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.

Grammostola iheringi (Entre Rios)

A gorgeous “grammy” with plenty of spunk.

G.-iheringi

About a year ago, I was perusing various topics on a tarantula message board when I came across a spider I had never seen or heard of before. The lucky keeper was posting photos of his newest acquisition, a 4″ female “Entre Rios.” With its bluish-gray body and bright red rump, it was a truly amazing-looking spider. I would later learn that the scientific name of this beautiful specimen was Grammostola iheringi, and it was a much sought after tarantula for many enthusiasts. After reading up on the species, including many accounts from those who actually kept this marvelous spider, I decided that I had to have one.

Fast-forward to just a couple of months ago. I place an order with my favorite vendor, Jamie’s Tarantulas, and due to unfortunate circumstances, one of the animals I ordered couldn’t be shipped. Being the amazing dealer that she is, she offered me a replacement that easily trumped my original purchase…a 2.75″ female G. iheringi. Since receiving her in early May, she has become one of my favorite specimens.

GWA … Grammostola with Attitude!

The first thing that impressed me about this species was its temperament. Those used to other slow-n-steady Grammostola species (porteri, pulchripes, pulchra, etc.) might be taken off guard with the much more high-strung iheringi. This species is quite leggy and seemingly much faster than its cousins, and many keepers have commented on its speed. Upon opening her shipping container to rehouse her, she bolted from deli cup and took two laps around her container before I could blink. This is definitely not a slow, calm spider.

Also, those used to other Grammostola species with more tractable natures should be aware that iheringis are quite skittish and can be defensive. While cleaning out a bolus in my spider’s enclosure, I was startled when she burst from her den, slapped at my tongs, then bolted back to her hole. Although I’m pretty sure that she was rushing what she hoped to be a food item, the experience was still quite eye-opening. This is definitely not a species I would risk holding, and care should be taken for feeding and maintenance.

The G. iheringi has a voracious appetite and will charge at prey with impressive speed and ferocity. Unlike my other Grammostolas, who will generally wait and ambush prey when it gets close, my iheringi will stalk and charge the crickets. I feed my 3+” female two large crickets a week, and she has no trouble taking down the larger prey. The only time she has refused food was shortly before a molt.

Although most Grammostola species are painfully slow growers, the iheringi grows at a medium pace. Mine has already molted once in my care, and because of her amazing appetite, she is quickly packing on the weight. During her last molt, she grew from about 2.75″ to just over 3″. Some consider this species to be one of the largest Grammostolas with a max leg span reaching up to 8″. However, most keepers report their reaching about 7″ in size. Still, that’s a fairly good-sized specimen.

A gorgeous spider with simple husbandry.

Care for this species is quite simple. I keep my female in a repurposed Sterilite plastic shoe box that has been well ventilated to allow for a cross current of air. For substrate, she has about 3″ of coco fiber and peat, and I provided a piece of black PVC pipe for a hide. I keep the substrate dry, but I do provide her with a large water dish for drinking and for keeping the humidity up a bit.

Like most of my tarantulas, she is kept between 70 and about 78° during the winter and 74-84° during the summer months. As with most species, higher temps will usually allow for a faster metabolism and growth rate. This is a long-living species, with females expected to live 20+ years.

My juvenile G. iheringi enclosure made from a re-purposed Sterilite container.

My juvenile G. iheringi enclosure made from a re-purposed Sterilite container.

G. iheringi enclosure set up. I used a piece of black pvc pipe with cork bark for the hide.

G. iheringi enclosure set up. I used a piece of black pvc pipe with cork bark for the hide.

A must for any New World aficionado

The most common complaint I hear about Grammostola species is that their sedentary lifestyles render them “boring” species to keep. This is definitely not an issue with the iheringi; this tarantula has plenty of spunk and personality. For a keeper accustomed to keeping more lively tarantulas, the G. iheringi is fantastic specimen and a must for the collection.

My female G. iheringi after a recent molt. Notice her tiny abdomen.

My female G. iheringi after a recent molt. Notice her tiny abdomen.

 

Aphonopelma chalcodes – The Desert Blonde

A-chaldodes-NEW

An Underrated North American Beauty

When I first began expanding my collection, I was so enamored with the hundreds of exotic species available from far away locales that I all but ignored some of wonderful tarantulas that could be found in my own county. As much as I hate to admit it, I paid little attention to the Aphonopelma genus, subconsciously designating  the species it contained as a bit mundane. After all, why keep a tarantula that I could essentially find in my back yard (well, give or take several thousand miles!) when I could have something found across the world?

Now that I’ve established a pretty good-sized and diverse collection, I’ve turned my attention to some of the species I might have previously overlooked. Although I’ve kept an Aphonopelma schmidti for over a year, it was only recently that I had a change of heart about this genus. While looking at a fellow collector’s photos, I was taken by the gorgeous earthy grays, browns, and blonds of these spiders, something I had long admired in my schmidti. Having already added an A. anax sling to my collection, I was keeping my eyes open for a A. chalcodes. When I found a young adult for sale, I jumped at it.

