Caribena versicolor (Antilles pinktoe) Breeding Notes … and Babies!

Spoiler: The Breeding Was a Success!

For those interested in possibly breeding the Caribena versicolor in the future, here is an account of my pairing. All in all, it was a rather simple endeavor from start to finish, and I would encourage others to try it. And for those looking to acquire some of these little blue beauties, be sure to read to the bottom of the article…

The Pairing – November 26, 2017

In November of 2018, I paired my mature female Caribena versicolor with a mature male lent to me by Tanya at Fear Not Tarantulas. I had raised this female from a sling, and she is currently about 5 years old. She was fed very well leading up to the pairing and was quite plump before the breeding attempt. I have never attempted to breed her before this pairing.

Upon opening both enclosures, the male, who was incredibly active, came right out and approached the female within 30 seconds. The female appeared startled at first, and a quick “scuffle” ensued which caused the male to back off for a few moments. However, he quickly regrouped and approached her again, and she was very receptive. After a very brief courtship in which they entangled legs and the male tapped on her a bit, they coupled. I observed two insertions before the two disentangled and the male calmly walked away. I did not try to pair them a second time, as I was pretty sure the first pairing was successful.

The entire event took only about 5 minutes total from beginning to end. The female showed no aggression toward the male and did not try to consume or pursue him when they had finished.

The Female Makes a Sac – December 27, 2017

About two days after the pairing, the female webbed herself up completely in a funnel web down the side of the enclosure. Although she had webbed up a bit of a “chamber” for her last molt, she thickened the sides, especially on the Plexiglas, and closed off the ends. I tried offering her crickets the day after she was bred, but she showed no interest in eating.

Caribena versicolor

On December 28th, I noticed that she had finally created an egg sac. This sac was about 1″ in diameter. During the incubation period, I kept her enclosure on a high shelf that ranged in temperature from about 78° F to 80°F.  I kept her water dish full, and once a week I would open the enclosure and use a large bottle with holes in the top to simulate a rain shower. I would use this technique to moisten part of the substrate so that enclosure wouldn’t become too dry.

For this breeding, I chose not to pull the sac and instead left it with the mother. She continued to care for it perfectly during the incubation period, constantly rolling and moving it to keep the eggs from sticking or getting crushed. She was an excellent mother throughout the entire process.

2nd Instar Spiderlings Emerge – February 18, 2018

Finally, I came down on the morning of February 18th to find that several little blue 2nd instar slings had emerged. Over the next three days, the rest of the brood freed itself of the sac, and little blue spiderlings lined the entire inside of their mother’s web den.  Instead of immediately spreading out and leaving the web, the slings huddled together while the mother stood over them.

As the mother’s enclosure offered several means of escape for the tiny slings, including gaps and vent holes, I had to sling-proof it before any of the little ones could get away. I used some cheesecloth and clear cellophane tape to cover up the vents and gaps. The cheesecloth kept the slings inside without restricting ventilation.

Despite my best efforts, I apparently missed a corner, and I woke up one morning to find a sling’s toe poking from the breach. With the slings now starting to spread out and wander a bit, it was time to separate and house them.

Separated and Rehoused the Slings – February 21, 2018

We started by carefully opening the cage and removing the mother. Using a paintbrush, I coaxed her away from the slings and into a deli cup. Although she was reluctant to move, she did not become defensive or nasty. With mom out of the way,  Billie and I spent the next hour getting the slings out of the web and into their enclosures (dram bottles and small deli cups). Fortunately, the slings didn’t attempt to scatter, but instead congregated in groups as they tried to hide. This made things MUCH easier. We had placed the mother’s enclosure inside a large Sterilite container in case the babies tried to bolt, but it never became an issue.

When all was said and done, we had 148 lively slings! Being 2nd instar, the slings were very active and ready to eat. I gave the ones I kept a couple days to settle in and to start webbing before offering the first meal. For the first feeding, I used pinhead red runner roaches, which I prekilled and dropped in each sling’s webbing. So far, all have eaten twice.

