A real-life ‘Spider-Man’ who keeps tarantulas as pets has doubled his collection – and now has more than 300 eight-legged friends in his house.
Aaron Phoenix, 35, began collecting spiders in the summer of 2021 after being told to get a hobby to help with his mental health.
Aaron, from Yate, South Glos., had always been fascinated by the creepy-crawlies and said his collection grew as he realised it was his “passion”.
Living with partner Jo, 46, and her two teenage daughters, Aaron’s spiders have their own bedroom where they all live in separate enclosures.
In the past six months his collection has doubled in size – going from 120 to around 300 as he has continued to buy more and even started breeding his own.
He said the most he has paid for any of his spiders was a whopping £165 for a rare female Mexican Flame Knee tarantula – which is his pride and joy.
While it’s an unusual hobby, Aaron has no plans to quit as he says it has done wonders for his mental health – and believes this is what he was “born to do”.
The house removal contractor said: “Everyone has their passion, and this is mine.
“The Royal Mail delivery people even know me as “Spider-Man” because every week they bring me my new pets labelled “live animals” on the box.
“I love them so much, I could sit and watch them for hours in my spider room.
“In the past few months I have shared my story on social media and so many people have messaged me because they are interested.
“There’s so much more positivity around spiders online than I realised, and it’s really great to see.
“I still have my down moments but I feel now on the whole I’m in a place where my mental health has improved and I’m really content – thanks to my spiders.”
Aaron first looked into getting some spiders after doctors told him to “get a hobby” following a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and depression.
He had always loved them and had a pet tarantula as a teen before having to give it up due to hard times.
He had always hoped to own them again one day as his love for spiders never dwindled – so he followed his passion.
Last summer, he purchased his first few tarantulas and set up their enclosures in his spare bedroom.
The more he bought, the more he wanted – and since then, his collection has topped 300 of the eight-legged furry creatures.
He said: “At the beginning, my partner and the kids were a bit freaked out.
“But they saw the positive effect it had on me immediately and became supportive.”
Along with his huge collection of tarantulas, which he has began to breed himself, he also has five other spiders, three scorpions, three praying mantises and a centipede.
He calls the room where they all live his “happy place” and spends every moment of his free time in there with them.
Aaron said: “I check on them every morning and evening although if I had time, I could stand and watch for hours.
“I’m just fascinated by them – all the different sizes and shapes and colours.
“When I’m with them, whether it’s feeding, watering or rehousing them, nothing else in the world matters.”
He has vowed to be a tarantula owner for the rest of his days – saying the creatures have “changed his life” and been a huge aid for his mental health.
He even breeds his own now – pairing matured males and females which can lead to tens or even hundreds of new spiderlings at a time.
Aaron said: “It’s not easy because females like to eat the males after they mate – so I have to have the tongs ready to quickly split them up after!”
Aaron is now part of the tarantula community online where he interacts with others who share his passion – as well as sharing daily updates about his pets on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
He was surprised to find so much positivity around them – because people are so often fearful.
Aaron said: “I do think tarantulas are misunderstood – there’s no need for such a fear.
“I can’t expect everyone to see them the way I do – but I’m so happy people give them a chance.
“I often get comments, even from people who don’t really like spiders, saying fair play or asking questions because they’re interested.
“It’s great to see so much positivity growing towards them and interacting with other spider-lovers on a daily basis has done so much for my mental health.”
He added: “I recently got a new camel spider and it got half a million views when I shared it on TikTok – being able to do that, I’m living my dream.”
Aaron has no plans to stop and is even working towards setting up his own shop to sell the spiderlings he breeds, as well as building his social media presence.
He said: “The ultimate goal is to do everything spider wise for my work. There’s a long way to go but it’s a start.
“It sounds cheesy but I believe this is what I was born to do.”