Cardiff’s Spider-woman is out to prove creepy crawlies are not as scary as they seem

Self-styled Mother of Tarantulas shares her life with more than 400 spiders and scorpions

FIONA Evans, 29, from Thornhill is an insurance broker by day, but a social media influencer by night with nearly 10,000 followers on her Instagram account ‘The Spare Room’. 

Fiona posts a variety of content showcasing the 400 pets she has cared for over the past two years. Most creatures in this collection are tarantulas. 

She said: “My whole life I have been interested in weirder animals, especially tarantulas when I was little. My mum has a terrifying fear of them so I could just never keep them.

“So fast forward until 2020 – maybe October time. I thought I had Covid-19, so I locked myself away to keep away from my family and I just binged YouTube. I watched loads of videos about tarantulas, and I thought actually this is something I can do.”

Fiona believes she has spent thousands of pounds on her pets and their upkeep. Tarantulas can range in price from just £3 to over £700. 

Saranya the Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens
Photo by Fiona Evans @the_spare_room_

“I think the most I have spent on one tarantula is £100, but that’s not even that much in the grand scheme of things,” she said. 

Tofu the Western Hognose snake
Photo by Lauren Haughey

In connecting with people online, Fiona hopes to educate the public on tarantulas and reshape the perception that they are aggressive and scary animals. 

Although Fiona has hundreds of dangerously venomous tarantulas and bugs, she has never been bitten or harmed by any of them. 

She said: “I genuinely believe that unless you have had a really traumatic experience with any animal, a lot of the fear is based around lack of education. But that’s not to patronise at all.

“I used to be terrified of snakes, but the more people I have met who kept them have helped me dispel that fear. I now own a snake because they’re such amazing animals.”

Fiona also claims that many online videos showing tarantulas to be angry have often been set up cruelly to provoke them.

She said: “I’m not ever going to be the type of content creator that will rile their animals up so that you can see their venom and things like that. You really have to push an animal to get that response. 

“Recently, I saw a tarantula being poked with a stick online – of course it was defending itself. But, to people who don’t know what is happening to that animal and the set-up it was in, they think it’s scary and cool.

“But, when you’re in the hobby, you know you’re looking at an abused animal that is stressed and scared. It breaks my heart – you wouldn’t hit a dog online.

“People think that tarantulas are aggressive and dangerous but they’re none of those things if they’re kept correctly. They just want to be left alone.”

In her mission to raise awareness of this, Fiona claims that she has become one of the biggest “spider accounts” in the UK. 

Within her growing community she has made numerous online friends with similar passions. Fiona is now planning to meet up with them for the first time when Covid-19 restrictions ease in the UK. 

Bonsai the Aphonopelma seemanni
Photo by Lauren Haughey