Temperatures and set up

The A. chalcodes’ natural range is in the Sonoran deserts of southern Arizona and northern Mexico, which experience two major rainy seasons in the summer and winter. Although this animal flourishes in dry conditions, it can definitely tolerate more humid climes. In the wild, this animal experiences high temps in the mid 80s in the summer, and lows of 52º F in the winters. A burrowing species in the wild, the A. chalcodes would avoid both of these extremes by retreating to its den.

With this in mind, I set my chalcodes up on four inches of dry substrate made up of a 50/50 mixture of coco fiber and peat. To stimulate its natural burrowing tendencies, I included a short section of black PVC pipe as a starter burrow. I also supplied a water dish and some sphagnum moss. I do not overflow the water dish. Currently, it does not use its burrow, but instead chooses to sit out in the open. This is perfectly fine by me, as this little blonde ball of fluff is quite the looker.

This is a species that does very well at room temperature. Mine is currently kept between 70 and 75º F; in the summer, this range will be between 75 and 85º F. For folks who have colder temps in their homes during the winter, this would be a good spider to consider keeping.

Species in the Aphonopelma genus are notoriously slow-growing, and the chalcodes is not an exception. Although keeping this animal at higher temps will stimulate its metabolism, leading to faster growth rates, you can still expect this spider to take many years before it reaches maturity. Males of this species are expected to live 5-8 years, dying a year or two after reaching sexual maturity. It is estimated that a female could live 25+ years.

Size, feeding, and temperament

The A. chalcodes is a medium-sized tarantula reaching a max size of about 6″. So far, mine has proven to be an excellent eater, and I’m currently feeding her 2 large crickets a week. However, I have noticed that my other Aphonopelmas seem to pick up on environmental factors during the late fall months, and they will forgo eating for most of the winter. In the wild, this species will spend the winter fasting in its burrow, so I wouldn’t be surprised if mine did the same once the temps drop again.

This spider is often recommended as a great beginners species due to ease of husbandry and a tractable disposition, and for the most part, this is a good tarantula for novices. However, behavior varies wildly between individual specimens. Many folks report their chalcodes being a bit more feisty and prone to biting; others keep specimens that are quick to kick hairs. This information is important to keep in mind when performing maintenance or interacting with your animal. My A. chalcodes can be a bit skittish, but she has yet to show me a threat pose or any defensive behaviors. Still, her bald abdomen is an indication that she may kick.

A-chalcodes-WEB

The A. chalcodes is a beautiful, relatively calm spider with easy husbandry requirements that make it a wonderful addition to any collection. If you’re a collector in the States, don’t make the mistake I did and pass up this little gem.

New England Reptile Distributors (NERD) – A Review!

NERD

NERD is not just for reptiles.

There’s a belief among many serious tarantula enthusiasts that if you’re going to buy tarantulas online, you should only purchase through a reputable tarantula breeder or vendor. Although many reptile dealers also peddle spiders (after all, the two hobbies are quite similar), many times it’s almost as an afterthought. Unfortunately, an expert in snakes does not an expert in tarantulas make, and although these folks usually mean well, they can sell overpriced stock that has not been kept optimal conditions. I’ve heard many horror stories about poorly packed spiders perishing in the mail, or of customers receiving animals of the wrong size, sex, or even species.

This is absolutely NOT the case with New England Reptile Distributors; it’s obvious that owner Kevin McCurley knows his tarantulas.

I’m usually weary of purchasing from businesses whose main focus is reptiles. However, while recently studying up on various species of the Phormictopus genus, I stumbled upon some P. atrichomatus slings for sale at New England Reptile Distributors (NERD for short). I immediately recognized the name from my days collecting snakes, and I remembered them having a stellar reputation. With that info in mind, I decided to place my first order.

Stock

I was immediately impressed by the selection that NERD offered. I expected to find a smaller listing of some of the more common species. Instead, I found a very large and diverse selection that included some hobby regulars as well as some rarer species, like the coveted H. pulchripes. Their prices, overall, were also quite good, and they seem to add new stock fairly often. I do hope they eventually put together a newsletter that announces new stock, but I’ve been on the site enough times now to recognize the new additions.

Communication and Customer Service

I reached out via email first to find out if they could hold my order until the weather warmed up, and if I could add to the order when it came time to ship. Kevin responded immediately, and was very friendly and helpful. He had no problem with holding my spiders until it was safe to ship, and had no issue with me adding to my order while I waited. As it turned out, it was over a month before the weather permitted shipping. During this time, we stayed in communication, and he always responded to emails immediately. I did end up adding a couple Ts to my order, a T. ockerti and an A. chalcodes, and both orders were combined with no issue. When I was ready to ship, the package went out that week.

Shipping and Packing

My tarantulas were shipped FedEx overnight for a very reasonable $35. My order shipped quickly, and I was emailed a tracking number. Kevin was even good enough to have my order held at my local FedEx facility for pick up.

