H. villosella Death – Tarantula Impaction?

Not the way I wanted to begin my Friday evening.

For the past several weeks, I have been keeping an eye on my Heterothele villosella (Tanzanian Chestnut Baboon) sling, as its behavior after a recent molt had become abnormal. I had received this wonderful little tarantula as a freebie several months back, and it immediately impressed me with its vicious appetite and beautiful webbing. Like many of my Ts, this one would only refuse food while in premolt.

My H. villosella, alive and well, after a recent molt. Despite only eating twice, its abdomen was still remarkably plump.

My H. villosella, alive and well, after a recent molt. Despite only eating twice, its abdomen was still remarkably plump.

Well, after this specimen refused a meal about two months ago, I assumed it was in premolt. Sure enough, it emerged after a week of hiding a little bit larger and sporting fresh colors. As this particular sling was usually ravenous after a molt, I offered it a small cricket, which it took no problem. Another cricket was offered a few days later with similar results. She was back to eating well.

I dropped the third cricket in about two weeks after she emerged from her last molt, and I was surprised to find the cricket alive and kicking the next morning.


I waited a few more days before offering another cricket. This, too, was rejected. Now, I’ve had many tarantulas change their eating habits after a recent molt, so I wasn’t particularly concerned yet. I made sure to wet down part of the substrate in the enclosure to keep the humidity up, and waited another week to try again. Again, no dice. Despite being a great eater in the past, this T had inexplicably stopped eating, and during the warm months of summer when even my most picky specimens were ravenous.

More odd behavior.

About three weeks ago, my H. villosella started spending a lot of time out in the open. For the first six months I had this spider, I rarely saw it out of its heavily-webbed den, and when I did, it was usually in the early morning after I turned the lights on.  The slightest bump would send it scurrying back inside its burrow.

However, this T was now out all the time and wouldn’t flee even when I picked up its enclosure. In many ways, I found this new behavior more alarming than its lack of appetite. I was pleased, however, to see that despite having only eaten twice, its abdomen was actually fairly plump.

I also noticed this T dragging its abdomen on the ground and on the side of the enclosure. I first thought that it was just webbing, but there didn’t seem to be any webbing coming out of it. The H. villosella was also using its back legs to rub its rear, something that didn’t seem particularly worrisome by itself, but proved concerning when added to the other odd behaviors.

With little I could do, I kept sprinkled water on the side of the enclosure daily to give it something to drink and kept it under close observation. It continued to hang out in the open, and this once speedy little spider was much more sluggish and calm.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to recover.

When I arrived home from work yesterday, I was saddened to find the little guy in a partial death curl. As a precaution (it is sometimes difficult to determine if they are truly dead), I put it into an ICU to see if it might be “revived”. While moving the T, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. The area around its anus was caked with bit of white stool. Also, there was a white “plug” partially protruding from it.

My H. villosella sling in an ICU. Unfortunately, it did not make it.

My H. villosella sling in an ICU. Unfortunately, it did not make it.

Suddenly, it seemed more clear as to what probably happened to this unfortunate T. I had read about other keepers losing tarantulas to fecal impactions, but I had never experienced it myself. An impaction occurs when the Ts anus becomes blocked, prohibiting it from evacuating its waste.

In some of these instances, the T will essentially eat itself to death as the waste compounds inside it until it dies. In some instances, the animal stops eating after a molt, yet it’s abdomen remains large and bloated. In this instance, it’s suspected that a complication with the molt causes the issue. Other symptoms reported are sluggishness and unusual grooming of its backside, especially around the anus.

When a tarantula is showing signs of a fecal impaction, there is little a keeper can do. Some recommend using a paper towel or cotton swab moistened with warm water to try to wipe away and loosen up any feces that may be blocking the anus. In my case, I don’t know if this would have worked due to the very small size of the specimen.

I checked on the T this morning to see if its condition had improved over night, but it was in the same position it had been in the night before. Unfortunately, it had passed. Can I be positive that it was a fecal impaction that killed it. No. However, I have made no changes in husbandry in the last six months, and it had been healthy and seemingly thriving until its last molt, so I’m convinced it wasn’t something I did. It also displayed many of the common symptoms of an impaction, which lend more credence to the theory.

A dead H. villosella sling. Notice the white around the anus, and the yellowish spot that formed beneath the corpse (likely feces loosened by the moist towel.

A dead H. villosella sling. Notice the white around the anus, and the yellowish spot that formed beneath the corpse (likely feces loosened by the moist towel).

For those who may fear that they have a tarantula suffering from this malady, I will list the symptoms my T exhibit in hopes that it helps in identification.

Symptoms that indicated fecal compaction:

  • Diminished appetite (food refusal)
  • Plump, hard abdomen (even after not eating much)
  • Dragging abdomen and rubbing it on substrate without laying web
  • Excessive grooming of anus area with back legs
  • Sluggishness and decreased activity
  • White “plug” protruding from anus
  • White stool around anus




NE Herp – A Review

NE Herp

Although my T. stirmi enclosure has been holding at proper humidity with no pest or mold issues, I’ve been planning on adding isopods or springtails to help clean up any waste and to keep the tank mold free. While searching the net for dealers who carry these amazing insects, I stumbled upon NE Herp. Although I visited the site with the sole intention of procuring maintenance insects, I discovered that they carried so much more.

