For a video version of this article, click the link above!
(Note: The following article is an update on my original C. versicolor husbandry article from October 19, 2014. )
Despite being very common and established in the hobby, there is perhaps no tarantula available right now, save maybe the T. blondi, that causes owners more stress over the husbandry than the C. versicolor. When I first got into the hobby, I was immediately amazed by this gorgeous arboreal, which starts as a stunningly-blue sling and morphs into a fuzzy, multi-colored adult. The C. versicolor has been one of my favorite spiders to grow up, as it is beautiful and colorful in every stage of its life.
Anyone researching this amazing species will likely find information that is frustratingly confusing and contradictory. On one side are the keepers who still say this species is difficult to keep due to strict humidity requirements. However, keepers who have had success with this spider argue that humidity and moisture are not as important as good cross ventilation, and that a stuffy, humid cage will prove to be a death sentence for this animal. Unfortunately, while focusing on the high heat and humidity of their natural habitat, some folks tended to ignore that the island usually enjoys air-circulating winds for most of the year.
These dank enclosures resulted constant mention of SADS, or “Sudden Avic Death Syndrome”, the name of the phenomena where a seemingly healthy Avicularia (the versicolor’s old genus) suddenly dies for no apparent reason. The message boards and chat groups were rife with stories of these little blue spiders curling and dying suddenly and without an obvious cause. Many now believe that these deaths can be attributed to the misguided husbandry of keepers struggling to maintain bogus high humidity requirements.Continue reading →
With the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruling on the five Sri Lankan Poecilotheria species coupled with the latest controversy surrounding species from another country, the landscape of tarantula commerce may be changing drastically. For years, hobbyists have enjoyed the ability to order their spiders from online dealers anywhere in the country without worry of breaking any laws. However, with some species now on lists that render interstate sales of these animals illegal, those looking to buy these restricted spiders may only be able to do so from vendors and sellers in their own respective states.
Keeping this in mind, it’s important that tarantula hobbyists are aware of who the breeders and dealers are in their own states. In the past several weeks, I’ve received numerous emails and comments from folks hoping I could tell them where they can legally buy some Sri Lankan Poecilotheria species. Unfortunately, I honestly don’t know who the reputable dealers are state to state. That said, I think that it is important that such a list is assembled and made available for anyone looking.
This is where you all come in…I need your help.
Although I’ve started to compile a list from dealers that I’m familiar with, it is currently woefully incomplete. Therefore, I’m reaching out to readers and hobbyists to find out who the reputable dealers and vendors are in their home states. My goal is to take this information and post it on the Tom’s Big Spiders website so that it’s easy to find for those who need it. Hobbyists looking to legally acquire these five Poecilotheria species would then know where to go.
A couple notes about what I would like to see (and not see).
If you submit a pet store, it should be one specializing in exotics that demonstrates a basic understanding of tarantula care. This would pretty much rule out most box pet stores.
I’m honestly not interested in pet stores that just carry a few tarantulas but don’t know anything about them. Many of these places sell misidentified spiders and can’t really be counted on to keep the hobby supplied with purebred stock.
For breeders, it would be nice to see folks with solid track records and good experience breeding tarantulas. This would rule out folks who take on a project here and there. For example, I’ve bred a few species, but I definitely wouldn’t count myself as a breeder.
I will personally be researching reviews for dealers on the list, but it will take some time. It would be much appreciated if folks that haven’t had personal experience with the individual/establishment they are submitting could take a moment to research reviews. Even a cursory Google search can usually give you an idea about the respectability of the establishment.
The more participation I get with this, the faster I can put it all together. Although I normally never ask folks to share my posts, in this case I would ask that if you know a venue that could garner some response, please feel free to post or share this. My hope is to get a bare bones list done in a couple weeks, and then continue to add to it as we identify holes.
Those looking to contribute, please leave a comment . If you could, please include the following information:
Name of vendor/breeder
Website (if applicable)
A quick note if you’ve personally used them before
If you have more than one, by all means, please include all that you are aware of. I’ll be monitoring the comments as I compile the list. I’m hoping that by keeping most of the responses in the public comments, it will enable folks to chime in if they have information on one of the dealers (good or bad).
