Tom’s Big Spiders – The Podcast

After much debate, I’ve decided to start a weekly podcast about tarantulas and other arachnids. I had been asked about starting a podcast a few times over the years, and as I really didn’t know too much about them, I scoffed at the idea. I just couldn’t imagine I would have enough to say to make one interesting, or that folks would be even remotely interested in hearing it. I know it may sound in my videos like I love hearing myself talk, but I can’t stand the sound of my own voice (really, who does?).

But after a recent discussion with my brother, an admitted podcast junkie, and another chat with a keeper, I decided to do a bit of research to see if it was a realistic outlet for me. For the past several months, I’ve been making a list of possible topics as well as folks I would like to either work with or interview. As luck would have it, I’ve been doing much more voiceover work in my YouTube videos as of late, so I have also gotten some good experience with talking and staying on subject.

Last month, I asked some of my friends on Facebook if this was something I should pursue, and the reaction was very positive. It seems that there are a lot of hobbyists out there that like podcasts, and not a whole lot of people doing them. Excited by the possibility of branching out into new media, I signed up for a plan, downloaded some programs, and sat down to test it out.

So far, I’m loving it.

Many times when putting the videos together, I have to shorten my explanations because I don’t have enough footage to accommodate for all of the dialog. I’ve found that recording the podcasts allows me to go into much more detail with the discussion. There are also topics that might not make for the most interesting videos or articles that might be better delivered in a more conversational format. Even better, this format would make interviews much more natural and easier for the interviewees.

It won’t replace my articles or videos, but I do believe the format will allow for another excellent outlet for tarantula information.

To start, I will be releasing one 30-minute episode every week on Sunday. As I know folks that follow podcasts like them to be released consistently, I’m recording several ahead of time to start so that I will always have one ready to go even if life intervenes. As I get more comfortable with the format and schedule, I’ll look to start mixing in interviews and even live episodes. If all goes well, they will be available on both iTunes and Google Play as well.

Below is my first “pilot” episode in which I field a question about feeding dead prey to tarantulas and discuss shipping in the winter, as well as a bonus episode featuring a Q & A. I’m also including a link to my podcast page. Hopefully you all find it enjoyable and continue to check out future installments. I’ve got some cool ideas going forward, and I think that I’ll continue to improve with each outing.

EPISODE 1: Tom’s Big Spiders … The Podcast! (Pilot)

BONUS EPISODE … Q & A

 

Follow the podcast here: http://tomsbigspiders.buzzsprout.com/

 

Coremiocnemis hoggi Husbandry Notes

Coremiocnemis hoggi Husbandry Notes


NOTE: Normally I wait until I’ve kept a species for a while before writing husbandry notes for it. As part of my write-ups, I like to discuss their behaviors as spiderlings, juveniles, and adults, as the fact that I’ve raised one to young adulthood hopefully indicates that my care notes are accurate. However, this species is still relatively obscure in the hobby, and those taking the chance on purchasing the pricey slings will likely find it difficult to find husbandry accounts for them. Keeping this in mind, I’ve decided to share my observations on this species so far. As this spider matures, I will continue to revisit its care.

Last year, I received one of these cool little fossorials from Fear Not Tarantulas, and I was immediately impressed by this shy little Old World. Unfortunately, being a rather obscure species in the hobby at the moment, C. hoggi husbandry information was rather scarce. After some research in which I didn’t find much from hobbyists keeping them, I went to the World Spider Catalog to read the species description paper. Here, I found information about the country and area it originates from as well as notes about how it lives in the wild. This allowed me to research the climate and weather of this area to get a better idea of how it should be kept in captivity.

From Fraser’s Hill in West Malaysia, this fossorial (burrowing) species is found in higher altitudes with cooler temps ranging from 63 to 77 F (17 to 25 C). As such, this is definitely a spider that will do quite fine when temps dip into the lower ranges of “room temperature.” No need for extra heat with this spider. I currently keep mine on one of my lower shelves where temperatures average 72 degrees or so. In the summer, my temps rarely rise to 80 in my tarantula room, so I won’t have to worry about temps becoming too hot for it. 

An obligate burrower, the C. hoggi can be found in dens it constructs in steep, sloped ground and hillsides. Its habitat is constantly moist due to rain and misting from cloud cover, so attention should be paid to moisture levels in the enclosure. In the wild, the soil is moist and clay-like, so it’s important to mimic this by using damp soil in captivity. Continue reading

Harpactira Genus – Husbandry Notes

Harpactira Husbandry Notes (ft. H. baviana, H. cafreriana, H. hamiltoni, and H. pulchripes)

Gorgeous “baboon tarantulas” from South Africa, Harpactira species have become much more prevalent in the hobby as of late, with many vendors offering a variety of slings for sale. Recently, there have been more Harpactira species available than ever, their newfound popularity possibly spurred by the introduction of the gorgeous and highly-desirable Harpactira pulchripes or “Golden blue-legged baboon.”

