spring day, he gave the cactus a light
spray. He was amazed to see the plant shiver all over, he gave
it another spray and it shivered again. He was puzzled so he rang
the council who put him on to the state gardens people. After a
few transfers he got the state's foremost cactus expert who
asked him many questions. How Tall is it? Has it flowered? etc.
Finally he asked the most disturbing question. "Is your family
in the house?" The bloke answered yes. The cactus expert said get
out of the house NOW, get on to the front nature strip and wait
for me, I will be there in 20 minutes.
Fifteen minutes later, 2 fire trucks, 2 police cars and an
ambulance came screaming around the corner. A fireman got out
and asked "Are you the bloke with the cactus?" I am, he said.
A guy jumped out of the fire truck wearing what looked like a
space suit, a breathing cylinder and mask attached to what
looked like a scuba backpack with a large hose attached. He
headed for the backyard and turned a flame-thrower on the
cactus spraying it up and down.
After a few minutes the flame-thrower man stopped, the cactus
stood smoking and spitting, half the fence was burnt and parts
of the gardens were well and truly scorched. Just then the cactus
expert appeared and laid a calming hand on the bloke's shoulder.
"What the hell's going on?" he says. "Let me show you" says the
cactus man. He went over to the cactus and picked away a crusty bit,
the cactus was almost entirely hollow and filled with tiger striped
bird-eating tarantula spiders, each about the size of two hand
The story was that this type of spider lays eggs in this type of
cactus and they hatch and live in it as they grow to full size.
When full size they release themselves. The cactus just explodes
and about 150 dinner plate sized hairy spiders are flung from it,
dispersing everywhere. They had been ready to pop. The aftermath
was that the house and the adjoining houses had to be vacated and
fumigated: police tape was put up outside the whole area and no
one was allowed in for two weeks.
And here's what one of the spiders looks like sitting on a full
size dinner plate.
Spiders tend to be a common theme of hoaxes and urban legends. This one
has morphed through a number of versions. In fact, the tale
predates the Internet
, but email has given it new life. The
example reproduced above boasts an Australian setting, but others
have been set in a variety of locations around the world. In some
versions, the cactus is a small potted specimen that is kept
inside the house and does actually explode its load of spiders into
It hardly needs to be said that the tale is completely untrue. The event described in the message never took place. Most
types of tarantula live in underground burrows while a few live in
trees. However, there is no record of them building nests inside
cactus plants. Furthermore, even if spider eggs were laid inside a
plant, it certainly would not explode when the eggs hatched.
Tarantulas are the giants of the spider world. Given their size
and frightening appearance, it is not surprising that they play a
starring role in this lovely old tale as well as numerous horror
stories and Hollywood films. They are often portrayed as being
However, The Natural History of
Tarantula venom is not
considered to be of medical importance to humans. Of the hundreds
of reported cases of tarantula bites very few cause anything more
serious than temporary local inflammation.
Although this hoax email is a work of fiction, it is still rather an
Other spider hoaxes:
Camel Spiders in Iraq Hoax Email
Spider Under Florida Toilet Seat Hoax
Last updated: April 18, 2013
First published: 19 August 2004
By Brett M. Christensen