Once it’s established, I will continue to monitor reviews and feedback to try to ensure that anyone included on it is reputable.
I hoping that with all of your help, we can take away some of the stress that may come from trying to buy these prohibited species. Again, a HUGE thank you to all who participate in this!
A heads up to “Pokie” lovers…this one is going to sting a bit…
Note: The following information impacts ONLY hobbyists in the United States.
In July of this year, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service released its final report and ruling on Poecilotheria species. Per this ruling, five species of Poecilotheria from Sri Lanka were deemed endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and added to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The five species impacted by this decision are:
This rule becomes effective on August 30, 2018. As a result of this new law, there are some major changes in how these five species can be imported and sold in the United States. Here is how it breaks down and how keepers may be impacted.
Does this mean that it is now illegal to keep these species?
No, it is NOT illegal to keep these species. Those who currently have any of these five species in their collections may continue to keep them without fear of seizure or penalty.
Can I still buy these species after the deadline?
This is where things get a little more tricky. YES, you can still purchase species on this list as long as you are buying from a person, breeder, or dealer in your own state. For example, if I live in North Dakota, then I may legally buy from another person, dealer, or breeder in North Dakota. I may NOT, however, buy from someone in another state through mail order or by personally picking them up and transporting them over the border. Interstate sales and commerce with these five species is now illegal and prohibited. Online vendors will soon be listing these species as only for sale to folks that live in the same state.
Is there any way to legally import or sell these across state lines?
Technically, yes. Folks who wish to legally import or sell across state lines would have to apply for and receive a Captive Bred Wildlife (CBW) permit. HOWEVER, there are some major caveats for those looking to procure one. For starters, the cost to apply for the permit is $200 per incident, and both the seller and buyer need to get one. Unfortunately, those in the know say that it is nearly impossible for a standard hobbyist or breeder to get approved for the CBW. Worse still, your $200 fee is non refundable should you apply and be rejected, and it can take months for the decision. For most folks, obtaining one of these permits is very unrealistic.
The impact on the hobby
The good news is, we are still legally able to keep these species in our collections. Also, many other species of Poecilotheria, like the hobby favorite P. metallica, were NOT included in this ban. For the time being, the Indian species are safe and can still be imported and sold across state lines. Many in the hobby are trying to view this as a “could have been worse” scenario.
However, the consequences of this ruling are damaging and could have a far-reaching impact on the hobby. Folks living in states with smaller tarantula markets will likely have a very difficult time finding these species. The prices of these species will also vary widely from state-to-state, with some paying exorbitant costs for these animals. As transport across state lines is illegal without the CBW permit, gene pools in some states will begin to stagnate without the introduction of new blood lines.
Finally, I recently did an article about the practice of “brown boxing”, an illegal activity that involves circumventing costly and complicated legal importing procedures by shipping spiders using the U.S. postal service. Unfortunately, rulings such as this, especially with the interstate ban, will encourage more folks to break the rules in order to get their spiders. The hobby has been very transparent for years, possibly to our detriment, with species openly sold and traded in public forums. Rulings such as this one will unfortunately encourage more folks to “bend” the rules and conduct more commerce “underground.” Although this type of activity should never be condoned, it will be an unfortunate consequence.
What about breeding loans or the gifting of a spider?
Under this ruling, breeding loans are legal as long as no money is changing hands and no one is making a profit. Also, it is legal to gift a spider to another person across state lines in legitimate instances (NOT in an attempt to circumvent the law). In both cases, the shipments should contain the correct documentation explaining the activity).
(A huge thanks to Steve Doud for supplying this information and the link!)
What should we do?
With the deadline looming, many looking to procure some of these species from out-of-state retailers will need to act quickly. Tarantula dealers are already reporting increased Poecilotheria species sales as hobbyists look to “stockpile” some before the ban takes effect. Many folks who have been interested in keeping Poecilotheria are making the move to obtain the Sri Lankan species before their options narrow.
