DKS (Dyskinetic Syndrome) in Tarantulas

In February of this year, I purchased an A. insubtilis which I later had sexed as a male. After being housed in his new enclosure, this gorgeous guy settled right in, eating immediately. He proved to be a voracious eater, quickly stalking medium-sized crickets and violently subduing them before feeding. After a couple months, he stopped eating, signaling the beginning of his premolt.

My 2" male A. insubtilis shortly after being acquired in February.

My 2″ male A. insubtilis shortly after being acquired in February.

Three weeks passed, and I came home to discover that he had molted while I was at work. I noticed that his exuvia was still slightly attached to his abdomen, so I moistened the area and used a cotton swab to gently remove it. After a week, he took down and ate his first pre-molt meal. Despite the slight molting difficulty, the little guy would be fine.

Or so I thought.

My A. insubtilis just moments after I used a Q-tip to remove a stuck patch of Exuvia from its abdomen.

My A. insubtilis just moments after I used a Q-tip to remove a stuck patch of Exuvia from its abdomen.

While feeding some of my other Ts last week, I noticed that my male A. insubtilis was walking a little strangely. As he lifted each leg, he seemed to shake it as if something was stuck to his toes. I watched him for a bit before chalking it up to normal T behavior.

The next day, it was much worse, and I realized that my poor guy was exhibiting signs of DKS, or Dyskinetic Syndrome. DKS is a series of symptoms characterized by jerky motions, loss of coordination, and an inability to eat. It most often ends in the death of the tarantula. Although no one is completely sure what causes DKS, some theories are pesticides (including flea and tick treatments for dogs and cats), micro organisms infecting the T, mold, or other toxins.

I’m not sure if the molt had anything to do with his development of DKS, or whether it was other factors that caused it. I only mention it as it was something abnormal that occurred just before he started exhibiting signs.

Below is a video of my poor A. insubtilis exhibiting signs of DKS. Notice the movements each time I touch the side of the enclosure. Normally, I wouldn’t mess with a T in obvious stress, but in this case, I wanted to get a short video for records and to show others. It’s not fun to watch, and it’s a bit graphic (my wife can’t stand to see it).

My little guy is definitely losing the fight, and although I put him into a tarantula ICU (deli cup with moist paper towels and elevated humidity), he’s starting to slow down and curl up. I fear the “death curl” is not far behind. As I do not like watching anything suffer, I’m considering euthanizing him before it gets worse.

Click HERE for an an update on this T. 

L. parahybana – Pre and Post Molt Pics

Mama’s Got a New Fuzzy Suit!

First off, if you haven’t read my earlier post about my L. parahybana female entering premolt, then you may want to check this out.

I’ve been watching this young lady like a hawk since she went dark, and I was hoping that I could get a good photo of her freshly molted. Well, as luck would have it, I actually caught her laying down a molting mat before flipping over on her back. A few hours later, she was standing next to her discarded molt sporting a new skin suit with darker colors.

Besides her new colors (you can now see the salmon hairs that give this little beauty her common name) my little lady picked up about .5/.75″ of length. I will now spend the next few weeks fattening her back up.

My 3" LP female before a molt.

My 3″ LP female before a molt.

Was lucky enough to catch my LP as it flipped on its back for a molt.

I was lucky enough to catch my female LP as it flipped on its back for a molt.

My female LP an hour or so after she completed her molt. Notice the bluish color of her new and not-quite-hardened exoskeleton.

My female LP an hour or so after she completed her molt. Notice the bluish color of her new and not-quite-hardened exoskeleton.

My female LP stretching out in her new exoskeleton.

My female LP stretching out in her new exoskeleton.

My female LP having her first meal after a recent molt. Notice that she now sports the salmon-colored hairs that give the LPs the common name "Salmon Birdeaters"

My female LP having her first meal after a recent molt. Notice that she now sports the salmon-colored hairs that give the LPs the common name “Salmon Birdeaters”

This is easily one of my favorite species of tarantula, and every molt is just a thrill. I’ll be looking very forward to watching her grow into the 8″ to 9″ beast she’ll eventually become.

Lasiadora parahybana Premolt

What a difference a day makes.

After my L. itabunae molted, undergoing a drastic color change in the process, I decided it would be fun to post a before and after picture. I went through my phone, looking for a shot of my T before its molt, sure that there must be one in my collection of pics.

Nothing.

Somehow, in all of the excitement of receiving and rehousing my new pet, I forgot to snap a picture.  Although I had the molted exoskeleton, I didn’t have the pic of the spider wearing it.

