‘T’ Time Adoption/Rescue Facebook Group- And Interview with Samantha Miller

A brand new group hoping to fill a much needed hole in the hobby. 

Several years back, I got an email from a frantic hobbyist who was preparing to start his freshman year in college. With only a few weeks to go before he was to move into his dorm, he made an unfortunate discovery; this particular school didn’t allow any pets in the freshman dorm rooms. This young man had amassed a modest collection of a half-dozen or so tarantulas, and his mother, an arachnophobe, had already made it quite clear that the animals couldn’t be left behind. Instead of enjoying his last remaining days before starting school, this poor guy was desperately trying to find a new home for his beloved pets. He was even willing to part with them for free if they went to a good home, and he was hoping I might know of some place that would be willing to take his collection and ensure his animals got the proper care.

Over the years, I’ve received several similar emails from hobbyists looking for someone to adopt their pets, and I’ve usually directed them to the classifieds section of Arachnoboards or FaunaClassifieds. The truth is, although there are obviously a plethora of options for folks keeping warm-blooded vertebrates like cats, dogs, ferrets, etcetera, the options for invertebrate keepers are quite limited. Although a few shelters will take in the oddball invert, most know little about their care or are particularly interested in dealing with the “creepy crawlies.” I’ve heard of cases of people with one or two spiders donating them to a school science teacher or a friend or family member, but what does one do when she has several spiders? Or, perhaps someone has outgrown the hobby and recognizes that he no longer has the passion to keep these animals. Where should he go to get them new homes? Sure, Craigslist and the classifieds can work, but selling off larger collections can take time…and emergency situations can lead to strict deadlines.

Then there are hoarding cases or instances in which a keeper dies leaving behind dozens of pets that no one wants or knows how to care for. What happens to these animals after being confiscated by the authorities?

Well, now there may be a new option.

While chatting with hobbyist Samantha Miller, I learned about her idea to create an adoption and rescue service specifically for inverts. Within weeks, she had set up the ‘T’ Time Adoption/Rescue group on Facebook in an effort to see her idea come to fruition. With the membership numbers swelling and the group off to quite the auspicious beginning, I caught up with Samantha to learn more about this fantastic and much-needed new group.

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Samantha! 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

Tarantul.as – An Amazing New Image Sharing Site for Tarantula Enthusiasts

An interview with Jason Calhoun, creator of Tarantul.as

Recently, I got an email from Jason Calhoun, an experienced web developer and new hobbyist who was looking to debut an image-hosting website for tarantula enthusiasts cleverly called Tarantul.as. As I had never quite cottoned to Instagram, and I found using Photobucket to host the images I posted on message boards to be a bit of a pain, I was very intrigued. After all, a social networking site geared specifically towards posting tarantula photos seemed just too good to be true. Continue reading

The Best Tarantula Species For Beginners Revisited (Video Version)

“What is the best tarantulas species for a beginner?”

I’ve spent a lot of time answering this question over the years, and for those just dipping their toe into this amazing hobby, it’s an excellent and important question to ask. Several years ago, I wrote my article “The Best Tarantula Species for Beginners” in which I detailed the species I thought make excellent first tarantulas for someone just starting out. In this first version, I included only species I kept and cared for so that I could share my own experiences and anecdotes on them.  To be truthful, my opinions on some of the species (I’m looking at you A. chalcodes, A. avicularia, and B. vagans!) have changed over the years, so I’ve continued to periodically revise the original text to jigger the order and to add new species deserving of the title. With the post nearing 50,000 views, it was important to me that it remain current and accurate.

Recently, I had someone ask me about whether or not an Acanthoscurria geniculata (Brazilian white knee) would make a good first tarantula. This individual had never owned a tarantula in her life, was a bit scared of spiders, and had just begun doing research on their husbandry. When I informed her that I love the species, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to someone with no experience, she seemed a bit taken aback. Her reply: “Oh, but I just watched a YouTube video where the guy said it’s a good beginner tarantula.”

I was a bit surprised, as I know the species is popular in the hobby, but its size, skittishness, and reputation for being a bit ornery would make it bit too much of a spider for most novices. I asked for a link to the video, and was floored to discover that there were quite a few spiders listed that could give newbies fits, including several very fast and nervous species.

Look, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and that keeper is obviously free to post whatever he wants. In his defense, he did at least mention that the A. geniculata might be more on the intermediate side of things. I also know a couple keepers who started with this species and did fine, so it’s not outrageous to think that others might do the same. That said, after watching said video, I couldn’t help but feel like his list wasn’t composed with much thought or experience; instead, it seemed like he was trying to raise a couple eyebrows by making increasingly controversial choices with no real regard to standard or criteria. Also, instead of choosing species that would be appropriate for new keepers, he appeared to just be rattling off his favorite tarantulas.

In my opinion, a good “beginner” species should be a spider that can be kept by even the most green keeper without issue. I talk to a lot of folks who are either just starting out or who are doing their research in preparation for getting their first spider. Many are admitted arachnophobes who are hoping a tarantula might help them to quell their irrational fear. Some have never cared for an exotic pet before.  Then, there are the younger keepers, adolescents and teens still living a home with parents and siblings who are looking to get a cool new pet.