Nerd-Box

My spiders were expertly packed in a foam lined box with a heat pack included. I loved that the heat pack was securely taped to the top panel of foam, keeping it from shifting during transit and cooking the spiders. The five vials and one deli cup that contained my tarantulas were safely nestled in crushed newspaper; they would have been quite safe if the package had been jostled or dropped.
Nerd heat packI’ve mentioned it other reviews, but how the spiders are packed into the deli cups or vials can make the difference between and easy or nightmarish transfer. My new acquisitions were perfectly packed in their travel containers, and they were very easy to rehouse as a result.

Nerd-Vials-in-box

Nerd-Vials

When I opened my box, I was delighted to discover that Kevin had included a freebie with my order. I now have a new 1.5″ Lasiodora parahybana sling to add to my collection. I love free spiders, so this was definitely a plus.

Condition of the animals

All of my new acquisitions were in great shape and had obviously been well cared for. All six of them we plump and well-fed, and they took to their new homes quickly. Five of them have already taken their first meal; the sixth, the LP, is in premolt. It is apparent that these animals received excellent care by the guys at NERD.

A. chalcodes from NERD.

A. chalcodes from NERD.

P. atrichomatus sling from NERD

P. atrichomatus sling from NERD

T. ockerti juvenile from NERD.

T. ockerti juvenile from NERD.

The guys at NERD know their tarantulas!

My transaction with New England Reptile Distributors could not have gone any better. Kevin was  a true pleasure to do business with, and it’s obvious that the guys at NERD know their tarantula husbandry. Their shipping costs were very reasonable, and their packing was excellent. This was an all-around excellent experience; I would recommend NERD to other tarantula hobbyists without reservation!

Sexing a Tarantula from a Molt – L. itabunae

It’s a girl!

A recent L. itabunea molt. The Epigastric furrow is circled in read, and the spermatheca (female sex organ) is outlined in blue.

A recent L. itabunae molt. The Epigastric furrow is circled in red, and the spermatheca (female sex organ) is outlined in blue.

At least, it’s looking that way.

After many ill-fated attempts in which I clumsily destroyed molts in an effort to sex a tarantula, I finally got one that I didn’t accidentally shred. When I noticed my Lasiodora itabunae laying down a molting mat the other night, I hoped that I might be able to get some good snapshots of its molting process. Well, not only did I get a few cool photos, but I was actually able to remove the molt within minutes of it molting (and before it dried out or was destroyed).

After removing the exuvia, I laid it out on a plate and sprayed down the the twist of abdominal skin to make it more pliable. Using a couple tooth picks, I carefully untwisted the thin tissue and spread it out so that I could clearly see the two sets of book lungs and, what I hoped, would be the female sex organs.

After I identified what I though what I thought was the spermatheca, or the female sex organ that serves as a receptacle for sperm, I posted the photo on arachnoboards to have others chime in. So far, the consensus is that it is a lovely young lady.

This is a particularly nice surprise as my itabunae has become one of my favorite Ts, and they are not particularly common in the hobby. This is definitely one of the species I would eventually love to breed, so having a female is a HUGE win for me.

I’ve got a couple more unsexed Ts getting ready to molt, and I hope to sex a few more soon. With any luck, I’ll have a few more females.

My L. itabunae laying down a molting mat.

My L. itabunae laying down a molting mat.

My L. itabunae on its back in the process of molting.

My L. itabunae on its back in the process of molting.

My L. itabunae just moments after fully casting off its old exoskeleton.

My L. itabunae just moments after fully casting off its old exoskeleton.

My L. itabunae stretching out a day after its molt.

My L. itabunae stretching out a day after its molt.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Tarantula Feeding – What, when, and how much to feed

P.-crassipes-eating

Now that I’ve got a tarantula, how do I go about feeding it?

Whether you have a dog, a cat, a hamster, or a pot-bellied pig, if you’re a pet owner, you’ve become accustomed to certain standards of care for your wards. For those of us who have kept these more domesticated pets, we are very used to feeding and providing fresh water to our pets daily, often more than once, and having a variety of conveniently-packaged foods available for their consumption. Most of these pet foods come with handy instructions on just how much to feed your pet, dependent upon the size of the animal. When our furry little friend doesn’t eat for a couple days, we take it as an immediate sign that something is very wrong and seek veterinary care.

Well, now you own a tarantula, and suddenly, all of the rules you’ve learned about pet care go right out the window.

No one sells “Tarantula Chow”, and there are a plethora of feeder insect that would make a good meal for your new pet. There are no “portions”, and determining what size item to drop in with your hungry spider can be cause for stress. As for a feeding schedule, some healthy adult species only need to be fed once a week. And if your T doesn’t eat for a while, it is no cause for immediately alarm. This is an animal that can go months at a time without eating and still stay healthy.

Tarantulas don’t come with instructions, and learning some of the rules and tricks around feeding them can be a stressful and tricky endeavor that involves experience and research. The message boards are often full of posts by newbies asking feeding-related questions like, “How often should I feed?” or “What size item should I offer?” Here, I hope to answer some of the most asked questions and give those new to the hobby one less thing to stress about.

I. Frequency of feedings:

There are a few important points to consider when coming up with a feeding schedule. The life stage of the tarantula, the size of the prey you are feeding it, and the species you are feeding should all be carefully considered when devising any sort of feeding schedule.

