I received this story from Meow recently in an email, I thought it
worthy of a post.
A true story and its source was the Australian Quarantine
Inspection Service in
A bloke and his family were on holidays in the
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 spans.
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.
even with the required quarantine period this was very nearly a
The picture below shows one of these spiders on a full sized