H. incei gold Rehousing

Well, this turned out to be a bit of an adventure!

Last year, I purchased three H. incei gold juveniles from Michael Jacobi’s Spider Shoppe. Since then, one ended up a mature male, hooking out and passing away two months later. Last week, I got a good look at the second one, and he, too, has hooked out. The third? Well, I was never able to get a good look at it.

While doing several rehousings this weekend, I decided that it was time to get this little one a new home. I hoped to also get the opportunity to possibly sex it, as this would be the first time I would be seeing it out of its den in a long time.

Once again, my daughter, Sid, handled the camera duties as I took care of the actual rehousing. As these guys can be very skittish and fast, I anticipated that this might not go as smoothly as I hoped.

I was right!

Still, I try to be prepared and to stay calm during all rehousings, and I don’t panic if the spider doesn’t go exactly where I want it to right away (as often, they don’t). I also do all rehousings inside a larger plastic container to put an extra barrier between a fleeing spider and my dinner table. In this instance, this practice served me quite well.

With four kids and three dogs in my household, things can be quite loud and lively. You’ll notice in this video that my concentration was tested, not only by the potential escape, but by barking dogs and a thirsty four-year-old. 🙂

As for my little spider, it looks to be another male. Oh, well…

Aphonopelma chalcodes – The Desert Blonde


An Underrated North American Beauty

When I first began expanding my collection, I was so enamored with the hundreds of exotic species available from far away locales that I all but ignored some of wonderful tarantulas that could be found in my own county. As much as I hate to admit it, I paid little attention to the Aphonopelma genus, subconsciously designating  the species it contained as a bit mundane. After all, why keep a tarantula that I could essentially find in my back yard (well, give or take several thousand miles!) when I could have something found across the world?

Now that I’ve established a pretty good-sized and diverse collection, I’ve turned my attention to some of the species I might have previously overlooked. Although I’ve kept an Aphonopelma schmidti for over a year, it was only recently that I had a change of heart about this genus. While looking at a fellow collector’s photos, I was taken by the gorgeous earthy grays, browns, and blonds of these spiders, something I had long admired in my schmidti. Having already added an A. anax sling to my collection, I was keeping my eyes open for a A. chalcodes. When I found a young adult for sale, I jumped at it.

Temperatures and set up

The A. chalcodes’ natural range is in the Sonoran deserts of southern Arizona and northern Mexico, which experience two major rainy seasons in the summer and winter. Although this animal flourishes in dry conditions, it can definitely tolerate more humid climes. In the wild, this animal experiences high temps in the mid 80s in the summer, and lows of 52º F in the winters. A burrowing species in the wild, the A. chalcodes would avoid both of these extremes by retreating to its den.

With this in mind, I set my chalcodes up on four inches of dry substrate made up of a 50/50 mixture of coco fiber and peat. To stimulate its natural burrowing tendencies, I included a short section of black PVC pipe as a starter burrow. I also supplied a water dish and some sphagnum moss. I do not overflow the water dish. Currently, it does not use its burrow, but instead chooses to sit out in the open. This is perfectly fine by me, as this little blonde ball of fluff is quite the looker.

This is a species that does very well at room temperature. Mine is currently kept between 70 and 75º F; in the summer, this range will be between 75 and 85º F. For folks who have colder temps in their homes during the winter, this would be a good spider to consider keeping.

Species in the Aphonopelma genus are notoriously slow-growing, and the chalcodes is not an exception. Although keeping this animal at higher temps will stimulate its metabolism, leading to faster growth rates, you can still expect this spider to take many years before it reaches maturity. Males of this species are expected to live 5-8 years, dying a year or two after reaching sexual maturity. It is estimated that a female could live 25+ years.

Size, feeding, and temperament

The A. chalcodes is a medium-sized tarantula reaching a max size of about 6″. So far, mine has proven to be an excellent eater, and I’m currently feeding her 2 large crickets a week. However, I have noticed that my other Aphonopelmas seem to pick up on environmental factors during the late fall months, and they will forgo eating for most of the winter. In the wild, this species will spend the winter fasting in its burrow, so I wouldn’t be surprised if mine did the same once the temps drop again.

This spider is often recommended as a great beginners species due to ease of husbandry and a tractable disposition, and for the most part, this is a good tarantula for novices. However, behavior varies wildly between individual specimens. Many folks report their chalcodes being a bit more feisty and prone to biting; others keep specimens that are quick to kick hairs. This information is important to keep in mind when performing maintenance or interacting with your animal. My A. chalcodes can be a bit skittish, but she has yet to show me a threat pose or any defensive behaviors. Still, her bald abdomen is an indication that she may kick.


The A. chalcodes is a beautiful, relatively calm spider with easy husbandry requirements that make it a wonderful addition to any collection. If you’re a collector in the States, don’t make the mistake I did and pass up this little gem.

New England Reptile Distributors (NERD) – A Review!


NERD is not just for reptiles.

There’s a belief among many serious tarantula enthusiasts that if you’re going to buy tarantulas online, you should only purchase through a reputable tarantula breeder or vendor. Although many reptile dealers also peddle spiders (after all, the two hobbies are quite similar), many times it’s almost as an afterthought. Unfortunately, an expert in snakes does not an expert in tarantulas make, and although these folks usually mean well, they can sell overpriced stock that has not been kept optimal conditions. I’ve heard many horror stories about poorly packed spiders perishing in the mail, or of customers receiving animals of the wrong size, sex, or even species.

