Junior Jonah Lazich finds himself deeply invested in something most people are afraid of. With thousands of spiders in his house, he is thrilled to have a hobby that doubles as a form of financial stability.
Using his home for all orders of operation, Lazich breeds and sells arachnids and other invertebrates through his personal business: Bellingham Arachnids.
Lazich owns around 90 different species of spiders, six species of scorpions, five species of cockroaches and a centipede. With over 200 adult spiders, 2,000 spiderlings and 50 scorpions, business is booming.
A wall of the bedroom Lazich shares with his girlfriend, junior Averee Linker, is lined with storage shelves full of enclosures. When there was no longer enough room there, Lazich branched out to the hallway outside of his room and to the downstairs bathroom, which is now used as an incubator room.
“I haven’t moved out yet,” Linker said. “I told him if we move into another place eventually, we are going to have a designated room just for the spiders because they are okay there, but I like having my space away from them.”
Lazich started Bellingham Arachnids last January. He had already been breeding and selling on a relatively large scale, but with the new company, he is able to make a name for himself and grow as a spider-breeding business.
Once customers began returning and he received good reviews, his business picked up fast.
Initially, Lazich did not make any money from his sales because it all went back to buying more spiders. As the company progressed however, Lazich was able to both pay his bills and fund his breeding projects.
With no other job to distract from Bellingham Arachnids, Lazich is able to focus all of his attention on spiders and making a living off of his hobby.
Pursuing the business management major at Western helps Lazich to formulate a successful business plan. He applies the skills he learns in class to the financial side of Bellingham Arachnids in order to help establish a profit margin.
Lazich feels fortunate to be making a living off his passion, but he will always see his spiders as a hobby first and foremost.
“I don’t just see dollar signs when I have baby spiders,” Lazich said.
However, caring for so many spiderlings does occasionally prove to be difficult for just one person, so Lazich sometimes needs to call for backup from his friend, senior Alec Nielsen.
The thousands of spiders shocked Nielsen at first, but over time, his interest grew and he found himself intrigued by the process of breeding.
“You shouldn’t be scared of animals that aren’t going to do anything to you. They can be just as good of pets as cats and dogs if you show an interest for them,” Nielsen said.
Tarantulas are Lazich’s area of expertise, but he is in the process of learning more about the breeding processes of scorpions and other invertebrates.
“I’ve always been into unusual pets,” Lazich said.
Growing up, Lazich volunteered at The Reptile Zoo in Monroe, Washington, and owned a large collection of reptiles that included snakes, geckos, turtles and frogs.
As his 17th birthday approached, Lazich’s mother was unsure of what to get him as a gift, and debated between another snake or a spider. Linker told her to change it up and get him the spider since it would be a new experience for him.
“I was into snakes and those were easy to hold, but spiders were a creepy change of pace that I wasn’t ready for,” Lazich said.
Lazich never classified himself as arachnophobic, but the new, eerie animal had him on his toes.
To his surprise, his new pet tarantula had been a wild female that was caught and had mated before being sold in a pet store. The hatching of hundreds of tarantula spiderlings caught Lazich off guard, but ultimately sparked an interest in acquiring and breeding more arachnids.
“Got the first one for my birthday and then the babies desensitized me and I immersed myself in the whole spider thing,” Lazich said.
Lazich was fascinated with watching the spiderlings develop and increasing his knowledge on the subject. Once the spiderlings matured, he sold them and soon after got his second spider. From there, the collection of spiders increased exponentially.
“I was part of the whole pushing for the first spider thing… and ever since then it’s just been cool. I think it’s cool that he’s different, he has a different kind of hobby. It’s fun and unique,” Linker said.
About halfway into his time at The Reptile Zoo, the owners learned Lazich was knowledgeable on spiders, and he became responsible for feeding the tarantulas on display.
A month after moving to his current home in Bellingham in August, Lazich started breeding his spiders intentionally.
He owned a female, and a couple of months later, one of the males of the same species matured.
“I wanted to see it from start to finish and be responsible for the whole thing, so I went for it and it worked out,” Lazich said.
Since then, Lazich has been breeding up to 10 spiders at the same time and caring for their thousands of spiderlings. His profits have increased with more valuable and rare spiders coming into his collection.
When breeding spiders, Lazich has to replicate their natural environment in order to get them to mate. By moving the spiders to different locations around the house, he alters the temperatures and simulates the change of season. His bedroom stays the coldest, while the bathroom is kept at a hotter temperature of 83 to 85 degrees.
The hallway outside of his bedroom is used as a quarantine space for his new spiders. After receiving a new animal from other breeders or online sites, Lazich monitors their health before moving them to the bedroom. This is to ensure they don’t carry any mites or parasites that could spread to the rest of his spiders.
Those in the market of buying and selling arachnids often trade with one another in order to breed other spiders. If Lazich has a female that is ready to mate, but no male of the same species, he will reach out to other breeders and they will ship him the spider he needs.
After Lazich mates the male and female, he gives half of the offspring back to the original owner of the male and sells the rest.
Bellingham Arachnids’ clientele includes other breeders, people who own tarantulas as pets, The Reptile Zoo and a few pet stores.
“Even if I stop breeding and selling, I would still have them as pets because I like owning them,” Lazich said.