A gorgeous, if somewhat reclusive, arboreal.
Years ago when I was getting serious about tarantulas and researching which species were currently available, I stumbled upon this gorgeous black spider with orange highlights on its legs and abdomen. Besides being an amazing looking spider (I’m a sucker for orange) it had one of the coolest common names I had heard…the “Venezuelan suntiger.” However, as I was new to the hobby, I was turned off to this species when I read that this arboreal was fast, skittish, and could have quite the attitude. For a while, I forgot about it as I became more interested in calmer, slower-moving terrestrials.
Fast forward several years…
After receiving a Psalmopoeus cambridgei as a freebie, I immediately developed more of an appreciation for arboreal tarantulas other than ones in the Poecilotheria genus. Eager to add some new tree spiders to my collection, I was again reminded of the P. irminia. I was more than ready for this spider now, so when I saw that Tanya at Fear Not Tarantulas had a juvenile female listed, I jumped at it.
For slings, the old 32-oz clear deli cup (or something similarly sized) does the trick well. Start with a couple of inches of moist substrate, a piece of cork bark leaned at an angle against the side, and some sphagnum moss. Personally, I like to put the moss behind the cork bark to give the spider some material to work with if it wants to build a burrow and some “dirt curtains” for privacy. Upon being housed, mine quickly constructed a little home behind its bark, only to venture out at night.
Tip: Although this is an arboreal species of tarantula, it’s important to note that many arboreal slings will actually hang out on the ground until they reach a larger size. Some will even burrow. Keeping that in mind, you want to give your sling a couple of inches of substrate to let it construct a little burrow if it wishes.
This is a fairly fast growing species, so it won’t take long for a .75” sling to outgrow its first enclosure. In fact, the species is so fast growing, that you may find that it makes sense to house it in an enclosure that is slightly larger than you would usually use for a species that size. Once they hit about 2.5-3” or so, they’ll be ready for a rehousing. I like to put my juveniles in one of the clear 1-gallon Mainstay jugs sold at Walmart for about $3. They can be easily repurposed to make great arboreal enclosures, and they offer great visibility. Any tall container offering some height and easy access can work for this species.
Of the three species of Psalmopoeus I keep (pulcher and cambridgei being the other two) my P. irminia is the most skittish and reclusive. As a juvenile, I rarely caught mine out in the open, and she would bolt to her den when disturbed. She spent the majority of her first year with me in her burrow with only her feet visible. Now that she’s put on some size, she’s out a bit more and has become a bit bolder. During feeding time, if I blow gently or spray the webbing leading to her den, she will bolt out looking for food. The first time she did this, it actually startled me a bit, as she had been so shy up until that point.
As with all of my tarantulas, the temperatures range from 72-75° in the wintertime and 75-80° during the hot summer months. Even when the temps were a bit cooler, this T was still very active and continued to eat well, and she molted twice during the winter. When my P. irminia was younger, I kept part of the substrate moist at all times. She has also always had a water dish with fresh water. Now that she has some size on her I’m not quite as concerned with keeping things damp. In the winter months, when the furnace is running and the air is dry, I moisten it on occasion by pouring a bit of water down the side. As she has webbed quite a bit, I also dribble some water on the webbing when I feed her to give her a choice as to where to drink. In the summer when the humidity in my state is high, I don’t worry about it.
My Psalmopoeus species have always been great eaters, and I usually feed my slings one small cricket twice a week. As they put on some size, reaching about 2.5″, I move up to a large cricket once a week. This spider has been a ravenous eater, taking all prey items down with amazing speed and ferocity. It also seems to have no issue taking down larger prey. As mentioned earlier, they grow quickly; mine molted three times in about 11 months and putting on an impressive amount of size with each molt. At the time of this writing, she is about 4″.
TIP: For some fast and feisty species, rehousings can be the source of a lot of anxiety. If ever an escape or bite is going to happen to the careful keeper, this is the time. For fast-growing species, like P. irminia, many folks choose to rehouse them into their adult enclosures much earlier than they would with other species. This limits the number of rehousings that the keeper has to perform.
After its next molt, I’ll be rehousing it into its adult enclosure. As this species can reach 7″, it will be getting an arboreal enclosure roughly 5-7 gallons or so. She will either be given an acrylic enclosure from Jamie’s Tarantulas or an x-large critter keeper-style cage.
The P. irminia is a beautiful, fast-growing arboreal species that can make a wonderful addition to any collection. That said, they are usually quite shy, so folks looking for a good showcase spider should be aware that they might not see their irminia very much. When you do see it, however, it makes keeping this stunning spider totally worth it.
Author’s Note: A huge thank you to Dallas Beck who was awesome enough to let me use some of his photos for this post. Thanks, Dallas!