You’re really going to recommend a fast and feisty spider to these poor folks?

When making a list, it’s crucial to consider your potential audience. If you can’t picture a 12-year-old enthusiast or the older arachnophobe dealing with a certain species, then maybe it shouldn’t be on the list.

Does that mean that folks can’t start off with species considered to be more advanced? Of course not. It honestly depends on the individual and his or her personal skill set. I’ve heard many stories about keepers jumping in the deep end with baboon species and pokies successfully.  That being said, most folks just joining the hobby aren’t ready for that much spider.

And that’s where these lists become important…

So, with this video in mind, I decided that it was high time I made my own comprehensive YouTube video guide with an updated list of what I believe to be the top beginner tarantulas. I appreciate that my blog post on the subject may be a bit wordy and long-winded for some, and although I have husbandry videos for the species on that list, there was nothing with them all together. This new video would hopefully become a one-stop resource for those looking for information on where exactly to start in the hobby.

The Criteria

To create the following list, I first drew from my own experience and observations. I then reviewed several forum threads on good beginner Ts from three different message boards and recorded the species that came up the most.  I looked at three main criteria:

  1. Temperament – Although temperament can vary from specimen to specimen, there are some species that are generally considered to be more docile than others. As a result, I picked species that have a reputation for being calm and left off the faster, more skittish spiders.
  2. Ease of husbandry and Care – As many novices aren’t up to speed on husbandry, only spiders with easy care requirements were considered. The species on this list can all be kept at room temperature on dry substrate with water dishes and a hide. With the exception of the Avicularia, all of these can be kept in basic terrestrial set ups and do not have moisture requirements.
  3. Price and availability  Finally, most people just getting into the hobby don’t want to spend a lot on their spider, nor do they want to hunt high and low for a particular species. As a result, I tried to take availability into account.

It’s also important to mention that, although I don’t personally handle tarantulas for fun and I have written about the handling “controversy”, I know many folks who do. More importantly,  many of those I speak with that are new to the hobby think that handling is an essential part of keeping spiders and are therefore intent on handling their new pet.  As a result, I assume that whoever might read this list will likely be looking for some hands-on time with their tarantula. Although I mention handling in the video, I’m not encouraging it, but merely recognizing that it can and will happen. Remember, temperament varies from specimen to specimen, and just because a species has a reputation for being tractable doesn’t mean that your spider will tolerate handling.

As always, I encourage folks to go out and seek other keeper’s opinions. Although I feel strongly that my picks are good ones, they only represent one keeper’s perspective. If you have a question about a particular species, as always, don’t be afraid to ask someone who actually keeps that spider.

Now, on to the video!

 

Tom Patterson – Dealer/Breeder Review (100% Positive!)

Possibly the best tarantula ordering experience I have ever had.

My new N. tripepii female courtesy of Tom Patterson.

My new N. tripepii female courtesy of Tom Patterson.

When people order tarantulas online, they generally go to the major vendors. Folks like Jamie’s Tarantulas, Pet Center USA, and Swift’s Invertebrates have stellar and well-deserved reputations for carrying a variety of stock and for their dependability and professionalism. The fact is, when buying and shipping living animals, you want to make sure you order from the best. Due to the volume of animals these larger dealers move, there are always plenty of glowing reviews to read if one does just a bit of research, and their names quickly come up in any search for those selling tarantulas.

However, what often gets overlooked is that there are many awesome breeders out there who have been in the business for a long time and who offer great service with spectacular deals. Some of these same dealers are the ones who supply stock to the “big name” vendors as well. Unfortunately, these folks can be a little more difficult to find, especially for those new to the hobby who don’t know where to look.

Tom Patterson (aka “Philth” on Arachnoboards) has been in the business for a long time, and he has a sterling reputation. Although I’ve come close to ordering from him many times due to his propensity to carry some of the more unique species I’m looking for, I didn’t pull the trigger until recently when I saw that he was selling some Vitalius paranaensis juveniles for a great price. After going through his recent price list, I found that he had several species I was interested in, and that it was finally time to place an order from him.

Boy, am I glad that I did.

Tom carries a good variety of tarantula species, including many that he breeds and produces himself. Those into other inverts will also find some cool arachnids, like trap doors and true spiders, as well. As far as tarantulas go, he has a good mix of some hobby staples, like G. pulchripes, Hapalopus sp. “Colombia large”, and P. cambridgei as well as unique and hard to find spiders like V. paranaensis, P. crassipes, and Aphonopelma crinirufum . For folks looking for larger sexed specimens, he regularly posts young adult females for sale as well.

His prices were great, with the $25 P. crassipes slings, $50 4″ Sericopelma sp. “Santa Catalina” juveniles, and the $50 3″ P. muticus juveniles really jumping out at me. I also grabbed up a 5″ Nhandu tripepii sexed female, as I had been eyeing this species for a while. Tom doesn’t currently have a website, but instead periodically lists his stock on the For Sale section of Aracnoboards or in the Captive Bred Inverts – Classifieds on Facebook. Ordering was simple; I emailed him a list of the species I wanted to order, and Tom responded immediately with a Paypal invoice. Tom’s communication was excellent, and all of my emails were answered within an hour.