These mid-sized Old Words sport a variety of pretty ambers, golds, bronzes, and even a bit of green. My first experience with this genus came with the aforementioned H. pulchripes. Back in 2015, I acquired a sling and a juvenile female, and I immediately fell in love with the species. Besides their strikingly good looks, I found this spider to be incredibly hardy with a fairly laid back temperament for a baboon species. Last year, I was fortunate enough to get several more Harpactira species from Tanya at Fear Not Tarantulas, and I have become a huge fan of the genus. Connoisseurs  of heavy-webbing, visible, fast-growing, robust, pretty baboons will find a lot to love about this genus.

SLINGS

Species from this genus start out rather petite, so folks may find that smaller dram vials or 4-oz deli cups will provide good sling enclosures for smaller specimens. For slightly larger specimens ( .75″ or larger), the tried-and-true 16-oz deli cups make great homes. I’ve used all three types with no issues, so a keeper can use his or her discretion when selecting its first home. My specimens are more webbers than burrowers in most instances (although they may still dig), so provide a bit of substrate and piece of cork bark for a hide. If possible, also include a fake leaf or two to serve as an anchor point for webbing. Mine all immediately took refuge beneath the cork bark, using this as the epicenter for their silk. This also gives them a place to retreat to if they are startled so that they don’t bolt out of their enclosures. One of the only tarantula escapes I’ve ever had was a Harpactira pulchripes sling that I got sloppy with during a rehousing. It was up my arm and around my back in a blink. Although I’ve found slings from this genus to be more calm overall than most baboons, they can still be skittish and are very fast. It would behoove hobbyists to keep this in mind when working with them. Continue reading

Tarantula Hybridization in the Hobby (Tarantula Controversies #5)

It’s one of the hobby’s most hot-button topics, and one that elicits spirited and emotional responses from both sides of the argument. For many, the topic of hybridization is a fascinating one, and curious hobbyists hear about hybrids and want to find out more about them. Unfortunately, any public inquiries in the hows, whys, and why nots of a potential mixing of species swiftly erupt into heated arguments and debates.

On the one hand, there are the folks that don’t think tarantula hybrids are that big of a deal, with some even expressing that a keeper can do whatever he wants with his spiders, as long as they aren’t sold into the hobby. Many of these keepers believe that the supposed problem of hybridization in the hobby is over exaggerated and that those who are staunchly opposed to it are alarmists.

Others find the idea of purposely crossing species appalling and unforgivably irresponsible under any circumstance. Many of the people on this side believe that hybrids are prevalent enough in the hobby to seriously compromise the purity of many bloodlines. Any attempt to knowingly breed them is a gross disservice to the hobby and, in some cases, a Frankensteinian perversion of nature.

Recently, I was emailed by a young man who was new to the hobby and eager to discuss some of his experiences with a more seasoned keeper. During our exchange, he mentioned that he had managed to obtain a mature female Brachypelms vagans as well as a mature male Brachypelma albopilosom. He really wanted to breed but was having difficulty acquiring a male for his vagans, so he came up with the idea of trying to crossbreed the two species to get, “a cool designer tarantula.” What ensued was a lengthy back-and-forth email discussion about tarantula hybridization and why it is a detriment to the hobby.

It can be difficult for new and casual hobbyists to understand why hybridization is so frowned upon by many serious hobbyists. Even after several emails, this young man still didn’t seem to fully grasp why this practice was considered taboo by many. As I’ve encountered this question many times myself, I thought it was time to tackle the topic in hopes of educating folks who may not understand why it is such a controversial issue.

Below are the arguments and counter arguments and how they usually break down. For clarity, stances supporting hybridization will be in GREEN; stances against will be in RED. Continue reading

Webbed Together – Midwest Fang Gang Charity Auction

A Charity Auction for an Amazing Cause

My buddies over at the Facebook Group Midwest Fang Gang are  holding a charity auction to benefit a family who tragically lost their 2-year-old son to cancer very recently.  The proceeds from the auction will go toward helping this family pay for doctor’s bills, funeral expenses, and other monetary needs incurred over the poor boy’s hospitalization. Below is a flier for the auction, including the vendors participating and the items that will be up for bid. As response to this event has been so great, an extra day or two may be added.

For my small part, I’m donating an original signed watercolor painting of a C. cyaneopubescens (GBB) from my personal collection. The painting in 7.5 x 11″ and on cold pressed watercolor paper. The bidding on this piece will start at $50. I know that most folks will probably be more excited about the actual living tarantulas, but I do hope some of you are interested and make a bid. Personally, I think it would look great framed and hung in a tarantula room… Just click on the image to bid.

Continue reading

Tarantula Sling Care Guide – The Video Version

A picture is worth a thousand words…

When I first became hooked by the hobby, I literally had to be convinced by a vendor to pick up my first spiderlings. True story.