An amazing one-stop shop for all of your vivarium needs.

I first thought that NE Herp only carried invertebrates like D. Hydei fruit fly cultures, Springtails, and Dwarf Isopods, and it was quite by accident that I navigated to a page that presented the store’s ridiculously diverse selection of vivarium products. Water dishes, cork bark, bamboo, moss, hides, lights, enclosures, substrates…I could go on for pages. Keepers of frogs, lizards, snakes, tarantulas, or other invertebrates would be wise to check out the site.

I was elated to discover that they carry bamboo and cork bark at ridiculously low prices. Since entering the hobby, I’ve always been floored by the high cost of cork bark, and I’m constantly on the lookout for someone who sells this material for a reasonable price. NE Herp not only offers larger pieces for great prices, but they also sell a gallon-sized grab bag filled with medium to small pieces. At $7.99 (on sale for $5.99), this is an absolute STEAL.

Great packing and fast shipping!

My order was packed and shipped very quickly via Fed Ex, and it arrived on my doorstep a day later (NE Herp is just across the state from me, so the shipping time was extra fast). My order was very well packed, and NE Herp even included a cold pack to keep my springtails from baking in the hot temps. All of my items were heavily padded with packing paper and arrived in pristine condition.

The bag of cork bark proved an amazing value. I was elated to find that I contained curved and flat pieces ranging from 3 to 7″. As I like to include corkbark hides in most of my enclosures, the accumulated cost of buying this material can become costly. However, for about $6, I now have enough for at least a dozen cages.

My box from NE Herp.

My box from NE Herp.

The well-packed contents of my package.

The well-packed contents of my package.

My new cork bark, bamboo, plastic plants, and springtails from NE Herp.

My new cork bark, bamboo, plastic plants, and springtails from NE Herp.

I highly recommend NE Herp to any hobbyist.

I have already spent several hours on this site window shopping and putting together my wishlist for my next order. The amount of products they carry is staggering, and I’m still finding new things to add to my list. I will definitely be placing a second order soon. NE Herp carries an amazing selection of vivarium supplies, and their quick and reasonable shipping make ordering from them a very satisfying experience. I highly recommend them to any tarantula, snake, reptile, or frog keepers who are looking for reasonably-priced supplies for their enclosures.


Stamps Tarantula – A Review

The first of what will prove to be many purchases.

I had first discovered Steven Stamps several months ago on Arachnoboards  where he had posted several tarantulas for sale on the For Sale/Trade/Want to Buy board.  I was immediately impressed with his prices and the number of species he had available, and a quick look through his review thread revealed pages of glowing testimonials. It wasn’t until last month that I stumbled on his newly-launched web store with a $50 unsexed T. stirmi sub-adult for sale that I would finally make my first purchase from him.

The first, but definitely not the last.

A diverse offering of Ts at awesome prices.

The first thing that struck me about his site was the number of tarantulas he had available and the diversity of his stock. He had everything from rarer Aphonopelma, Avicularia, and Lasiodora species, to the more common Poecilotheria or Brachypelma species. There was definitely something for every type of collector. There were also several females for sale for anyone looking for breeders. His prices were fantastic overall, with many species selling for much less than I’ve seen elsewhere.

Communication was great, and all of my emails to him were answered in a matter of hours. Mr. Stamps was kind enough to hold the T. stirmi for me after paying so that I could add a few more tarantulas to the purchase in a couple weeks to get more out of my shipping costs. I though that was a fantastic gesture. He also worked with me to ship my package on a particular day so that I could be sure I would be home to receive it.

Top notch shipping and packing!

My animals were shipped next day, and the package arrived safe and sound. The Ts were expertly packed in a foam-lined box with plenty of padding and even a cold pack to protect the tarantulas from the high temperatures.  The individual Ts were safely nestled away in either large deli cups (for the T. stirmi) or plastic dram bottles (for the H. lividum, L. difficilis, and G. pulchripes slings) and padded with newspaper. Stamps also included an awesome flashlight as a free gift.

Very cool.

A package from Stamps Tarantulas.

A package from Stamps Tarantulas.

The package from Stamps, obviously well padded and insulated with foam.

The package from Stamps, obviously well padded and insulated with foam.

My package from Stamps. Notice how well-packed the specimens are.

My package from Stamps. Notice how well-packed the specimens are.

The contents of the box removed.

The contents of the box removed.

The animals themselves were in excellent shape, with all four emerging lively and sporting plump abdomens. Three of the Ts ate the first night; the fourth was in premolt, but has since molted and ate. It has been a few weeks, and all are doing fine. I was particularly impressed with the condition of the T. stirmi. I had seen many pictures of larger T. stirmi being sold that looked thin or haggard, and I worried a bit that my new acquistion might need some TLC. This beast, however, was was in AMAZING shape, and has acclimated to his new enclosure smoothly.

My new T. stirmi shortly after being housed.

My new T. stirmi shortly after being housed.

A great new online dealer.

I was 100% satisfied with my first purchase from Stamps Tarantulas, and I’m already planning my next order. Mr. Stamps carries a variety of species at great prices, and his communication, packing, and shipping are all top of the line. He has also proven willing to work with customers, which is always a plus. I highly recommend this vendor!


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