Hapalopus sp. Colombia Lg. “The Pumpkin Patch”

A feisty new world “dwarf” terrestrial tarantula from Colombia

At a Glance

Old World or New WorldNew World
Terrestrial/Arboreal/FossorialTerrestrial
Moisture DependentYes (although adaptable)
TemperaturesRoom temps
Max Size3.5″ for females
TemperamentSkittish
Growth RateFast
Beginner Appropriate?Possibly

For several years after getting serious into the hobby, the mantra “bigger is better” informed all of my purchases. During these formative years, I ignored any species that was saddled with the unfortunate moniker of “dwarf” as I amassed a collection of the largest species the hobby had to offer. While perusing vendor lists for my next purchase, I repeatedly turned my nose up to any species that didn’t reach at least 5” DLS. At the time, I thought the idea of keeping a tarantula that wasn’t much larger than spiders I could find in my basement was kind of ridiculous.

Luckily, my ignorance didn’t last too long, as another keeper finally convinced me that I needed to add the small, feisty little species amicably referred to as the “Pumpkin Patch” to my collection. He explained that what this unique little spider lacked in mass, it more than made up for with a lively personality, gorgeous coloration, and a brutal feeding response. I received my first trio of tiny slings in August of 2014, and I was immediately enamored with this “pygmy” species. Since then, it has become one of my favorites, and in March of 2017, it became the first species that I successfully paired.    

As the common name implies, the Pumpkin patch hails from the country of Colombia. Although this country has four seasons, they remain relatively consistent due to its proximity to the equator. Temperatures here tend to be warmer closer to the coast and cooler at the higher elevations inland. Columbia experiences a minimum temperature of 66.7℉ (19.2℃) with high temps reaching 87℉ (29℃). It experiences a drier season from December to March and a rainy season from April to May. 

As a result, the Hapalopus sp. Colombia does well at normal room temperatures, which for most of us is upper 60s to mid-80 Fahrenheit (or around 20 – 29 Celsius). My first three specimens were kept between 68 and 72° F during the winter and between 72 and 80° F during the summer for the first few years I had them. Now, they are kept in the mid to upper 70s throughout the year. Even when kept at temps in the 60s, mine ate and grew quite well.

Many care sheets have this species listed as a “dwarf” tarantula, which is a bit misleading. There are actually two very similar Hapalopus species sold in the hobby; the Hapalopus species Colombian “large” and the Hapalopus species Colombian “Klein” or “Small.” Females of the “large” variant actually reach a max size of around 3.5-4” (8.9-10 cm), which would make it a bit too big to be a true dwarf. The “Klein” (German for “small”) on the other hand, reaches a max size of 2-2.5” (5-6.35 cm), which would make it a dwarf. At this time, the sp. “Klein” appears to be much less prevalent in the hobby. 

Furthermore, there has been some confusion over the years surrounding the name of this spider. In the United States, this species is sold as Hapalopus sp. Colombia “Large.” However, overseas a seemingly identical species is sold under the name Hapalopus formosus. Although there is speculation that these two spiders are the same species, it has never been scientifically proven that the hobby form is indeed H. formosus. Until this theory is explored and settled through taxonomic study, it’s important to keep the two species separated to avoid potentially mixing two different species. 

Slings

Slings start off very tiny at around .25″ or 64 mm but grow very quickly. They require moisture and will burrow if given enough substrate to permit it.

The Pumpkin Patch is one of the few spiders that sports its adult colors as a sling. This makes it quite attractive to keepers who are drawn to this striking and unique species. As a spiderling, this species definitely needs damp conditions to thrive and to molt properly. Start your spider with moist substrate, and allow the top layers to dry out a bit. This will allow your sling to dig to the moisture level that it needs. My slings all did some burrowing when smaller along with some webbing at the mouths of their dens. 

When you notice that the darker band that indicates moist substrate starts to shrink, it’s time to add more water. For smaller sling enclosures, I like to use a pipette to direct the water down into the dirt. This makes it easier to avoid flooding the spider’s burrow.

Slings start off very small at around 1/4” (64 mm), so a smaller dram bottle or 5-oz (.15 L) deli cup would work great for an enclosure. Larger, more established slings will do well in a 16-oz (.47L) deli cup or something around that size. The popular  2-5/16″ sq. x 4-3/16″ h Amac boxes also work very well for this species. As always, feel free to experiment with what works for you, but just be sure to keep ventilation holes small enough that they do not permit escape. As a rule of thumb, if a spider can get its carapace (body) through a hole, it can escape. If the enclosure size permits, I like to add cork bark and a water dish. 