At the time, I was looking for sexed juveniles and adults, and the thought of caring for a tiny, fragile ‘sling was terrifying to me. What would I feed it? How should I give it water? What if the temperature in my house was too low? A thousand daunting scenarios played through my mind, and almost all of them ended with a dead spider.

When I finally took the plunge and ordered my first two 3/4″ slings, I remember the feeling of dread I had waiting for them to be delivered. I was convinced that I had bit off more than I could chew, and now there was no turning back. When they arrived, I fussed over their enclosures, fixated on their burrowing and webbing habits, just about developed an ulcer when one buried itself, and panicked when they inevitably refused meals. I also spent hours on Google researching each seemingly odd or worrisome behavior for some type of reassurance that I wasn’t screwing up. Continue reading

Have You Ever Been Bit By a Tarantula? A Survey

If you’re a hobbyist, please take a few seconds to participate!

Okay, I’m hoping to get as much participation as possible on this, so my sincere thanks to anyone who takes  a moment to answer or share these two polls.

The first question pertains to whether or not you’ve ever experienced a bite under any circumstances. I hear a lot of folks, mostly those new to the hobby, make statements like, “it’s only a matter of time until I get bit.” Do bites happen? Sure. But my belief is that they are not very common. So, who out there has experienced the business end of a tarantula?

Continue reading

Guest Blog post: Neoholothele incei (gold) Communal by Casey J. Peter

Introduction

As tarantulas are recognized as solitary creatures (mostly due to the fact that they view other spiders as lunch on eight legs) many find the idea of several tarantulas cohabitating peacefully to be a bit of a mind-blower. Perhaps that’s why successful communal setups garner so much curiosity and attention. A year ago, I started my first communal with 9 Monocentropus balfouri slings, and it has been incredibly rewarding and fascinating to watch these spiders interact. And, as I’ve shared my experiences through my blog and YouTube channel, it has also attracted a lot of attention from folks who would very much like to begin their own tarantula communals.

Although M. balfouris seem to present as one of the best species to successfully thrive in this set up, they are not the only species to display these tendencies. In fact, when I was originally giving thought to the idea, I was eyeing Neoholothele incei as a possible candidate. This species has been observed living communally in the wild, and a bit of research would produce several compelling accounts of successful group setups in captivity.

Even better, they were readily available and slings were much less expensive than those of the pricey M. balfouri, making such a venture less cost prohibitive. As communal setups always run the risk of cannibalization, many people would find the smaller investment much more palatable. I’ve received a lot of questions about H. incei communals, and having no first hand experience with them, I’ve had to refer these people to other keepers’ accounts.

With that in mind, I asked my buddy and fellow hobbyist, Casey J. Peter, if he could guest blog on Tom’s Big Spiders and relate his experiences with his H. incei communal. Casey began his setup a few months back, and he’s been keeping me updated as it progressed. Casey’s care and husbandry are top notch, and as a writer, he was no stranger to the written word, so I hoped he’d be game to pass off some of his knowledge.

He (obviously) graciously accepted the invite. A huge thank you to Casey for taking the time to share his valuable experiences. Now, enough from me. On to the article …

Continue reading

Tarantula Controversies – Is keeping Tarantulas in Captivity Wrong?

And How to Address This Question when It Inevitably Comes up.

Recently, I received the following email from hobbyist, Hugo Pinheiro:

Hope you’re doing well. I was talking to someone I’d just met and we ended up talking about tarantulas and they asked something that kinda left me defenseless or at least lacking a convincing point. They asked: “don’t you feel like you’re depriving a tarantula from its freedom?” – immediately I thought this person was judging me and my impulse response was something along the lines of “well, technically, you’re doing the same when you get a dog…” But this answer didn’t feel right to me, tarantulas aren’t dogs after all. If they see a chance to escape and follow their own path, they will. Dogs stay because they get attached and want to stay. At the same time I feel like we’re giving them an opportunity of having a very chilled life, no predators, all the food they want and a decent enclosure. Do you ever get this question? What’s your take on this controversial topic? Once again, thanks for your time!  

The short answer was, yes, I’ve been asked this many times, mostly through comments on my blog or YouTube channel. Furthermore, I’ve run into this mindset quite a bit in the comment section of other keepers’ videos. Although I love animals myself, and appreciate that there are folks out there who truly care about their well-being, it can be incredibly frustrating to try to convince some of these people that we are not mistreating our tarantulas. And, like Hugo realized, it can be very difficult coming up with that killer response on the spur of the moment to defend our hobby.

With that in mind, I asked Hugo if it would be okay for me to address this topic in a special Tarantula Controversies. After all, we all get asked this question at some point, and hopefully this article can serve as a go-to resource on the subject. For those who have read my other Tarantula Controversy articles, I usually try to present the arguments in a point/counterpoint format. As I honestly don’t agree with the other side one iota, I’ll be spending the majority of the time defending the hobby in this article. Continue reading

Psalmopoeus irminia “Venezuelan suntiger” Husbandry Notes

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…

P. irminia (c) Dallas Beck

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. Continue reading