My new L. crotalus being rehoused. This unique species was one of FOUR freebies.

My new L. crotalus being rehoused. This unique species was one of FOUR freebies.

Because weather in my area was quite cold, we both decided it would be in the best interest of the animals to wait to ship until we got a few days of higher temps. During the wait time, I asked to add another spider to my order, and Tom was happy to accommodate me, quickly sending me a new invoice. When it looked like we’d get a stretch of warmer temps, Tom contacted me immediately to arrange shipping. He was happy to have my package held at my local FedEx facility (in fact he encouraged it), and my spiders were shipped overnight promptly.

What an amazing box of spiders.

All of my new animals arrived safely and in great shape. The box was foam lined and contained a heat pack, and each of the spiders was packed in its own vial, which was wrapped in multiple layers of newspaper, then cushioned with packing peanuts.

And, what could make this transaction even sweeter? How about FOUR freebies. FOUR. For those who watch the video above, my shock is genuine. I’m used to getting some of the “give-away” species like LPs and B. albos, but what he included was unreal. Added to my order was a 3″ P. muticus, an L. crotalus juvenile, a Lampropelma sp. “Borneo black” sling, and a Phlogius sp. “Eunice” juvenile.  What was already going to be one of the coolest boxes of spiders I’ve ever received was just made twice as cool by the awesome freebies.

Just WOW.

3" P. muticus juvenile rehousing.

3″ P. muticus juvenile rehousing.

Take the chance and order directly from breeders

My experience ordering from Tom Patterson was utterly perfect. Even if you took out the extra four (again FOUR) freebies, this would still be an excellent deal and transaction all around. Great selection, prices, communication, and packing made this purchase and amazing experience. There isn’t a doubt that I’ll be ordering from Tom again in the future, and I would encourage anyone looking for tarantulas to check out his listings.

NOTE: To view Tom’s Arachnoboards Classifieds posts, you have to be a member and signed in. If the link doesn’t open, I would encourage folks to create an account if only just to be able to view the For Sale/Trade/Want to Buy section. I will also be blogging his price lists whenever he posts one.

http://arachnoboards.com/threads/theraphosids-mygalomorphs-true-spiders.280239/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tom.patterson.351?fref=pb_friends

Tom’s Current Price List:

Thereaphosidae spiderlings

Aphonopelma cf burica “blue chelicerae” (AKA Aphonopelma crinirufum )
1″ $40.00

Augacephalus ezendami
2″ $30.00

Chaetopelma olivaceum
1″ $25.00

Cyriocosmus bertae
1/8″ $20.00

Grammostola pulchripes
2″ $30.00

Heterothele gabonensis
1/4″ $25.00

Kochiana brunnipes
1/8″ $15.00

Lampropelma sp. “Borneo Black”/Phormingochilus sp. “Borneo black”/ Lampropelma nigerrimum arboricola
3/4″ $25.00 each

Pamphobetues fortis
3″ $50.00

Pelinobius muticus
3″ $50.00 each

Phlogius crassipes
1″ $25.00

Phlogius sp. “Eunice”
2″ $45.00

“Phrixotrichus” scrofa ( Paraphysa scrofa)
1″ $20.00

Poecilotheria smithi (suspected males)
4″ $60.00

Psalmopeous cambridgei
1″ $20.00

Pseudhapalopus spinulopalpus
1″ $40.00 each

Sericopelma sp.”Santa Catalina”
4″ $50.00

Vitalius paranaensis
2″ $50.00

Thereaphosidae females

Hapalopus sp. “Columbia large”
3″ $85.00

Heterothele villosella
3″ $75.00

Nhandu tripepii
5″ $179.00

Poecilotheria tigrinawesseli
5.5″ $200.00

Mygalomorphae

Cyclocosmia torreya
1.5″ $40.00 each

Macrothele calpeiana
1/4″ $30.00 each

Araneomorphae

Africactenus poecilus
Hatchling $10.00 each

Ctenidae sp. “Cameroon Red Fang”
1″ well started taking crickets $25.00 each

Cupiennius salei
Hatchlings $25.00

Heteropoda hosei
1″ well started taking crickets.$25.00

Heteropoda sp. “burgundy”
1″ well started taking crickets $25.00

Heteropoda sp “Sumatra violet”
Hatchlings $15.00

Kukulcania hibernalis WC females
2″-3″ $19.00

Viridasius sp.”Madagascar”
Hatchlings, taking crickets $25.00 each

Terms of Service
Live Arrival Guarantee
Purchase price must be over $25. Payments accepted , Paypal ( Tompatterson77@gmail.com ) or Postal money orders. Shipping is $40 overnight FedEx only. Live arrival guaranteed. You must accept package on first delivery attempt. Temperature must be below 90°F or above 40°F. Must be 18 or older to purchase. U.S. sales only.
Refund Policy
Issues with shipment must be reported to me via (email, phone, Facebook) by 8 PM the night off delivery. Photo’s of DOA’s must be provided, or the deceased animal must be shipped back to me within 24 hours of receiving the package, at the purchasers expense. Refunds are money back without shipping cost reimbursed, or replacement spiders of equal value shipped at the purchasers expense. Not responsible for carrier delays. Freebies do not fall under the LAG

M. balfouri Husbandry Video

So, earlier this week I was a bit disappointed when one of my Monocentropus balfouri young adults molted into a mature male. Although the little guy is gorgeous with his metallic blue carapace and legs, it means he won’t be with me all that much longer.