For my first three slings, I used size 13 dram vials for their enclosures. All three burrowed into the deep soil, which made it a bit more tricky to keep an eye on them. With my second batch of 8 slings from the sac I produced, I kept two in dram vials and the rest in 2-oz deli cups. As the deli cups offered less substrate depth, they couldn’t burrow as deeply. This made it a bit easier to keep track of them. Both batches of slings did well and grew to adulthood. 

There are many types of appropriate substrates for spiders, including coco fiber and regular topsoil. Some also like to use a combination of any or all of these to get the desired properties they need. Vermiculite can also be added to help with water absorption and retention, and can be particularly useful when working with moisture dependent species. Some also like to add chopped up sphagnum moss to their blends. Feel free to use what works well for you and to experiment with your mixes. 

Behavior-wise, all of my slings were more shy and skittish than defensive. Once burrowed, I would rarely catch them out of their dens. That said, when disturbed or caught out in the open, some of my slings would actually try to bolt out of their enclosures. Many keepers have reported that their Hapalopus sp. Colombia larges are flighty little escape artists, so always be on your toes when feeding, performing maintenance, or rehousings. 

This species is an excellent eater, and I’ve found that mine grew fairly quickly overall. As slings, mine would often hang out at the mouths of their burrows with their front feet poking out as they waited for prey to pass. Because they were so tiny to begin, I fed my slings one prekilled B. lateralis roach or one meal work segment twice a week and let them scavenge feed. If you can’t find prey small enough, slings will scavenge feed off of prekilled items. Cricket drumsticks (severed cricket legs) or mealworm sections work great in these situations. Mealworms can also be refrigerated, which means you can save extras and always have them on hand.

Once mine hit around the ½” (1.25 cm) mark, I started offering live prey in the form of baby roaches or crickets. By this point, my specimens had become voracious eaters and excellent hunters, often taking down prey close to their own size.

Always keep in mind that there is no right or wrong feeding schedule, and many keepers feed their spiders weekly or bi-weekly. Find a feeding schedule that works well for you. 

When they enter premolt, slings will often seal off their burrows with webbing and dirt and refuse food. If your sling does this, it is normal behavior and their way of putting up a “do not disturb” sign. Do not try to dig up your sling or force food into the burrow during this period. One of the only times that I ever dug spider was with a Pumpkin Patch sling, and after completely destroying its home, I discovered one healthy and VERY angry little spiderling! When the spider is ready to eat again, it will open the burrow and, in some cases, toss out its old molt.

Juveniles

As “juvenile” is a relative term when discussing tarantula size, we’ll use that designation to refer to Hapalopus sp. Colombia large specimens that have reached the 1” to 1.5” (2.5 to 3.8 cm) mark. Depending on temperatures (warmer temps lead to higher metabolisms and faster growth), many will find their spiders will require a rehousing before the 1 year mark.  

There are many suitable enclosures available for juvenile spiders, including the 4″ x 4″ x 5-1/16″ h flush lid Amac boxes or 2-quart (1.89 L) clear Mainstay canisters sold at Walmart. Although larger juveniles (1.5”/3.8 cm or above) can be housed in small critter keepers, specimens smaller than this could conceivably escape through the ventilation slats in the lids. Personally, I find something between around 1-2 quarts (.95 to 1.89 liters) works well as long as it offers some room for a couple inches of substrate. 

As always, I include a cork bark hide, some sphagnum moss, and a water dish. I’ve found that my Hapalopus sp. Colombias will usually adapt to a provided hide, often doing some digging behind it and some webbing around it. As a result, try to give your specimen some foliage, either plastic or real, to web to. Once again, I keep the lower layers of substrate moist for my juveniles at all times. This is also one of the species that I’ve caught drinking, so always make sure that it has access to fresh water. If your specimen engages in a lot of surface webbing, you can also dripple water on the silk to give it another place to drink from.

Juveniles are voracious hunters and can be quite entertaining to watch hunt. I’ve seen 1” juveniles bolt across their enclosures to subdue crickets almost the same size as they are. Once they hit this size, I reduce their feeding schedule to once a week or so. I’ve found that larger specimens may start spending a bit more time outside of their dens, offering keepers an opportunity to catch a glimpse of their elusive pets. My juveniles easily took down medium crickets or B. lateralis roaches. If using B. dubia, mediums work great. Just be sure to crush the heads first to prevent the dubia from burrowing, hiding, and playing dead.