Sling? Juvenile? Adult?

Younger tarantulas, like slings and juveniles, are doing a lot of growing and are much more vulnerable than their adult counterparts. Slings are particularly fragile, and keepers report more sudden and unexplained deaths in the sling stage than in adults. In the wild, a spiderling  is particularly vulnerable to predators early in life, so it behooves the young T to eat as much as possible as often as possible so it can quickly grow out of this precarious stage. Therefore, most keepers choose to feed their slings as often as they’ll eat. For many, a feeding schedule of every two or three days for slings is perfect. However, if they are being offered a large prey item, once a week will certainly work.

A lot of folks express concern that they can overfeed a sling. Although some have insisted that a tarantula can become too fat, resulting in organ failure and molting issues, there has been no scientific proof of this, and most keepers believe it to be a myth. Most slings will chow down until they are ready to enter premolt, then they will stop. They will NOT eat until they explode. The only danger posed to a fat T is a possible abdomen rupture from a fall.

Once the tarantula reaches the “juvenile” stage at around 1.5-2″ or so, most keepers ease off on the feeding a bit. A spider of this size is usually out of its fragile sling stage, and growth at this point will slow down a bit. Although you can certainly continue with a more aggressive feeding schedule at this point (see “power feeding” below), it is no longer necessary. At this stage, I usually feed my animals a larger prey item once or twice a week.

For adult tarantulas, you need to also consider the species before settling on frequency. An adult Grammostola porterie/rosea needs only four or five crickets a month to be healthy. Conversely, an adult Therophosa or Pamphobeteus species would eat that in a single meal a couple times a week. Generally, the feisty tropical genera (Therophosa, Phormictopus, Pamphobeteus, Acanthoscurria, Nhandu, etc.) will need larger and more frequent meals.

As an example, my 6″ Pamphobeteus antinous female eats five crickets and one 1.5″ dubia roach in a single week. My 6″ female G. porteri, on the other hand, eats four crickets a month. Both species are healthy and plump, but the feeding schedule for one would definitely not work for the other.

Know the species of T you keep and listen to other keepers about its appetite. If you have questions, ask. Observe the feeding responses and growth rates to determine if more or less is needed.

A word about “power feeding”.

If you’re around the hobby long enough, you’ll hear folks talk about “power feeding” their tarantulas. Power feeding is when the keeper jacks up the heat and feeds his tarantulas as much as they will eat in order to grow them to maturity faster. This is usually done in an effort to get breedable adults as quickly as possible. Although this could shorten a tarantula’s lifespan as it is rushed through various instars (some males may mature in less than a year), there is no proof that this is harmful for the T.

II. What size feeders to use?

A.-theraphosoides

The size of the feeder being given to the tarantula can certainly impact the frequency that you feed the animal. Some keepers choose to feed their specimens smaller prey items more often. Others will offer their Ts much larger insects, then feed them only once a week or so. There is really not any right or wrong way, and the size and schedule comes down to the keeper’s discretion. Personally, I tend to feed medium-sized items a couple times a week.

Many keepers stress about the size of prey they should offer to their spiders. A rule of thumb many keepers use is that the prey item should be no larger than the abdomen of the tarantula. So, a juvenile with a abdomen length of about 5 mm would likely be comfortable with a pinhead cricket. Personally, I feed my slings and juveniles prey items slightly smaller than the total length of their bodies, and adults I feed items no larger than their abdomens. I’ve found that this works very well for me, although it is by no means law. Again, it comes down to the personal preference of the keeper. When in doubt, it makes sense to err on the side of caution and give your T smaller, more manageable prey.

Use your discretion.

Now, these are just guidelines, and it is okay for keepers to deviate from them. Case in point, some species of Ts will actually only attack smaller prey items. My M. balfouri and H. incei gold juveniles, for example, would only take much smaller prey for the longest time. Even when my balfouri juvies were about 1.75 inches, they would only attack small crickets. Conversely, my P. cancerides juveniles would easily take down sub-adult crickets at that size. Observe your Ts and their feeding habits, and feel free to go up or down a prey size as needed.

What to do for tiny slings?

For very small slings (1/4-3/8″ or so) small food can be very difficult to come by. Although B. lateralis roach nymphs can be a good alternative due to their small size, they are not always easy to come by. In these instances, it may be necessary to pre-kill and cut up a larger prey item into a more appropriate size. Spiderlings will scavenge feed, so this is a great way to make sure that they can eat as much as they want while not putting them in danger by dropping in an overly-large prey item.

Although this may sound a bit gross (and, well, it really is!), cutting the leg off of a larger cricket, or cutting a meal worm into smaller pieces is a perfect way to feed your tiny sling. Just carefully place the food chunk in the enclosure and, if the sling is hungry, it will find it. Just be sure to remove any excess the next day, as they may not consume the whole piece. If they don’t finish the item, you might want to wait several days before offering another item.

III. How many items should I feed at a time?

In the cases of slings and juveniles, I would say one prey item per feeding is completely appropriate. At this size, they usually have their hands full with an appropriately-sized food item, and adding a second would only serve to stress the animal.