So, not wanting to repeat my mistake, I made sure to snap a couple extra pics of my female L. parahybana before she molted.

My 3" LP female.

My 3″ LP female.

As luck would have it, I managed to catch her the day before her abdomen severely darkened up due to premolt. The following pictures show her yesterday evening, and then today. Notice the much darker coloration of her abdomen, an indication of her new exoskeleton developing underneath. I’m hoping that she’ll inch closer to her adult coloration with this next shed.

LP in early premolt. Notice the bald abdomen due to hair kicking.

LP in early premolt. Notice the bald abdomen due to hair kicking.

I would expect her to molt sometime next month, and when she does, I will definitely be posting new pics. I’m very eager to see what changes in size and appearance this next shed will bring.

LP one day later. Notice the abdomen has turned much darker. She is definitely in premolt.

LP one day later. Notice the abdomen has turned much darker. She is definitely in premolt.

Lasiodora itabunae

A couple months ago, I saw a listing for Lasiodora itabunae slings on Ken the Bug Guy’s website, and I was immediately intrigued. I hadn’t heard of this species of Lasiodora before, and some research didn’t bring up much in terms of first-hand reports on their upkeep. Either they were fairly new to the hobby, or just hadn’t caught on with enthusiasts. As I own three Lasiodora parahybana’s and love them, I decided it would be fun to try out one of its relatives.

My L. itabunae a week after its most recent molt. It morphed from a light reddish-brown to steely blue with red hairs on its abdomen.

My L. itabunae a week after its most recent molt. It morphed from a light reddish-brown to steely blue with red hairs on its abdomen.

I ordered what was supposed to be a 1.5 inch L. itabunae, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my new acquisition was just over three inches (thanks for the upgrade, Ken!). At the time, the spider was a light, reddish-brown with a very bald, fleshy-toned abdomen. I set him up in his new enclosure, and he ate immediately. I was instantly impressed by the ferocity and speed in which it attacked and subdued its prey.

After reading a handful of firsthand husbandry accounts, I set the enclosure up identically to my L. parahybana, with a cork bark hide, dry coco fiber substrate deep enough for burrowing, and a water bowl. Temperatures are about 70 at night and 78-80 during the day. When watering it, I let the water overflow a bit, but I never spray it for humidity.

It became apparent very early on that this spider was going to be a voracious eater. It spent only a week hiding meekly in its core bark burrow, then it sat boldly on top of it, seemingly waiting for me to drop a cricket in. Twice, it caught the prey before it could hit the substrate. The other times, it would bolt across the cage, snatching the cricket in the blink of an eye. Next to my P. cancerides juveniles, this might be my favorite T to feed.

My 4+" L. itabunae likely waiting for its next meal.

My 4+” L. itabunae likely waiting for its next meal.

About two weeks ago, my itabunae molted, and the transformation was amazing. Not only did it pick up close to an inch of size, but it also sported brand new colors. The reddish-brown was replaced by a beautiful steely blue, and its abdomen was now highlighted by red hairs. He’s a truly gorgeous T.

My L. itabunae stretching out after a recent molt.

My L. itabunae stretching out after a recent molt.

For folks interested in large terrestrial Ts with easy care requirements and an awesome feeding response, consider L. itabunae. I will definitely be looking to acquire more slings of this amazing species.

 

C. cyaneopubescens (GBB) Molt

One of the most colorful and visually striking tarantulas available is the Chromatapelma cyaneopubescens, also know as the Green Bottle Blue or GBB for short. I purchased my first GBB as a sling back in October of last year, and have since picked up another. Over this six month period, my first GBB has molted four times, growing from a .75″ sling to a 2+” juvenile. With each molt, it has acquired more and more of her adult coloration. This weekend, it molted again, and along with about .25″ of growth, it’s also picked up a bit more of the adult orange on its abdomen and slightly darker legs below the femurs.

 

My C. cyaneopubescens before its recent molt

My C. cyaneopubescens before its recent molt

 

My C. cyaneopubescens on its back during a molt.

My C. cyaneopubescens on its back during a molt.

 

My C. cyaneopubescens after its recent molt.

My C. cyaneopubescens after its recent molt.

Unfortunately, the last picture was shot through some of the web, which mutes some of the colors through the milky veil. It now has much more orange on the abdomen, and it really pops much more than I was able to capture in this photograph. I will be eagerly awaiting to see what coloration changes the next molt brings.

Orphnaecus philippinus – Philippine Tangerine

My juvenile O.philippinus.

My juvenile O.philippinus.