Versi Babies for Sale!

Unfortunately, with all I have going on with the blog, YouTube channel, and now my podcast, I don’t have the extra time I would need to raise and sell my own slings. Although several folks have inquired about buying directly from me, that’s just not practical for me at this time. However, for those who want to get their hands on a couple of these gorgeous blue slings, you’re not out of luck.

A few days after the slings were rehoused, we got a visit from Tanya Stewart and Rachael Pan from Fear Not Tarantulas. They picked up all but a few of the baby C. versicolors (I held onto five for myself), and they will selling them online from their store and at expos. Tanya is a very well-respected and trusted dealer in the hobby, and folks will have the option of getting more for their shipping money by possibly ordering other species from her diverse selection.  Even better, Fear Not is offering 15% off the price of a C. versicolor sling if you use the code “tom” at checkout. C. versicolor are always in demand, and the slings are going fast, so be sure not to wait too long if you want to grab one.

Moving ahead, I will continue to pursue breeding projects that interest me and with species there is a demand for.  At the moment, I’m hoping to have my M. balfouri and H. pulchripes both bred after what appeared to be successful pairings. I will obviously keep folks updated if and when anything develops!

Avicularia Genus Revision – A Quick Breakdown

Time to get out those label makers and to bid a fond farewell to your “Avicularia versicolor

At one time containing 47 species and two sub species, the genus Avicularia has long been in need of a revision. Many folks have patiently been waiting for some changes since 2011 when Fukushima first published her then incomplete thesis on the genus. Word quickly spread through the forums and social media that the paper may call for the creation of up to four new genera, and hobbyists couldn’t wait to hear the final result. However, with the original 2013 release date coming and going, serious hobbyists were long left to wonder about what changes this much-needed revision would bring. What would the new genera be called? Which species would be eliminated? How many species would remain? Continue reading

Avicularia versicolor – Pre and Post Molt Comparison

Just one word…WOW!

VERSICOLOR-MOLT

My young adult A. versicolor before (left) and after (right) a recent molt.

Yesterday, I noticed that my juvenile A. versicolor was looking very picturesque sitting atop its cork bark, so I decided to snap a couple pics. As I was loading them up to resize, I couldn’t help but to look forward to her next molt. After all, this species undergoes some truly amazing and gorgeous color changes as it develops, and I couldn’t wait to see what new appearance the next molt would bring.

I didn’t have long to wait.

Today I was feeding my Ts when I noticed a discarded exuviae in the corner of my A. versicolor enclosure. I immediately took her down, unscrewed the top, and stared in awe at this beautiful specimen. Not only did this new shed bring with it stunning metallic green tones on the legs and even more on the carapace, but her abdomen was finally showing some of that beautiful adult maroon/red.  She also put on a fair amount of size this time around, becoming both longer and thicker. As luck would have it, I was able to catch her in almost the exact same spot, providing for a wonderful before-and-after size comparison.

There is a reason this little arboreal beauty is recognized as one of the most stunning tarantula species!

 

Avicularia Versicolor (Antilles or Martinique Pink Toe)

A.-versicolor

 One pretty little arboreal…

Despite being very common and established in the hobby, there is perhaps no tarantula available right now, save maybe the T. blondi, that causes owners more stress over the husbandry than the A. versicolor. When I first got into the hobby, I was immediately amazed by this gorgeous arboreal, which starts as a stunningly-blue sling and morphs into a fuzzy, multi-colored adult.

However, my research into its husbandry proved to be frustratingly confusing and contradictory. On one side were the keepers that said this species was difficult to keep due to strict humidity requirements. On the other side were folks who argued that humidity was not as important as good cross ventilation, and that a stuffy, humid cage would prove to be a death sentence for this animal.