For some adults, dropping in a more than one item can be an appropriate option. Personally, I tend to use larger insects, like dubia roaches, rather than bombard my tarantulas with a half-dozen spastic crickets. I’ve also seen animals become visibly agitated when more than one item is dropped in.

If you do drop in multiples, be sure anything that isn’t eaten is removed in a timely manner and that animal seems comfortable with taking down multiple feeders.

IV. What are my feeder options?

There are many possibilities when deciding what to feed your Ts. Personally, I find the many inverts available as feeders to be quite convenient, and I will often mix up what I feed my spiders to create a more diverse diet. Here are some of the more common feeder insects available as well as some pros and cons for each.

NOTE: Some folks supplement their larger tarantulas’ diets with vertebrates such as mice, geckos, and snakes. Personally, I’m not a fan of this. Besides being a rough death for the vertebrates, the mess left behind after the tarantula feeds can be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and pests.

CricketsCrickets: Crickets have long been the go-to feeder insect in the hobby. They are sold at most pet stores in several sizes that make them a convenient feeder insect for almost any size T, and they can be purchased in bulk for those with large collections. They can also be relatively inexpensive if purchased in large quantities. TIP: To keep extras alive, use a large critter keeper or modified plastic storage container, provide egg cartons for a hide, and feed dry oats or fish food. Humidity kills them, so I supply slices of potato for moisture.

PROS:

  • Available in every pet store
  • Convenient pinhead, small, medium, large sizes
  • Non-invasive if they escape

CONS:

  • They can smell quite horrible
  • Can be difficult to keep alive
  • Can eat a molting T
  • Can be pricey when purchased in small quantities

mealwormMealworms: Another readily-available food source for tarantulas. Not only can mealworms be purchased in many different sizes, but they can also be raised rather easily. Unlike other prey items on this list, they can be kept in a refrigerator, meaning you can keep some on hand for when you need them. They are also very easy to reproduce and raise (for a tutorial on how to start a colony, click away!).  TIP: These are a prey item that will dig (often to return later as a black beetle that the T won’t eat), so I will often crush the heads before dropping them in to keep them from burrowing.

PROS:

  • Sold at most pet stores
  • Can be stored in a refrigerator for future use
  • No odor
  • Very easy to raise

CONS:

  • A bit small for some of the larger Ts
  • Can burrow and disappear if given the chance.

SuperwormsSuperworms: Like mealworms, superworms are another beetle larvae that can make for a good tarantula feeder. They are relatively inexpensive, and their larger sizes make them a better choice for larger Ts. They can also be raised and bred in colonies for those interested in always keeping some on hand. However, it needs to be mentioned that these worms WILL bite and eat a tarantula. TIP: To prevent a superworm from injuring or killing a T, either cut off or crush its head before offering it.

PROS:

  • Sold at many pet stores
  • Larger sizes are great for large Ts
  • Can be bred in colonies

CONS:

  • Not all pet stores carry them
  • They bite and injure/kill a T
  • Are a little more involved to raise
  • Can’t be refrigerated for storage

B.-lateralisB. lateralis roaches: Also known as “rusty reds” or “red racers”, these roaches make a wonderful alternative to crickets. They are fast moving, bold little bugs that will stay out in the open rather than dig. Their propensity to explore and move around when dropped into an enclosure makes them a very attractive prey item for Ts. Adults are also a bit larger than crickets, making them a little better for larger Ts. These can be purchased online in bulk, or kept in colonies. TIP: These are fast little roaches who are quite good at escaping when given the chance. Unlike the next roach on this list, given the right conditions, this one could thrive and be a pest in the home.

PROS:

  • Readily available online
  • Don’t burrow
  • Fast movements seem to attract Ts
  • Can be raised in colonies
  • Nymphs are great for small slings

CONS:

  • Not normally available in pet stores
  • If they escape, they can breed in the home
  • Fast and tricky to catch

bdubiamaleandfemale5B. dubia roaches: This tropic roach species can hit sizes of 1.5-2″ making them a great feeder choice for larger tarantulas (I feed most of my large tropical species with B. dubia). They can be purchased as colonies (about $30 shipped), which will produce nymphs of many sizes, providing a food source for slings, juvies, and adults. The one main drawback to this species is that some tarantulas won’t take them. TIP: This roach will freeze and “play dead” when a tarantula approaches, often leading to the T passing it up. They can also dig and hide (I’ve had ones I thought were eaten reappear months later). To prevent either of these scenarios, crush their heads before dropping them in. This will cause them to wander aimlessly keep them from burrowing and playing dead.

PROS:

  • Easy and cheap to raise
  • Adults are large and great for big Ts
  • No odors
  • Won’t breed in most homes if they escape

CONS:

  • Some tarantulas won’t eat them
  • They can burrow and hide
  • They play dead when a T approaches
  • Not usually found in pet stores

These are just a handful of the feeder options available, and some ones that I have experience with. I know hobbyists in the UK often use locusts, which sound like a fantastic food source. There are also waxworms, earthworms, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and lobster roaches. Feel free to experiment with any or all of the available feeders; a diverse diet is always a good thing.