A sleek, secretive Tarantula, and a unique-looking species, the Oprhanaecus philippinus, or Philippine Tangerine, is a species that should enjoy more popularity in the pet trade. From the Philippines, this old world tarantula and obligate burrower thrives in warmer and more humid conditions. Unlike many terrestrial species, O. philippinus have lithe frames with long, slender legs, a pill-shaped abdomen and an overall sleeker build. At a max length of around 6″, this is an impressive animal. A gorgeous orange/tangerine color overall, these Ts have shorter hair, which gives them a very soft, velvety appearance.

My 2+" O. philippinus hiding in its den a week after molting.

My 2+” O. philippinus hiding in its den a week after molting.

Despite being an old word species, my O. philippinus slings would much rather flee to their burrows than stand and fight. They are obligate burrowers, and they require deep substrate so that they can construct  suitable dens. This is a species that requires a more humid climate, and for them to thrive, they do need slightly moist substrate. When presented with two starter dens, one on the dry side of the enclosure and one on the moister side, both of mine chose the moist side to create their homes.

For substrate, I keep them on a mixture of coco fiber and peat moss with a bit of vermiculite mixed in on the bottom to help maintain moisture. I will then sprinkle water in occasionally to keep the surface just a bit moist. The majority of the water will percolate down the sides of the enclosure keeping the lower levels more damp than the upper levels. This allows my T to burrow and chose the level of moisture it needs. I also allows for water to evaporate more slowly, keeping the humidity up.

Once its den is constructed, the O. philippinus will wait just inside the entrance hole for a prey item to stumble by. When the unfortunate insect is sensed, the O. philippinus will launch out of its hole, ambushing the insect and grabbing its meal. It will then drag the item back into its den so that it can eat in private. In my experience, they are voracious eaters who will only refuse a meal when in premolt. When mine were about 2″, they had no problem taking down larger crickets. I feed them appropriately-sized cricket or roach every three days or so.

As far as a downside for these wonderful creatures, there are few. Humidity and moisture requirements can make the husbandry a little trickier. Moisten substrate too much, and you run the risk of creating hospitable conditions for mold and mites. Keep it too dry, and your O. philippinus is likely to dehydrate. Moist substrate AND proper ventilation is key. They are also VERY fast, and can go from crouching in a corner to out of the enclosure in a blink of an eye. Keepers not used to keeping faster species could find this shocking.

For temperatures, they are kept at mid to low 70s although they will thrive at temps in the low 80s as well. As with most species, higher temps will bring faster metabolisms and growth rates. I’ve kept mine for about a year, and in that time they have gone from 1.25″ slings to 3.5″ sub-adults. I have not noticed a significant difference in growth rate between the winter months where they are kept mid to low 70s and the summer when temps are high 70s to low 80s.

O.-philippinus-Jan

O. philippinus Pulling a Cricket into It’s Den

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLGd8t02hsk Because they spend the majority of the time in burrows and normally venture out only at night, sightings of your prized pet may be rare. Personally, I enjoy the thrill I get when I catch one of my slings out and about; or when I witness one snag a prey item. They are an amazing , beautiful, and unique tarantula that would make an excellent addition to any collection.

Euathlus parvulus (Formerly Paraphysa parvula)

Note: The species formally called “Paraphysa parvula” is now to be called “Euathlus Parvulus.” Paraphysa is no longer valid. This article has been amended to reflect this change in taxonomy. 

The Euathlus parvulus (formally Paraphysa parvula), or “Chilean Gold burst” as it’s commonly referred to, is a beautiful little T from Chile. Reaching a medium size of around 4″, these tarantulas generally have a calm, sweet disposition. I purchased my girl as a sub-adult from Jamie’s Tarantulas in October of 2013, and she has become one of my favorites.

My 3.5

My 3.5″ female P. parvula.

I keep my E. parvulus identical to how I keep my G. porteri. She is housed in an 8″x8″x16″ acrylic cage with bone dry coco fiber substrate, and water dish, and a cork bark hide. Temps for her high 70s during the day and a drop to high 60s/low 70’s at night. This T does well in lower humidity, and does not warrant overflowing the water dish or moistening the substrate.

Her behavior would likely earn her the dubious title of “pet rock”, as she enjoys just sitting out in the open in one spot for long stretches of time. Very occasionally, she will actually use her cork bark for a day. Still, there is something about her calmness that I rather enjoy, and she’s the only tarantula I own who I would describe as dainty.

Check out my girl in the video below.

