Apparently There Is a Thriving, Terrifying Black Market for Spiders

Another threat to global biodiversity: online sales of arachnids

A large spider sitting on a web. A new study looks at the large black market for spiders and other arachnids.
Nothing like opening a delivery box and a bunch of these guys hopping out.
Peter dos Santos/Unsplash

Have you ever thought about illegally buying spiders online? I’m going to guess that the vast majority of you answered that with a resounding “Hell no.” Strangely enough, there are more than a few people who would be completely OK with a package of arachnids showing up on their doorstep.

That’s one of the big takeaways from a new article in Smithsonian Magazine, which dives into a recent study on the illicit sale of wildlife. As Smithsonian‘s Margaret Osborne writes, the research found that over “1,200 species of spiders, scorpions and other arachnids were involved in the wildlife trade between 2000 and 2021.”

The full study, published in Communications Biology, has the full details — including the fact that tarantulas are especially popular. Even more importantly, and unnervingly, the scientists conducting the study found that 67% of the arachnids being sold came from the wild.

Why is this an issue? The study’s authors point to concerns over the loss of biodiversity in the wild. “Wildlife trade is a major driver of biodiversity loss, yet whilst the impacts of trade in some species are relatively well-known, some taxa, such as many invertebrates are often overlooked,” the study’s authors write in their abstract.

Could their work make you think twice before hitting “buy” on that, er, tarantula? It just might.

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