For a wonderful article about some pros and cons of crickets, B. dubia, and B. lateralis roaches, check out A Roach in a Coach is Still … Food !

V. How to feed your tarantula in three easy steps!

I often read about the strange, complicated, and often totally unnecessary rituals some keepers go through when they feed their Ts. Now, I’m not judging, and if it works for you, great. However, I do think that some folks make this process a lot more complicated then it needs to be. In most situations, a tarantula can be feed in three easy steps…

  1. OPEN the enclosure –  Be sure to know where your T is when you take this step, and only open the enclosure as much as you have to.
  2. Drop in the prey item – You don’t have to hold it in front of the T or make it dance with tongs. Just drop it in!
  3. CLOSE the enclosure – Make sure the cage in securely latched and closed.

Congratulations, your tarantula has been fed!

P. vittattaAll joking aside, there is no need to do anything other than what is described above. This is an animal that has evolved over millions of years; they wouldn’t have made it this far if they couldn’t figure out how to eat. Tarantulas are excellent hunters and, in most circumstances, they will have no problems detecting and snatching prey. Don’t worry about dropping the feeder right next to the spider either, as you will chance startling the T. I like to drop it across the enclosure from the tarantula to give it a chance to detect the prey animal and to get a chance to hunt. It is quite fascinating to see how the different species go about capturing their food.

It worth it to note that many tarantulas are nocturnal, so you may want to do your feedings at night before bed. If the feeder hasn’t been consumed by the next morning, remove it. That being said, I feed the majority of mine in the afternoon, and I’ve seen the majority of them, even the “pet holes”, eat.

VI. But what if it doesn’t eat?

If your specimen starts refusing meals, don’t panic. Tarantulas will often refuse food during premolt (read about premolt here), and some species will fast for long periods of time. This is an animal that can go months without eating and still remain healthy, so missed meals are no reason to freak out.

When a T isn’t eating, don’t keep dropping bugs in with it every day. Instead, wait a week or two, drop in a prey item, and watch to see if there is any interest. If the T doesn’t eat, take the item out and try again in another week. Always make sure that fresh water is available.

VII. Tongs are for maintenance!

Finally, in most instances, there is no need to tong-feed your tarantula. I hear so many people new to the hobby using tongs to essentially hand-feed their animals. In most cases, this is completely unnecessary and serves only to put the keeper and the T in danger. Not only can a spider injure a fang if it attacks the tongs, but they’ve been known to run up tongs to escape or bite their owners. And, as someone who keeps feisty and fast Old World tarantulas, trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to try tong feeding an OBT or a pokie!

When in doubt, ask!

This is a hobby in which research and, more importantly, experience brings confidence. Although many of the issues one might encounter when feeding have been addressed above, there are always situations that pop up that might be unusual or rare. Luckily, there are forums and sites like this one that you can go to for help and guidance. Before you panic, though, always remember that tarantulas are tough, adaptive animals that have survived millions of years of evolution and, sometimes, questionable husbandry.

Theraphosa stirmi (The Burgundy Goliath Bird Eater)

My young adult T. stirmi.

My young adult T. stirmi.

One of the true “bird eaters”.

Although there are hundreds of species of tarantulas currently available in the hobby, nothing seems to get folks more interested (or horrified) than talk about 12″ spiders. We’ve all seen the garish news reports and sensationalized nature shows that seek to disgust and shock rather than educate with reports of ferocious arachnids with leg spans the size of “dinner plates.” For the majority of “normal” people out there, a giant spider of this size is a thing of nightmares…

For the tarantula keeper, however, it is something to be coveted; an enormous spider that could easily become the jewel of a collection.

Years ago, the Theraphosa blondi, or the true “Goliath Bird Eating Spider” was the holy grail for many collectors. Pursued for its supposed legendary size (some folks bragged of specimens reaching 14″!), this giant spider became the Humvee of tarantula collecting. Sure, they were large, beefy, and came with certain bragging rights, but their difficult husbandry requirements made them a bit impractical. Specimens had to be kept in warm, moist conditions that made proper husbandry a nightmare. Kept too moist, the animals would die from the fetid conditions. Kept too dry, and they would perish during bad molts. For many enthusiasts, keeping this exotic T became more bother than it was worth.

With the introduction of Theraphosa stimi into the hobby, keepers were given a more practical and forgiving alternative to the T. blondi.  Easier to breed than its cousin, the T. stirmi not only became more widely available, but captive-bred offspring have proven to be quite hardy in captive conditions. With a max size and appearance almost identical to a blondi, this species has eclipsed its more difficult relative in the hobby.

Several months ago, I was able to purchase a sub-adult, likely wild-caught specimen, and I was immediately in awe of its size and appetite. Since then, I’ve procured two T. stirmi slings, which have each molted once in my care. Although requiring a bit more attention to husbandry than some of my other Ts, this species is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Moist substrate + good ventilation = Happy Stirmi

Ziploc 60-qt storage bin modified to house a T. stirmi sub-adult.