Well, yesterday I was delighted to discover that one of my others molted, and it’s a girl! The little beauty was stretching out on the surface, so I took the opportunity to get some photos and this quick husbandry video.

If I were to make a list of best entry-level Old World tarantulas, the M. balfouri would likely be right at the top. This fossorial species is very simple to keep, needing only deep, dry substrate and a water dish to thrive. Mine do well in temperatures in the 70s, although higher temps would lead to faster metabolisms and growth.

Temperament-wise, they are quite calm compared to some of my other baboon species. I’ve found these guys to be more skittish than defensive, and to date I’ve only received one threat posture from any of them. When startled, they will usually just bolt to their dens and hide. That said, temperament can vary from specimen to specimen, and this species is quite fast and can pack a wallop of a bite, so caution is always advised.

Even better, of all of my fossorial species, my balfouris are usually quite visible, venturing out at night to hunt and sometimes just hanging out on the surface. This isn’t your standard “pet hole”, which is great as they’re just too darned pretty to spend all of their time hidden.

Although I feel like I tend to ramble a bit in all of my videos, this one might be even worse do the impromptu nature of it. I was basically snapping photos of this little girl when it dawned on me that I should get a video before she retreated to her den again. So, with little preparation, I set to it. You’ve been warned!

Tarantulas – The Application

Tarantulas-The-App-Title-fl

Simply the BEST application for tarantula record keeping!

For those of us who get seriously bit by the hobby and find ourselves keeping dozens of these fuzzy little arachnids, a conundrum soon presents itself.

How do we keep track of data?

Many hobbyists find it necessary to track feedings, molts, enclosure cleanings, temperatures and other observations about their pets. This information can prove very useful in recognizing patterns and behaviors and for noticing when something might be amiss. What is the average time between molts for a certain specimen? What was the feeding schedule during that period? Was there any difference in growth rate when the temps dropped for the winter? These are all some questions I’ve actually posed and answered using data.

When my collection first grew from one specimen to 10, I found it easy to record feeding and molts on the family calendar. However, my Norman Rockwell wall calendar was soon so filled with tarantula names and observations that we didn’t have room for birthdays. It quickly became apparent that I would need a better way of recording and organizing my data.

I would need to do some homework.

I hopped online and Googled “tarantula journal” and “tarantula record keeping”, but my searches really didn’t yield much in the way of results. It looked for a while like I would have to come up with my own system using a notebook to journal. It wasn’t until I signed onto Arachnoboards one day and noticed a simple little post that all of that changed.

“So I made an application…”

The main page displays all of your tarantulas (names are customizable)

The main page displays all of your tarantulas (names are customizable)

That was the thread’s title, and I was immediately intrigued as I clicked on the link to read more. Reading the post that described this app, my excitement built. An app designed specifically to track tarantula data? Unlimited slots for larger collections? To say that I was excited as I quickly clicked the link to download this app would be an understatement. After installing it on my Kindle Fire, my excitement only grew as I played around with the program and familiarized myself with its many outstanding features.

Did it offer the ability to track feedings, molts, and date of acquisition?

Yes.

Could you add photos of your specimens?

Yes!

Were you able to select venom potency and behavior, each with its own handy symbols?

Yes, yes, and Yes.

Customizing listings for all of your tarantulas is simple.

Customizing listings for all of your tarantulas is simple.

And there is just so much more. The app’s creator, Erick Banaag, didn’t just stop there; he continued to tweak, improve, and perfect this tool. Over the last couple years, Erick listened to user feedback and suggestions as he continued to evolve the program to include more and more information and features. The result is the most comprehensive tarantula app ever offered. The amount of data it allows you to track is just staggering, and the number of available components will appeal to both the novice and expert tarantula keeper. Whether you have 10 tarantulas or 100, this amazing little app has something for you.

I’ve been using the app for well over a year, and it’s worked flawlessly for me (and even if I ever did find a bug, Erick has continued to provide support and updates for the program, so a fix is always on the way). I’ve actually made it an integral part of my ritual for receiving new tarantulas. After unpacking and rehousing my latest acquisitions, I take a picture and add the new specimens to my app. 

With the latest version of this stellar application now available, I reached out to Erick to find out a little more about the creation of this wonderful tool and the man behind it.

TBS: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us! To start off, I guess the first thing folks are wondering is how did you get the idea for the tarantula app? How did this project come around?