I once read a forum post in which a E. parvulus was referred to as “a typical big brown spider.”  Not true at all, although I would concede to truly appreciate the beauty of this species, you need to get them under a light. In the right lighting, E. parvulus sport some amazing colors and distinguishing features. This spider’s carapace is a stunning gold, lending the inspiration for its common name, and its legs sport white hairs that give them a shimmering silvery appearance. The abdomen is covered with reddish hairs that rise in a series of diagonal ridges converging on a mirror patch. As evidenced by the photo below, E. parvulus are anything but a plain brown.

A 3.5

A 3.5″ P. parvula under the light. Notice the very striking and varied tones.

Although I can’t speak for slings, my female is a great eater and has yet to refuse a meal. I currently feed her a variety of items, including crickets, superworms, dubia roaches, B. lat roaches, wax worms, and meal worms. She hasn’t demonstrated a preference, as she quickly snatches up whatever is provided to her.

For those looking for a more active T, the E. parvulus’ sedentary lifestyle might be a bit of a turn off. However, those looking for T with a gentle disposition, easy care requirements, and a pretty appearance would find a P. parvula to be a welcomed part of their collection.

A note about “At a Glance”: The temperatures and humidity levels listed are what mine is most often kept at and are in no way meant to be be “ideals”. The humidity in my home can drop to the teens in the winter or be as high as 90% during the summer.

 

Euathlus sp. red

I will admit, when I first read about the Euathlus sp. red (Chilean Flame), I was immediately turned off by the word “dwarf”. Having kept a G. porteri for over 16 years, I was now learning about the truly amazing varieties of tarantulas available, and I was particularly intrigued by the species that offered impressive sizes. Somehow, a T that would max out around 3.5″ didn’t really appeal to me. My interest in Ts had yet to graduate from the “I want something huge and impressive” stage, and I was consequently overlooking some species due to size alone.

Still, as I frequented Arachnoboards, reading about other keepers’ experiences with these wonderful animals, my interest grew. Although there were some negatives—slings were notorious for refusing food, and their adult counterparts we also prone to fasting—there were many positives. Those who owned them gushed about Euathus sp. red’s gentle and inquisitive nature and its understated beauty.

Euathlus-sp.-Red-WEB

Euathlus sp. Red adult female 3.5″

Around early December, my wife and I decided that we would get my two middle children (8 and 10) each a tarantula for the holiday. They had been both showing plenty of interest in the hobby, and we thought them capable of caring for them with supervision. As luck would have it Jamie’s Tarantulas was offering sub-adult Euathlus sp. reds for the holiday, and I remembered their reputation for being a wonderful beginner’s species. I bought one for each of the kids then, almost as a after thought, grabbed a third for myself.

Check out my girl in the video below!

It didn’t take long for us to discover why those who kept Euathlus sp. reds gushed about the species. This tarantula can best be described as curious and inquisitive. While almost all of my Ts bolt or hide when I open their enclosures, all three Euathuls sp. reds come calmly up to the breach and try to climb out. It’s not a mad-dash escape, or a fear-induced exodus—no, it’s more like a, “Hey, what’s going on out here?” stroll.

Although I make it a point to not try to handle my Ts, I’ve found myself in an impromptu handling session with mine several times. Whenever I open its enclosure for maintenance or a feeding, mine will calmly crawl out of the hatch and onto my hand. Once there, she normally just cozies up to my thumb and hangs out. The behavior is quite adorable, and dare I say it, this is the one T I keep that I have no reservations about calling “cute”.

Euathuls sp. red after she crawled out of her enclosure and into my hand. Note: I normally do not handle my Ts

Euathlus sp. red after she crawled out of her enclosure and into my hand. Note: I normally do not handle my Ts

A word of caution, however; although they normally present a calm, gentle demeanor, these little guys can really bolt when spooked. Once, when startled, mine scurried down my hand and back into its enclosure in the blink of an eye. It served as a reminder of why great care always needs to be taken to ensure the safety of a the T when attempting to handle.

Speaking of  speed, these guys can be amazingly fast and aggressive eaters. Mine have only refused a meal when in premolt, and generally exhibit a strong feeding response. I once saw mine leap at a roach from a few inches away; to say the sudden display of spider athleticism stunned me would be an understatement.

Their husbandry is quite simple; mine are kept in round Kritter Keepers with a diameter of about 1o” and a height of about 4″. These give them a little extra space to explore, which they do quite frequently. I do, however, make sure that there isn’t too much distance between the top of the enclosure and the substrate. These little guys will climb, and you don’t want them injured or killed from a fall. For substrate, I use a dry cocofiber with a bit of vermiculite mixed in. They have a small water bowl, which I overflow a bit, and access to fresh water at all times. This can prove to be a bit challenging, as they just LOVE to bury their bowls. All are also provided with hides, which they have generally used only during premolt. The humidity is kept low, and temperatures range from mid 70s during the day, low 70s at night.