Ziploc 60-qt storage bin modified to house a T. stirmi sub-adult.

Before purchasing my T. stirmi sub-adult, I spent months reading all the notes I could find by those who have been successfully keeping this tarantula. Although most report that this species is much more hardy and less moisture and heat dependent than the T. blondi, there are still some requirements that make this giant a bit more difficult to keep.  The key to keeping this spider thriving is to supply moist substrate and adequate cross-ventilation.

Check out my T. stirmi husbandry video below!

Although many use 15-20 gallon long aquariums to house their stirmis, I didn’t feel that the glass sides would provide the cross ventilation that I would need. Also, the screen tops that one might normally use on a glass aquarium would allow too much vital moisture to quickly evaporate, meaning that I would either have to cover some of the screen, or replace it with vented Plexiglas. Instead, I kept a lookout for a plastic container that I could repurpose.

A tarantula this large needs a BIG home.

For housing, I chose a 60-quart Ziploc plastic storage box. Although more shallow than a 20-gallon long aquarium, it offered about the same amount of floor space. With six locking clips, it was also wonderfully secure, even for a T this large. I modified the container using 3″ plastic vents and strategically drilled holes (to see how I made this custom enclosure, click away!)

To make sure that my substrate would retain moisture (and allow for moisture to soak in when I needed to wet it down), I used a combination of top soil, peat moss, and vermiculite in about a 60/30/10 mixture. Before adding the main substrate, I also put about 1″ layer of vermiculite on the bottom of the enclosure and soaked it down. I then packed down about 6″ of moist substrate on top of that.  This helps keep the lower levels of the substrate moist as the top layers dry out. The spider than can then retreat to its den if it needs more humidity.

For a hide, I used a 3″ pvc elbow that I angled deep down into the substrate as a starter burrow (which my specimen adopted after entering pre-molt). Although I originally started with one medium water bowl, I soon added another to keep the humidity up a bit within the enclosure.  Finally, I added some plastic vines for cover and some long fiber sphagnum moss to help with moisture retention.

For my slings, I used a 2-quart clear plastic canister with ventilation holes burned on all sides. Both were provided with about 4″ of substrate, as well as cork bark hides and small water dishes . When I first acquired my little ones, they were about 1.5″ long, and these containers were the perfect size for them. However, after only one molt, they’ve put on so much size that I will have to rehouse them after they next shed. Right now, my two are about 2.25″, and both are getting ready to molt again. This is a fast-growing species, so it may make sense to provide enclosures for slings and juveniles that allow room for growth. 

A note about temperature and humidity.

Because it was mid-summer and temps were high when I set this cage up, and the conditions inside were a bit more moist than I usually have, I decided to monitor it for a week or so before getting my spider. Twice, I added more ventilation after I noticed tiny mold spots. I wanted the humidity to be high enough to support the animal, but not so high as to foster mold, mildew, and other undesirable conditions. The combination of heat and humidity can easily create an overly stuffy and ultimately dangerous living environment for even moisture-loving Ts.

To keep conditions favorable, I usually wet down one side of the substrate once a week or so using a bottle I modified into a watering can. This allows me to simulate a downpour and adds more water than simply spraying. Because of the vermiculite, the water percolates down into the lower levels, keeping them damp while the top eventually dries out.

I don’t really monitor the humidity inside the enclosure (I soon pulled the useless Petco hydrometer in the photo above out), but I would estimate that it stays about 65% to 75% most of the year, with the humidity being even higher in the burrow.

As for temperatures, my specimens are kept at about 72-77º during the winter, and about 75-84º during the summer. They have eaten well in both seasons, and I’ve observed no differences in behavior. However, it’s important to note that warmer temps mean faster metabolisms and faster growth.

I have read accounts of some folks raising captive-bread stirmis from sling in temps that hit as low as 68º and with mostly dry substrate with a water dish. Although I don’t know if these are ideal conditions, it’s worth noting that this species can adapt to different micro climates.

It should also be mentioned that keepers have observed that wild-caught specimens are not quite as forgiving as their captive-bred counterparts when it comes to adaptability to low temperature and humidity levels. If you suspect that you have a wild-caught spider, exercise a bit more caution when controlling the environment.

A gigantic T with a gigantic appetite!

This is a species with an amazing appetite, and it must be kept well fed. My adult is around 7-8″, and in its first month with me, it was constantly hungry. During this time, I would feed it twice a week, usually offering 5 or so large crickets one day and a 1.5″ dubia roach the next. To say its feeding response was enthusiastic would be an understatement. Once, when dropping in a roach, I could only watch in awe as this spider leaped from about 7″ away to snatch up its prey. It was an impressive display and a good reminder of just how quickly this big tarantula could move.

My slings are also voracious eaters, consuming two or three medium crickets a week. Once a prey item is dropped into their enclosures, they don’t take long to quickly snatch it up and pull it into their burrows. They definitely possess impressive speed at this size.

It’s important to remember that the stirmi has an amazing appetite, so you are going to want to make sure that you are easily and consistently able to procure larger prey items for it once it reaches its adult size. I’m already looking to procure some Madagascar hissing cockroaches to fatten it up after its upcoming molt.