Erick: To be honest, it is not my original idea. When I started with the hobby I found a free app that allows for only a few entries and you’ll have to pay to get more slots. As cheap as I am, I decided to make my own. I wasn’t really planning on releasing the app to the public since it wasn’t my idea and it was around 70 to 80% similar, but I’m happy I did. It has now grown so much and a lot of the features were from user suggestions. Without users’ input/suggestions, the app would not be what it is now.

TBS: How does one go about creating an application? Do you have previous programming experience?

Erick: I’m a software consultant in a small company here so I do have software development experience. 🙂

TBS: Were there any challenges in creating an application with so many features and so much customization? The amount of information it allows you to track is staggering, so I imagine that all of these features didn’t come without a fair share of programming headaches.

Erick: I did have to learn android development, but I already had some background of the programming language used.

Starting was the difficult part since I don’t have a lot of knowledge with the android platform. But after everything was setup, the programming wasn’t really that bad. The only problem that I encountered is the notification for feeding calculation part which has three customizable settings and I think it still has some bugs in it. 😉

TBS:  Something that has really impressed me having downloaded this app early on is just how much work you’ve done to constantly improve upon it. You have your own dedicated thread on Arachnoboards in which you announce new versions and take feedback from the keepers who actually use it. About how many versions have there been, and how many hours do you spend on each version?

Erick: Since the debut, there have already been 55 version releases. I usually spend around 8 to 10 hours, depending on the update; maybe longer if there are big changes to be done. Or even under an hour for really small quick fixes.

TBS:  What type of response have you received from the app? Everyone I’ve encountered has loved it. I’m assuming the response has been quite positive?

Erick: So far the majority are positive responses. I also get emails every once in a while letting me know how happy they are with the app, which also makes me very happy.

TBS: Which devices does the app currently work on? I’m a bit of an iconoclast with my Windows phone, so I use the app on my Kindle Fire (and it works fantastically).

Erick: The list of compatible devices on my website is currently based on user responses and email messages. But based on the three app stores that the app is currently listed in, it should be compatible with the majority, if not all, of the android devices available on the market as long as they are running android 2.1 and up.

TBS: Are there any plans for an ios version in the future?

Erick: I’ve been planning to port the app to iOS, but unfortunately my time and, most importantly, knowledge of the platform is very very limited.

TBS: With all of the revisions you’ve made to this application, I can only imagine that you’re currently working on the latest additions and fixes. Can you tell us or hint at what might be coming next?

Erick: Unfortunately, my to-do list now is mostly bug fixes with only one update, which is a request I got from Arachnoboards. If you use the feeding feature by long pressing an entry in the list, the request is to make it so that if you press on one side, it will update the feeding date. Press on the other side, and it will update the watering date.

I sometimes get emails or even Facebook private messages from users suggesting features but now most are bug reports.

TBS: If I’m not mistaken, you currently live in the Philippines. When I first started my blog, I was surprised to discover that many of my visitors are from the Philippines (third only to views from the United States and UK). In the US, tarantula keeping is still a bit of a niche hobby that is currently gaining more popularity. How popular is the hobby in your country? Where do folks get their tarantulas? Mail order, local pet stores, etc?

Erick: I would say the hobby is still young here in the Philippines though getting more and more popular at a really fast pace.

Tarantulas are easy to find here, if you know where to look for them. There are plenty of selling groups, and finding a seller close by is pretty easy. Some would do mail orders for rare species that only a few big dealers would sell through the mail.

TBS: One of my favorite tarantula species is the Orphnaecus philippinus, a species native to the Philippines. Do you keep any of the indigenous species you can find there?

Erick: I currently don’t own any local species. My focus is shifting to arboreals, and I’ve been searching for local arboreals, which seem to be very difficult to come by.

TBS: I figured that anyone who would spend hours programming an app for tarantula keepers probably had tarantulas himself. What species do you current keep?

What is your favorite species (or genus)?

Erick: I currently own 26 tarantulas, majority are old worlds and about half are arboreals which are mostly Poecilotheria species. So I have to say my favorites are pokies. 🙂

TBS: Again, Erick, thank you so much for your time! I’m sure I speak for many people when I say thank you for all of your hard work on this app. I can’t wait to continue to watch it evolve and, hopefully, reach even more keepers.

Find this application now on the main site , or on Google Play!

For those interested, you can follow the update thread on Arachnoboards.

Supported Devices:

Samsung Galaxy Spica running 2.1
Samsung Galaxy S3
Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung Galaxy Note
Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0
Samsung Galaxy Tab S
Samsung Galaxy Ace Plus S7500
Amazon Fire HDX 7 WAN (3rd Gen)
Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 (3rd Gen)
Amazon Fire HD 8.9 WAN (2nd Gen)
Amazon Fire HDX 7 WiFi (3rd Gen)
Amazon Fire HD 8.9 Wifi (2nd Gen)
Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 WAN (3rd Gen)
Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 WiFi (3rd Gen)
Amazon Kindle Fire (1st Gen)
Amazon Kindle Fire (2nd Gen)
Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 (2nd Gen)
HTC One
HTC One Mini
HTC One (M8)
Lenovo IdeaTab A1000
LG Nitro
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A Word about Tarantula Bites

Feels Just Like a Bee Sting…If the Bee was 7″ Long!