Then, there was also the constant mention of SADS, or “Sudden Avic Death Syndrome”, the name of the phenomena where a seemingly healthy Avicularia (often a versicolor) suddenly dies for no apparent reason. The message boards were rife with stories of these little blue spiders curling and dying suddenly and without an obvious cause.

Although these reports made me a bit gun-shy to try this species, I eventually caved and picked up a .75″ sling from Jamie’s Tarantulas. It’s been almost two years since I acquired my Versi, and I’ve found her to be a very rewarding tarantula to keep.

Avicularia versicolor

Avicularia versicolor

It’s all about the ventilation

When I first received my little blue versicolor, I was convinced that this fragile little girl would inevitably perish in my care. As Jamie had listed this species as her favorites (and had experience with them), I chose to house this specimen in one of Jamie’s Arboreal spiderling enclosures. These clear rectangular cages sported a round 1″ vent in the front and offered good ventilation (although, no cross ventilation). I used about an inch of moist coco fiber substrate in the bottom and a tall piece of cork bark to encourage webbing. My little versicolor was quick to create a web funnel between the cork and the side of the enclosure, and she spent most of her time in this hide.

Now, about that humidity… Although the substrate started off moist, it soon dried out. As time went on, I would moisten one corner of the enclosure by dribbling water on the web and the coco fiber about twice a week (I did not mist). Occasionally, I would see this specimen drink from water on the web. Although I was still very concerned that the humidity wouldn’t be high enough, the little girl seemed to be thriving in these conditions. She ate very well and was molting every two months like clockwork. Even during the winter months when my furnace was bringing humidity down to the teens, she still ate and molted regularly.

In my experience, high humidity is NOT necessary for older specimens. In fact, many now believe that stuffy, overly-moist enclosures are a death sentence for this species. Instead, good ventilation seems to be key. Once my avic reached about 1.5″ or so, I added a water dish and stopped moistening the substrate. Now that this specimen is about 3.75″, she is kept on dry substrate with the only humidity provided by her water dish.

For temperatures, my A. versicolor was kept between 70 and 76 degrees during the winter and between  72 and 84 during the summer. I did not notice a large difference in growth rate between these two periods. In these temperatures, this species grows at a medium pace, going from .75″ to about 2.5″ in 11 months time. She is now about 3.75-4″ or so, and it was about five months between the latest molts.

A modified Ziploc container that I use to house my A. vesicolor juvenile. Holes have been melted into both sides to provide cross ventilation. A piece of cork park has also been provided for a hide.

A modified Ziploc container that I use to house my A. vesicolor juvenile. Holes have been melted into both sides to provide cross ventilation. A piece of cork park has also been provided for a hide.

A gorgeous spider with a healthy appetite.

From day one, this tarantula has been an awesome eater. As a sling, I would usually use tweezers to load a tiny red racer roach into the bottom of its funnel web to make it easier to find prey (a couple times, I dropped a prey item in on the substrate only to find it alive a few days later). After several months, this cute little girl would come right to the edge of the funnel web whenever I opened her enclosure and take the item right from my tongs. Learned behavior? It sure seemed like it…

A.-versi-NEW-1

As she put on some size, I needed only to drop the item in, and she would eventually locate it. This T has proven to be a veracious eater, taking down larger prey items with ease. Like many of my Ts, this one only refuses a meal when in promolt. She currently feeds on smaller large crickets, and it’s always fun to watch this cute little beauty stalk and take them down.

A stunning tarantula and a must for any collection.

Although she was quite skittish as a sling, my little versicolor is definitely calming down with age. Instead of bolting into her web when I open her enclosure, she now waits patiently as I drop a prey item in or perform maintenance. It has also been very rewarding watching the color changes on this specimen as she has molted, and I eagerly await her adult colors. The A. versicolor is a lovely little gem of a species that, with the right care (ventilation!) will thrive and delight for many years.

 

These pics were literally snapped about 12 hours apart. Obviously, there was a molt in between.

These pics were literally snapped about 12 hours apart. Obviously, there was a molt in between.