Today's "Just Ask" question came with a particularly heartfelt plea from the reader who hopes the answer to the question is "no":
Q: I saw a photo of something called a "witch spider" that supposedly has made its way to the United States from South America. The spider is HUGE! There's even rumors that it can eat a small pet. Please tell me this is a fake.
A: This is one of those questions that had me jumpy while investigating, especially when I came across the supposed photo, which showed an "Angolan witch spider" crawling along a wall outside a home — and taking up most of the wall.
Fortunately, I can assure you (and myself) that there is no such thing as an Angolan witch spider and the photo is fake. In fact, according to Snopes.com, the photo is of a small wolf spider that was blown up and superimposed over the wall of a house.
Snopes also notes it could find no evidence that an Angolan witch spider even exists.
Other sites I checked also confirm it as a myth.
Snopes says the largest spider species has a leg span of about 12 inches.
The site also states that those species "in repose will generally fit into the hand of an adult human male."
All I can take from that quote is the knowledge that, somewhere on this planet, a person actually held a foot-long spider IN HIS HAND! What are you DOING man?!
I don't know who that person was, but I know who that person wasn't and never will be ... (Hint: His photo is at the top of this column).
By the way, I double-checked to make sure the largest spider is about a foot long, and it apparently is true. Or close enough, anyway.
According to news reports in 2012, scientists discovered what could be the largest species: a 13-inch spider that was discovered in the southeast Asian country of Laos.
I'm certain the Laos Chamber of Commerce was just thrilled to see that story make its rounds across the globe.
Anyway, an article in the Hamburger Abendblatt describes the spider as a "daddy longlegs," type, which I guess at least diminishes the creepy factor a little.
If you've got a question, email it to bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com, or call him at 256-740-5739.