When I decided that I was going to acquire some new tarantulas after keeping a G. porteri for many years, I started researching some of the other species that were now available. Although I remembered that, back in the 90s, there were some feisty and defensive species available that were very quick to bite, I also recalled many books and dealers saying that a tarantula bite was “no worse than a bee sting.” As legend had it, these giant spiders actually had very mild venom, and bites were described as no more than painful inconveniences.

I had always secretly wondered about the accuracy of this statement even as I naively regurgitated it to family and friends who asked about tarantula bites. After all, there were just so many species available; surely one of these had more potent venom than the others? Still, the internet was still in its infancy at that time, and accurate information on tarantulas was a bit more difficult to come by.

Years later, as I prepared to bring more of these creatures into my home, a home I share with my wife, four kids, and three dogs, I decided to research this theory. After all, I didn’t want to endanger my family and beloved pets due to laziness and ignorance. It didn’t take me more than five minutes into a Google search to realize that this statement was far from true. 

Sure, a bite from a small New World species could probably be compared to a painful bee or hornet sting, albeit one that could sting with two stingers at once. However, this statement COMPLETELY fails to take into account three very important points:

  1. Larger tarantulas have larger fangs, and this means more potential for mechanical damage.
  2. Tarantula fangs are not clean, and a bite leaves puncture wounds, meaning increased chance for secondary infection.
  3. Old Word tarantulas have much more potent, medically significant venom than their New World counterparts.

Those are three VERY important points, and three that no hobbyist, whether new or established, should ever forget.

Downplaying bites in an effort to protect the hobby.

Recently I’ve come across some social media posts in which keepers are bragging about taking bites from their pet tarantulas. In a couple of these incidents, the keeper was on an alcohol-fueled quest to demonstrate his supposed masculinity by handling a defensive T. I’m not going to address these instances of unadulterated jack-assery  (although it may be fun to call out some of these brain-dead adrenaline junkies in another post!).

Instead, I’d like to focus on a couple folks that made careless keeper mistakes and paid with painful bites. In both of these instances, the keepers took photos of their injuries and downplayed the seriousness of the bites. And, in both instances, the keepers assured anyone reading that tarantula bites were “harmless” and not much more painful than bee stings.

Now, I appreciate that the keepers didn’t sensationalize the bites in a way that made them seem worse than they were. And, as both were bitten by New World species, I’d imagine the pain from the venom wasn’t particularly bad. However, anyone not familiar with tarantulas would read that statement to mean all tarantula species’ bites are that mild.

And that is just not the case.

I definitely applaud anyone who makes a point to show that tarantulas are not as scary as most people make them out to be, and I agree completely that they do not deserve their reputation as dangerous little monsters. However, I do think that one must be educated about their bites, the varying potency of venom between species, and the consequences one could face if he or she is bitten.

Therefore, a little more explanation is needed about their bites (and the potential harm they can cause).

Yes, it’s true that New World species lack potent venom.

Species from the Western Hemisphere (North and South America and the Caribbean islands) are referred to as “New World” tarantulas. These tarantulas have evolved to have “urticating hairs”, or barbed, highly irritating “hairs” that they can kick from their abdomens in way of defense. As a result, these species of tarantulas do not need particularly potent venom to defend themselves. Don’t be mistaken, these spiders can and will bite if provoked. It’s just their venom won’t cause much more than localized pain and swelling.

All of the more tractable and beginner-friendly species, like G. porteri, B. albopilosum, G. puchripes, and G. pulchra are all New World tarantulas, and these species, consequently, are the ones most handled in the hobby. Generally speaking, when one gets bit by one of these species, the victim suffers little more than pain, swelling and bleeding, and they usually describe the injury as mild.

In this case, the “bee sting” analogy would probably work. Unfortunately, that statement paints a VERY incomplete picture. Let’s take a more in-depth look at those three points every tarantula keeper should be aware of:

1. The size of the tarantula sometimes matters more than venom potency.

I was once reading a message board post in which the owner of a 8″ T. stirmi asked how potent the venom of that species was just in case he got bit. I had to snicker a bit, as this poor chap was overlooking a very important fact: a T. stirmi that size has at least 3/4″ fangs. Venom aside, fangs that large could do massive physical damage to a finger, hand, or any part of the body.

T. stirmi fangs. Photo copyright of Thaddeus.

T. stirmi fangs. Photo copyright of Thaddeus.

Sure, the venom itself might not do more than sting a bit, but those two large puncture wounds are sure going to smart. And just imagine if one of those fangs were to hit a tendon; now you’re looking at a serious injury that would likely involve surgery.