This is absolutely NOT the case with New England Reptile Distributors; it’s obvious that owner Kevin McCurley knows his tarantulas.

I’m usually weary of purchasing from businesses whose main focus is reptiles. However, while recently studying up on various species of the Phormictopus genus, I stumbled upon some P. atrichomatus slings for sale at New England Reptile Distributors (NERD for short). I immediately recognized the name from my days collecting snakes, and I remembered them having a stellar reputation. With that info in mind, I decided to place my first order.


I was immediately impressed by the selection that NERD offered. I expected to find a smaller listing of some of the more common species. Instead, I found a very large and diverse selection that included some hobby regulars as well as some rarer species, like the coveted H. pulchripes. Their prices, overall, were also quite good, and they seem to add new stock fairly often. I do hope they eventually put together a newsletter that announces new stock, but I’ve been on the site enough times now to recognize the new additions.

Communication and Customer Service

I reached out via email first to find out if they could hold my order until the weather warmed up, and if I could add to the order when it came time to ship. Kevin responded immediately, and was very friendly and helpful. He had no problem with holding my spiders until it was safe to ship, and had no issue with me adding to my order while I waited. As it turned out, it was over a month before the weather permitted shipping. During this time, we stayed in communication, and he always responded to emails immediately. I did end up adding a couple Ts to my order, a T. ockerti and an A. chalcodes, and both orders were combined with no issue. When I was ready to ship, the package went out that week.

Shipping and Packing

My tarantulas were shipped FedEx overnight for a very reasonable $35. My order shipped quickly, and I was emailed a tracking number. Kevin was even good enough to have my order held at my local FedEx facility for pick up.


My spiders were expertly packed in a foam lined box with a heat pack included. I loved that the heat pack was securely taped to the top panel of foam, keeping it from shifting during transit and cooking the spiders. The five vials and one deli cup that contained my tarantulas were safely nestled in crushed newspaper; they would have been quite safe if the package had been jostled or dropped.
Nerd heat packI’ve mentioned it other reviews, but how the spiders are packed into the deli cups or vials can make the difference between and easy or nightmarish transfer. My new acquisitions were perfectly packed in their travel containers, and they were very easy to rehouse as a result.



When I opened my box, I was delighted to discover that Kevin had included a freebie with my order. I now have a new 1.5″ Lasiodora parahybana sling to add to my collection. I love free spiders, so this was definitely a plus.

Condition of the animals

All of my new acquisitions were in great shape and had obviously been well cared for. All six of them we plump and well-fed, and they took to their new homes quickly. Five of them have already taken their first meal; the sixth, the LP, is in premolt. It is apparent that these animals received excellent care by the guys at NERD.

A. chalcodes from NERD.

A. chalcodes from NERD.

P. atrichomatus sling from NERD

P. atrichomatus sling from NERD

T. ockerti juvenile from NERD.

T. ockerti juvenile from NERD.

The guys at NERD know their tarantulas!

My transaction with New England Reptile Distributors could not have gone any better. Kevin was  a true pleasure to do business with, and it’s obvious that the guys at NERD know their tarantula husbandry. Their shipping costs were very reasonable, and their packing was excellent. This was an all-around excellent experience; I would recommend NERD to other tarantula hobbyists without reservation!

Sexing a Tarantula from a Molt – L. itabunae

It’s a girl!

A recent L. itabunea molt. The Epigastric furrow is circled in read, and the spermatheca (female sex organ) is outlined in blue.

A recent L. itabunae molt. The Epigastric furrow is circled in red, and the spermatheca (female sex organ) is outlined in blue.

At least, it’s looking that way.

After many ill-fated attempts in which I clumsily destroyed molts in an effort to sex a tarantula, I finally got one that I didn’t accidentally shred. When I noticed my Lasiodora itabunae laying down a molting mat the other night, I hoped that I might be able to get some good snapshots of its molting process. Well, not only did I get a few cool photos, but I was actually able to remove the molt within minutes of it molting (and before it dried out or was destroyed).

After removing the exuvia, I laid it out on a plate and sprayed down the the twist of abdominal skin to make it more pliable. Using a couple tooth picks, I carefully untwisted the thin tissue and spread it out so that I could clearly see the two sets of book lungs and, what I hoped, would be the female sex organs.

After I identified what I though what I thought was the spermatheca, or the female sex organ that serves as a receptacle for sperm, I posted the photo on arachnoboards to have others chime in. So far, the consensus is that it is a lovely young lady.

This is a particularly nice surprise as my itabunae has become one of my favorite Ts, and they are not particularly common in the hobby. This is definitely one of the species I would eventually love to breed, so having a female is a HUGE win for me.

I’ve got a couple more unsexed Ts getting ready to molt, and I hope to sex a few more soon. With any luck, I’ll have a few more females.

My L. itabunae laying down a molting mat.

My L. itabunae laying down a molting mat.

My L. itabunae on its back in the process of molting.

My L. itabunae on its back in the process of molting.

My L. itabunae just moments after fully casting off its old exoskeleton.

My L. itabunae just moments after fully casting off its old exoskeleton.

My L. itabunae stretching out a day after its molt.

My L. itabunae stretching out a day after its molt.