It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Polly, our infamous and beloved burgundy goliath bird-eating tarantula. Polly was a true queen amongst arachnids, demanding respect and inciting awe in anyone who was lucky enough to meet her.
Polly began her life with MBHI under the care of Jen and Glenn Marangelo (executive and development director). She arrived a healthy, full-grown tarantula; a process that can take around 3-6 years. She remained in their care before the Insectarium opened in 2015, where she went on to be one of the most popular attractions. During that time, she continued to grow, a unique feature of tarantulas that is not shared by most arthropods.
Aging tarantulas is difficult; since they continue to grow past adulthood, we can only estimate Polly’s true age. Given that she was an adult when Jen and Glenn received her in 2014, she could have been anywhere from 12-15+ years old at the time of her passing (the average lifespan for a burgundy goliath birdeater female is 15-20 years).
As one of our feistier bug ambassadors, feeding Polly was always a spectacle. Glenn would often sing to her while she was in his and Jen’s care (although a serenade did not seem to temper her attitude). Moving her, either for terrarium cleaning or during the Insectarium’s move from the Front St. location, was a different endeavor entirely. It usually required heavy duty gloves, eye protection from her urticating hairs, and a drink afterwards. Her formidable size was matched by her huge personality; a true diva who could command the attention of curious museum-goers without lifting a tarsal claw (literally).
Always the drama queen, Polly made every effort to make any occasion about her. Molting was always a stressful experience for both her and everyone at MBHI; as she grew larger, the endeavor grew more difficult. So of course, she always chose to molt on a holiday, when no one was in the office and especially when her keepers were out-of-town.
It’s difficult to find the right words to express how saddened we are at her passing; I would say she left a Polly-sized hole in our hearts but… she was bigger than a human heart. As one of MBHI’s first bug ambassadors, she was loved by every staff member, volunteer and guest that came through our doors. Her size and spicy personality made her seem larger than life; it truly felt like she would be around forever.
In closing, I will leave you with an adapted version of Professor Slughorn’s eulogy for Aragog from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:
“Farewell, Polly, queen of arachnids, whose long and faithful friendship those who knew you won’t forget! Though your body will decay, your spirit lingers on in the quiet, web-spun places of your terrarium. May your many-eyed compatriots ever flourish and your human friends find solace for the loss they have sustained.”