Again, this does NOT happen often, but it’s something that should be considered when working with large New World species like G. pulchripes and A. geniculata or some of the larger genera like Phormictopus and Pamphobeteus. Potent venom or not, a bite from a larger, full-grown tarantula is going to be a very unpleasant experience and would definitely cause more damage than a simple bee sting.

2. There is always risk of infection

A bite from a tarantula essentially leaves one or two puncture wounds, and this type of injury is much more prone to infection. With a puncture wound, foreign contaminants and bacteria are driven deep into the flesh. Although the wound may not bleed much and may heal quickly on the surface, the superficial healing only traps the contaminants inside the wound, allowing them to fester. The depth of the wound and the type of foreign bodies on the object that caused the injury can both affect the chance of infection.

Now, just take a moment to picture your favorite tarantula feasting on one of those dirty crickets. Heck, just take a moment to consider the environment it lives in. Whether you use cocofiber, peat, or just plain dirt, you would hardly be able to describe your T’s enclosure as a sterile environment. As much as you try to keep that enclosure clean, your T’s cage is harboring unseen traces of fecal matter and decaying organic material. And you can bet those fangs are covered with things you would not want injected into your body.

It’s often stated that there are no records in modern times of a human dying from the venomous bite of a tarantula. Do a search, and you’ll find that, for the most part, this quite true. However, there are few reports of individuals dying, not from the venom, but from complications from the bites. In one instance in the late 19th century, an individual bitten by an Old World species of tarantula succumbed to gangrene after the wound became infected. In another report from 1901, a farmer bitten by a large spider described as a “tarantula” eventually died from blood poisoning.

Although these instances are dated and obviously quite rare, and proper medical attention should prevent a fatal outcome, a serious infection, especially from an untreated wound, is a realistic possibility.

3. Old Word species pack a wallop of a bite that can be both excruciating and debilitating. 

Old World species (tarantulas from Asia, Africa, India, Australia, etc.) are known for having MUCH more potent venom that is often referred to as “medically significant.” Unlike their New World counterparts, these species rely on their venom as a defense mechanism, and they are very willing to bite to protect themselves. Some species are also known to bite repeatedly, leaving several wounds and pumping in even more venom.

Although this venom won’t kill you, the effects can be brutal and in some cases, can last for months. The “fun” starts with immediate localized pain that some have described as a 10/10; that pain then works its way up the extremity, affecting more of the body. Those who have sought medical treatment for this pain say that nothing prescribed touches it. Then there can be the other “fun” symptoms, including:

  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • heart palpitations
  • disorientation
  • shortness of breath
  • low blood pressure
  • excruciating full-body cramping
  • chest cramping
  • difficulty breathing
  • lingering numbness

So, you won’t die from the bite, but you could be visiting a hospital and you WILL be completely miserable. Even worse, some folks report that symptoms like cramping and dizziness can last for days or, in the worst cases, months. For first-hand accounts of tarantula bites, check out the Bite Report section of Arachnoboards.

Old word species commonly available in the hobby that are known to pack potent bites are the P. murinus (OBT) or any “baboon” tarantula, H. maculata, H. lividum, H. gigas, any Poecilotheria species, and L, violaceopes. These species are all fast, defensive and, in most cases, not afraid to bite.

I’ve also heard some folks (mainly younger males) state that they are “prepared” for a bite from an Old World and are not afraid to get bitten. Well, take a look at the video below posted by Tarantulaguy1976 (and when you’re done, check out the rest of his amazing tarantula videos!). Rob C is an experienced keeper and a big, bad dude. Observing him as he describes his symptoms from a 10″ Poecilotheria ornata bite should convince anyone of just how severe an Old World bite can be.

As always, education is the key.

As a tarantula enthusiast, I do want people to realize that tarantulas are not the monsters they are often portrayed as. Can a tarantula kill you with the venom in its bite? No. However, I also think that the myth that all tarantula bites are “no worse than a bee sting” needs to be put to rest. It all depends on the species and the size of a specimen, and even a bite from a New Word species has the potential for more serious consequences not directly caused by venom toxicity.

These are wonderful animals and fascinating pets for informed and respectful keepers. That said, they are also wild, untamable animals that need to be respected and not trifled with. A responsible keeper will not only familiarize herself with the the consequences of a bite, but will also be sure to educate any family or friends who may come into contact with these animals.

Chilobrachys guangxiensis – “The Chinese Faun”

Not just another big brown tarantula

C.-guangxiensis-new

I generally put a lot of thought into the each species of tarantula I buy. Like many hobbyists, I have a long wish list of animals that I have thoroughly researched with the anticipation that I will one day acquire them. There are never impulse buys, and when I pull the trigger, it’s usually on something I’ve been eyeing for months. Every so often, however, I take a chance on a species that I’m not as familiar with and that might not have been in Tom’s Top Ten to Be Acquired list.

My C. guangxiensis was one of these species.

My first exposure to this tarantula came when I found a small juvenile female listed for sale at Jamie’s Tarantulas. Although I was familiar with this tarantula’s cousins, Chilobrachys fimbriatus and dyscolus, I had never heard of this Asian terrestrial with the seemingly unpronounceable scientific name.