As always, caution is a must!

As mentioned earlier, both sling and adult stirmis can REALLY move. Despite being a large and heavy-bodied tarantula, this species is deceptively fast. And although mine would rather retreat to their burrows when disturbed, there are many examples of feisty and defensive specimens out there that will stand their ground when they feel threatened.

T.-stirmi-sling

Now, I’ve heard some folks ask about venom potency as if this species mild venom somehow makes a bite from this spider less threatening. That notion, of course, is just foolish. These Ts are known to sport fangs 1″ long or more. Just the mechanical damage from a stirmi bite could cause huge amounts of physical trauma. Couple that with the fact that they would be delivering deep puncture wounds with large fangs covered in bacteria and other contaminants, and the venom level becomes irrelevant. Make no mistake, a bite from this animal would be a nightmare.

Also, what it lacks in strong venom, it surely makes up for with some of the most potent and irritating urticating hairs of any species. Folks have described excruciating levels of burning and itching from T. stirmi hairs, and I’ve seen photos of the many raw, oozing blisters these hairs can cause. Several folks have found these hairs to be so bothersome, that they no longer keep this species. Getting haired by a stirmi is NO joke, and this threat should be taken very seriously.

Whenever working with your stirmi, wearing long sleeves, gloves, and eye-protection is definitely encouraged. Even if your specimen seems calm, all it takes is one good hairing to ruin your week. Some folks even wear face shields to protect their eyes and nasal passages from hairs. It’s also important to remember that tarantulas will often kick hairs around their enclosures, even if you don’t see them do it. That means you should always wear gloves when dealing with old substrate or cleaning dishes.

A gorgeous display tarantula for the conscientious keeper.

There is no denying the awe-inspiring size of this amazing T; it just has to be seen to be appreciated. However, although this is a species on many keepers’ wish lists, this is not an animal to be trifled with. Along with this Ts amazing size comes quite a bit of attitude and the potential for nasty bites and an incredibly painful hairing. Couple that with larger space requirements and trickier husbandry, and you have a spider that is definitely not a good match for an inexperienced keeper.

As always, don’t just take my word for it. If you are considering purchasing a T. stirmi, do your homework, search the forums, and read what other keepers have to say!

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!

 

Beautiful Tarantulas!

Let’s keep it real … tarantula keeping is not the most respected hobby in the world, and tarantula keepers are generally thought to be a bit eccentric at best and creepy at worst. And believe me … I get it.

With the majority of folks either being terrified of spiders, or thinking that they are disgusting animals to be squished on sight, it’s difficult for them to understand why someone would willingly choose to keep larger, hairier, scarier versions of these creatures as pets.

When asked why I don’t keep “normal” pets, I explain that I have three big rescue dogs who I absolutely adore (I’m petting two in between typing this). I also grew up on a small farm, and I look forward to the day when I will get to keep goats again. I don’t eschew common animals to keep giants spiders; I love them all.

Inevitably, when I’m asked what I could possibly find appealing about these “giant, hairy bugs,” I usually mention my fascination with them from an early age (even when I considered myself arachnophobic), and the fact that they’ve been around for millions of years. I try to explain the thrill of watching them molt and mature from fragile slings to large, bold adults. I talk about how feeding and maintenance time becomes a way for me to relax and unwind.

Then, knowing full well what’s coming, I usually explain how I actually find them to be quite beautiful.

“Beautiful?” the person will ask incredulously, a look of pure disgust smeared over his/her face.

“Beautiful,” I answer again, then take out my phone to show a couple pics of my stunners.

And usually, this is when the non-believer mutters a stunned, “Wow, is that real?” then asks to see more pics. It never gets old.

For some, this glimpse of a few of the more colorful species is enough to help them cross the threshold from fear and disgust to curiosity. What do they eat? How long do they live? How to you house them? These are some of the questions that often follow.

Do I win everyone over? No, of course not. People have a right to their opinions, and I understand my love for tarantulas puts me in the minority. Still, more often than not, the next time I talk to one of these people about my hobby, their questions are more genuine and inquisitive and not as judgmental.

Yes, tarantulas can be beautiful. Want proof?

My juvenile O.philippinus.

My juvenile O.philippinus.

B. boehmei

B. boehmei

Female B. smithi

Female B. smithi

Male P. murinus

Male P. murinus

P. murinus (OBT)

P. murinus (OBT)

Hapalopus sp. Large

Hapalopus sp. Large

GBB-two

GBB-December

C. dyscolus

C. dyscolus

A. versicolor

A. versicolor

VERSICOLOR-MOLT

A.-versi-NEW-1

My 1.75" P. metallica sling a week after its last molt. It is finally displaying some of those gorgeous blues it will sport as an adult.

My 1.75″ P. metallica sling a week after its last molt. It is finally displaying some of those gorgeous blues it will sport as an adult.

P. metallica

P. metallica

M. balfouri

M. balfouri

My young adult female E. pachypus.

My young adult female E. pachypus.

C.-darlingi

C. darlingi