My Hapalopus sp. Colombia Female

As my species put on size, they moved away from their burrowing behaviors and lived more terrestrially. Other keepers have reported that their specimens did little burrowing and instead constructed elaborate dens out of webbing. Just be aware that behaviors may vary from specimen to specimen.

Adults

Although this species can reach 3.75″ (9.5 cm) in size, mine were ready to breed at around 3″ or so.

Once your spider reaches 2” (5 cm) or so, you may find that it’s time to rehouse it into its adult enclosure. I’ve kept my adult Hapalopus sp. Colombia larges in small Exo Terra breeding boxes and the 8” cubed Exo Terra Nano glass enclosures. For those who like to use critter keepers, a medium or even large would work just fine, too. As this is a smaller species, a container that offers 2-4 gallons (7.6-15.2 liters) of space would work great. Larger enclosures could also work, but be sure to provide plenty of hides and foliage for anchor points. Also, if using a deep enclosure, be sure to use enough substrate to prevent your spider from injuring itself should it climb and fall. 

This is a sexually dimorphic species, with mature males being much smaller than their female counterparts. I’ve had a male mature in under a year at a very gangly 2.5” (6.3 cm). In comparison, my large female is now a hefty 3.5” (8 cm), and it took her close to three years to reach sexual maturity. 

Adults may continue to do some burrowing, so any enclosure has to leave room for a few inches of substrate. This can also be a heavy webbing species, so it’s prudent to use an enclosure that offers some depth to accommodate for the silk. I have two adult females, and one has webbed up on the surface behind some cork bark while the other dug herself a burrow. 

It’s also important to note that many folks also report that their specimens can be little escape artists, sometimes bolting out of their enclosures as opposed to retreating to their dens. As for temperament, I’ve raised 11 of the Pumpkin patches to adulthood, and I’ve never received a single threat posture, and I’ve only experienced two instances where one kicked hairs. I’ve found that mine have been skittish, but not very defensive. That said, temperaments can vary from specimen to specimen. 

Young adult and adult specimens can easily take down large crickets, medium B. dubia roaches, B. lateralis roaches, or super worms. As with my juveniles, I generally feed my young adults once a week. Keep in mind that if you’re feeding your tarantula bigger meals, you can offer food less often.

Again, if your specimen stops eating and barricades itself in its burrow, it is likely in premolt. When this occurs, keep water available, moisten down a corner of the substrate, and wait for it to reopen its burrow.

There has been some recent discussion about whether the Hapalopus sp. Colombias require moist substrate as adults. Although this species seems to be adaptable, I always provide my adults with some moist substrate, which they seem to appreciate. When it gets too dry, I have witnessed my spiders lingering around their water dishes. I would advise to always keep a corner of the substrate moist and the water dish full. 

Breeding:

On April 20, 2017, I was able to successfully pair one of my adult females. The mating ritual was quite unique as the male first got the female’s attention by tapping, then led her around the enclosure for close to an hour. Finally, the male made his move, and the coupling was quick and violent. As the male got insertion, my female immediately folded him backwards and sank her fangs in. Although I was closely monitoring the pairing, there was no time to react. The male gave his life, but the result was a very large sac.

The female laid her sac just under a month later on May 27th, and I pulled the sac on June 15 to discover close to 400 eggs with legs. I separated these into two groups and put them into an incubator. Although there are several ways to incubate EWSs, I used coffee filters placed into 16-oz deli cups. These I placed into a larger enclosure with several layers of damp paper towels. On June 24th, the EWLs molted to first instar. As mentioned earlier, the tiny slings all had their adult colorations, and although I separated many of them early on, I did keep a couple groups of 20 together until well past 2nd instar. These slings would group feed on sections of prekilled mealworms without friction.

Beginner Species?

Now, many folks will ask if the Hapalopus sp. Colombia “large” can make for a good beginner species, and the responses tend to be split. On the one hand, many keepers will argue that this hardy, relatively fast growing new world spider can make an exciting beginner species for a new keeper who is aware of its speed and feisty attitude.

Others argue that the need for moisture, especially early on, as well as their speed and propensity to bolt out of enclosures would make them a handful for someone more accustomed to the slower and more sedentary beginner tarantulas.

I tend to lean toward the Hapalopus sp. Colombia being more of an intermediate tarantula, but it’s obvious that many new keepers can do just fine with them.

So, whether you’re looking at getting into smaller tarantula species, or you’re just searching for a unique looking spider with loads of personality, you should definitely give the Hapalopus sp. Colombia large a look!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s