It is vital for hobbyists to start to identify the breeders and dealers in their state who will likely be responsible for keeping these five species from phasing out of the hobby. Those looking for one of these spiders will have severely limited options once this ban goes into effect. It’s important that hobbyist coalesce state-by-state to ensure that a system is in place to ensure the survival of these Poecilotheria species in local collections.
An important step
In an upcoming post, I will be soliciting the names of reputable breeders /dealers/vendors from state to state in order to compile a comprehensive and accurate list for hobbyists looking to legally procure these species. Between this current FWS ruling and the recently surfaced legal issues surrounding the importation and interstate sales of Brazilian species (more on this to come), it is CRUCIAL that hobbyists know who they can buy these species from in their states. Please, keep a lookout for this post and respond if you have information to offer.
Quick Summary of the new rule.
Hobbyists may still legally keep these species
Hobbyists may buy and sell these species in their own states
Hobbyists may send breeding loans across state lines (no money can be involved)
Hobbyists may send a tarantula as a gift.
Foreign importation or exportation of these species*
Inter-state commerce involving these species*
Possession of illegally taken spiders
*without a CBW permit
Those interested in reading the full report from the FWS can follow this link:
For those interested in possibly breeding the Caribena versicolor in the future, here is an account of my pairing. All in all, it was a rather simple endeavor from start to finish, and I would encourage others to try it. And for those looking to acquire some of these little blue beauties, be sure to read to the bottom of the article…
The Pairing – November 26, 2017
In November of 2018, I paired my mature female Caribena versicolor with a mature male lent to me by Tanya atFear Not Tarantulas. I had raised this female from a sling, and she is currently about 5 years old. She was fed very well leading up to the pairing and was quite plump before the breeding attempt. I have never attempted to breed her before this pairing.
Upon opening both enclosures, the male, who was incredibly active, came right out and approached the female within 30 seconds. The female appeared startled at first, and a quick “scuffle” ensued which caused the male to back off for a few moments. However, he quickly regrouped and approached her again, and she was very receptive. After a very brief courtship in which they entangled legs and the male tapped on her a bit, they coupled. I observed two insertions before the two disentangled and the male calmly walked away. I did not try to pair them a second time, as I was pretty sure the first pairing was successful.
The entire event took only about 5 minutes total from beginning to end. The female showed no aggression toward the male and did not try to consume or pursue him when they had finished.
The Female Makes a Sac – December 27, 2017
About two days after the pairing, the female webbed herself up completely in a funnel web down the side of the enclosure. Although she had webbed up a bit of a “chamber” for her last molt, she thickened the sides, especially on the Plexiglas, and closed off the ends. I tried offering her crickets the day after she was bred, but she showed no interest in eating.
On December 28th, I noticed that she had finally created an egg sac. This sac was about 1″ in diameter. During the incubation period, I kept her enclosure on a high shelf that ranged in temperature from about 78° F to 80°F. I kept her water dish full, and once a week I would open the enclosure and use a large bottle with holes in the top to simulate a rain shower. I would use this technique to moisten part of the substrate so that enclosure wouldn’t become too dry.
For this breeding, I chose not to pull the sac and instead left it with the mother. She continued to care for it perfectly during the incubation period, constantly rolling and moving it to keep the eggs from sticking or getting crushed. She was an excellent mother throughout the entire process.
2nd Instar Spiderlings Emerge – February 18, 2018
Finally, I came down on the morning of February 18th to find that several little blue 2nd instar slings had emerged. Over the next three days, the rest of the brood freed itself of the sac, and little blue spiderlings lined the entire inside of their mother’s web den. Instead of immediately spreading out and leaving the web, the slings huddled together while the mother stood over them.
As the mother’s enclosure offered several means of escape for the tiny slings, including gaps and vent holes, I had to sling-proof it before any of the little ones could get away. I used some cheesecloth and clear cellophane tape to cover up the vents and gaps. The cheesecloth kept the slings inside without restricting ventilation.