For those looking for an excellent beginner T with a lot of personality and easy care requirements, you can’t do much better than the Euathlus sp. red. They also possess an understated beauty that makes them wonderful showcase pieces; the reds that give them their common name of Chilean Flame really pop after a molt. Their gentle disposition, inquisitive nature, and small stature also make them wonderful ambassadors to folks who fear large spiders.

 

Aphonopelma schmidti Molt

Back in October of last year, I was perusing the Jamie’s Tarantulas website when I noticed a species listed that I hadn’t seen before. The Aphonopelma schmidti (Superstition Mountain Tarantula, among other more colorful common names) being offered was a 1.75-2″ female. I was immediately struck by the beautiful earthy tones of the adults—stunning blonds and rich reddish-browns—so I did some research on the personality and husbandry requirements. Described as a shy, somewhat skittish T, the A. schmidti required dry substrate deep enough for burrowing, low humidity, and room temperatures. Perfect. As the females posted on Jamie’s site generally don’t last long, I quickly purchased her.

A. schmidti

A photo of my A. schmidti shortly after I acquired her in October of 2013.

When she arrived, I was immediately captivated by her giant abdomen, which seemed ridiculously out of proportion when compared to the rest of her body. After setting up her enclosure, being sure to add enough dry coco fiber to allow her to dig, I allowed her to sit and acclimate to her new surroundings. As stated in the accounts I had read, she immediately started digging and bulldozing her enclosure. However, unlike other burrowing species I keep, she never seemed quite satisfied with her work. Several times, she would completely bury herself for a few weeks, only to pop up again later through a brand new den entrance. Over the course of a month, she buried her cork bark hide, a plant, and two water dishes.

Despite her mammoth rump, she did not appear to be in premolt and still ate. She did prove to be a bit of a finicky and shy eater, as she would often run from crickets or roaches that were put in alive and kicking but would readily take a pre-killed one placed at the mouth of her burrow. In late December, she refused a meal, signifying that she had eaten enough and, possibly, had begun her premolt period. I couldn’t wait to see what she would look like with a fresh exoskeleton. So, I waited…

…and waited…

…and waited…

…and waited.

January passed, then February, then March. Let’s just say, Aphonopelma’s distinction as slow growers is well deserved. Over this time, I made over a dozen more acquisitions. And as some of my other Ts molted three times, warranting rehousings, my little A. schmidti sat in the corner of her little burrow, only emerging periodically to drink or to endlessly rearrange her substrate.

Then, finally, it happened. Last Friday, as I was getting ready for work, I noticed that she was upside-down. When I returned home that evening, it was to a freshly-molted T(FINALLY!).

A. schmidti post molt

My A. schmidti three days after a long-overdue molt.

With her tones becoming closer to adult coloration, I was reminded of what attracted me to this species in the first place. She now sports a strikingly blond carapace, redish-brown hairs on the abdomen, and a lightening of the color on her legs below the femurs. Although I haven’t been able to get a good measurement yet, she looks to be about 2.25-2.5″. Again, a slow grower, but well worth the wait.

For those looking for an active, fast-growing species, an A. schmidti might not be for you. Although the non-stop digging and tunneling can be amusing, this is a T that can be quite secretive and will spend a lot of its time hiding in its den. Still, their husbandry is quite simple, and they are pretty little Ts who will likely outlive some of the faster-growing species, and when they do molt, it really is cause to celebrate. Personally, I think that the A. schmidti would make a wonderful first T for the patient keeper.

P. cancerides Fresh After Molt

P. cancerides Juvenile

Newly-Molted P. cancerides Juvenile (3″)

After just writing that I was excited to see how my two P. cancerides juveniles would look after their latest molts, I discovered that one had actually molted yesterday. In this photo, you can see the freshly-molted specimen standing next to its discarded exoskeleton. Not only did this particular T go from about 2.5″ to 3+” with this latest molt, but it is also now sporting more of an adult coloration. Gone are those beautiful blues replaced by a more muted blue-gray with striping and reddish hairs on the abdomen. Still, I’m loving this new look, and once again, I’m floored by not only the new length, but also the girth attained through this latest molt.

As its current enclosure is only about 4″ square, he/she will be getting  rehouse as soon as the new exoskeleton has hardened.