I quickly Googled this spider and found that, although it didn’t sport the beautiful blues of a C. dyscolus blue, or the amazing tones and patterning of the fimbriatus, there was still something undeniably beautiful about this T.  When I discovered that the care of this species was the same as others from the genus, I decided to grab her up.

A gorgeous, sleek, velvety-brown species from southern China.

Like other species from this genus, the C. guangxiensis is a fast, slightly defensive obligate burrower that requires a bit of extra humidity and deep moist substrate to thrive. As this faster growing species, I afforded her a bit of extra room to grow and gave her a larger enclosure than I normally would for a spider that size. This also allow me more room for maintenance.

Her first home was repurposed 7.2 quart Sterilite plastic storage container that measured about 11″L x 7.5″W x 8″H. Both ends of the container are vented to allow for good cross-ventilation and adequate air flow. Although this species appreciates a bit of extra humidity, I’m always careful to avoid creating the stuffy, stagnant conditions that could harm or kill a T. I provide a water dish at all times for drinking and for added humidity.

When I received my female, she was about 2″, so I gave her an enclosure with about 5″ of substrate depth in which to construct a burrow. For substrate, I use a mixture of 40% coco fiber, 40% peat, and 20% vermiculite. I find that this blend not only holds moisture well, but it also absorbs water more readily when it comes time to moisten it back up. The sub is damp, but not wet; if you squeeze it in your hand, it will hold its form, but no water will drip out. Once a month or so, I will use a bottle modified to be a watering can to make it “rain” and moisten down half of the substrate.

A hide really isn’t necessary for this species, as if it is given enough substrate, it will quickly dig its own burrow. Before I added it to it’s enclosure, I just created a small hole/starter burrow in the corner. It quickly adapted this hole and used it to create its home. It now has two entrance holes and a large open den at the bottom of the enclosure.

I’ve observed no specific temperature requirements for this species. Mine is kept at 70-77° F during the winter and 75-84° F during the warmer summer months. She has eaten well in both ranges, although higher temps usually lead to higher metabolisms and faster growth.

Just add crickets and watch it grow!

The C. guangxiensis is a medium /fast growing species that can reach 7″ in size. My female has molted three times in the eight months that I’ve kept her, and she has gone from 2″ to about 3.5″. She is a voracious eater, taking down prey with lightning speed before quickly dragging it down into her den for consumption. As a juvenile, she was eating 3 medium crickets a week. Now that she is a bit larger, I’ve been feeding her two large crickets a week.

If there will be any knock on this species, it might be that it can be a bit of a pet hole. Of all of my obligate burrowers, this one might be my most secretive. I sometimes catch it out after the lights go out for the night, or early in the morning, but she will bolt back into her den at the slightest disturbance. This has made it very tricky to photograph. Still, when I see her out an about, it is a true thrill.

This one can throw down the silk.

It should be noted that some keepers have been successful keeping their Chilobrachys species on more shallow substrate with a hide. These species can be prolific webbers, festooning their enclosures with copious amounts of thick webbing. Specimens denied the opportunity to dig will build elaborate homes out of their webbing.

Personally, I like to let them burrow as the deeper depths of the substrate can provide them with a secure and more humid place to retreat to when frightened or when they need more moisture.

My C. guangxiensis has webbed up her entire enclosure with thick web. Even though she has a den, she will come out at night to lay down more silk, and she will often web the top of her enclosure shut. As a result, I open her cage several times a week to remove the webbing on the lid.

My C. guangxiensis' enclosure. I have to open this one quite often, even when not performing maintenance, as she will often web the top shut.

My C. guangxiensis’ enclosure. I have to open this one quite often, even when not performing maintenance, as she will often web the top shut.

A beautiful addition to an intermediate collection.

Unfortunately, with so many more colorful and easier to keep tarantulas available, including other members of the Chilobrachys genus, I worry that the C. guangxiensis sometimes gets overlooked. Pictures just don’t do this specimen justice, as its slick, shimmering coat and lithe, athletic build make it a stunning specimen in its own right.

And although I’ve seen many photographs that make it appear to be a simple, plain shade of brown, its true tones are difficult to describe and must be seen to be appreciated. For those used to Asian terrestrials, including their attitudes, speed, and care requirements, the C. guangxiensis would make a great addition to the collection.

 

 

 

 

C. cyaneopubescens Feeding Video

It’s been a while since I posted one of these!

While feeding my Ts the other night, I though it would be fun to catch the GBB eating on video. Usually, this little guy grabs its food with almost unmatched speed and ferocity…

This time? Well … not so much.

On this occasion, my guy took a little while to realize that he had a very edible visitor in his enclosure. And, when he finally made the grab, it was less than spectacular. Still, I think that it’s fun to see this gorgeous specimen in action.

Warning: Once again, I have four children and three dogs, and there is often quite a bit of noise in my house at any given time. As a result, I’ve replaced the cacophony of screaming kids and barking dogs with some melodious metal (it’s the only music I have saved on my computer!). If you’re not a fan of the harder stuff, please hit MUTE before playing!