PICA CABALLO! My Kids Love Costa Rican Spiders

I heard screams from the other side of the house.

We were sitting outside of my aunt and uncle’s tiny house on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Penninsula. My three sons had been playing with their cousin and her two cousins, chasing each other around the house the way kids should. The adults were sitting in a circle, enjoying the air circulation from a fan placed to keep the zancudos – the no-see-ems – off of us. We’re discussing scorpions and how their bites tend to be mostly harmless, though my cousin’s wife, who’d been bit three times, said one time her tongue did swell up.

I get up to see the commotion.

A hairy gray spider bigger than my hand is scurrying toward Alejandro.

The kids say they found it curled up in the doorframe and Alejandro admits he threw a rock at it. Spider being a spider, it chases him.

My cousin’s wife comes over, picks up a rake and crushes it. End of spider.

They’re called pica caballo she says, horse biter, because supposedly their venom can knock out a horse. Later, I do some research and find out they are mostly harmless but it was as big a spider as I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen hand-sized spiders in Panama and tarantulas on the edge of Mesa Verde. Gives me the willies thinking about it.

My uncle tells me used to be certain times of the year the highways would be covered in them.

Now, when I ask my kids what they remember most about the trip to Costa Rica, one of the things they remember and scream is PICA CABALLO!