Despite my best efforts, I apparently missed a corner, and I woke up one morning to find a sling’s toe poking from the breach. With the slings now starting to spread out and wander a bit, it was time to separate and house them.
Separated and Rehoused the Slings – February 21, 2018
We started by carefully opening the cage and removing the mother. Using a paintbrush, I coaxed her away from the slings and into a deli cup. Although she was reluctant to move, she did not become defensive or nasty. With mom out of the way, Billie and I spent the next hour getting the slings out of the web and into their enclosures (dram bottles and small deli cups). Fortunately, the slings didn’t attempt to scatter, but instead congregated in groups as they tried to hide. This made things MUCH easier. We had placed the mother’s enclosure inside a large Sterilite container in case the babies tried to bolt, but it never became an issue.
When all was said and done, we had 148 lively slings! Being 2nd instar, the slings were very active and ready to eat. I gave the ones I kept a couple days to settle in and to start webbing before offering the first meal. For the first feeding, I used pinhead red runner roaches, which I prekilled and dropped in each sling’s webbing. So far, all have eaten twice.
Versi Babies for Sale!
Unfortunately, with all I have going on with the blog, YouTube channel, and now my podcast, I don’t have the extra time I would need to raise and sell my own slings. Although several folks have inquired about buying directly from me, that’s just not practical for me at this time. However, for those who want to get their hands on a couple of these gorgeous blue slings, you’re not out of luck.
A few days after the slings were rehoused, we got a visit from Tanya Stewart and Rachael Pan from Fear Not Tarantulas. They picked up all but a few of the baby C. versicolors (I held onto five for myself), and they will selling them online from their store and at expos. Tanya is a very well-respected and trusted dealer in the hobby, and folks will have the option of getting more for their shipping money by possibly ordering other species from her diverse selection. Even better, Fear Not is offering 15% off the price of a C. versicolor sling if you use the code “tom” at checkout. C. versicolor are always in demand, and the slings are going fast, so be sure not to wait too long if you want to grab one.
Moving ahead, I will continue to pursue breeding projects that interest me and with species there is a demand for. At the moment, I’m hoping to have my M. balfouri and H. pulchripes both bred after what appeared to be successful pairings. I will obviously keep folks updated if and when anything develops!
After much debate, I’ve decided to start a weekly podcast about tarantulas and other arachnids. I had been asked about starting a podcast a few times over the years, and as I really didn’t know too much about them, I scoffed at the idea. I just couldn’t imagine I would have enough to say to make one interesting, or that folks would be even remotely interested in hearing it. I know it may sound in my videos like I love hearing myself talk, but I can’t stand the sound of my own voice (really, who does?).
But after a recent discussion with my brother, an admitted podcast junkie, and another chat with a keeper, I decided to do a bit of research to see if it was a realistic outlet for me. For the past several months, I’ve been making a list of possible topics as well as folks I would like to either work with or interview. As luck would have it, I’ve been doing much more voiceover work in my YouTube videos as of late, so I have also gotten some good experience with talking and staying on subject.
Last month, I asked some of my friends on Facebook if this was something I should pursue, and the reaction was very positive. It seems that there are a lot of hobbyists out there that like podcasts, and not a whole lot of people doing them. Excited by the possibility of branching out into new media, I signed up for a plan, downloaded some programs, and sat down to test it out.
So far, I’m loving it.
Many times when putting the videos together, I have to shorten my explanations because I don’t have enough footage to accommodate for all of the dialog. I’ve found that recording the podcasts allows me to go into much more detail with the discussion. There are also topics that might not make for the most interesting videos or articles that might be better delivered in a more conversational format. Even better, this format would make interviews much more natural and easier for the interviewees.
It won’t replace my articles or videos, but I do believe the format will allow for another excellent outlet for tarantula information.
To start, I will be releasing one 30-minute episode every week on Sunday. As I know folks that follow podcasts like them to be released consistently, I’m recording several ahead of time to start so that I will always have one ready to go even if life intervenes. As I get more comfortable with the format and schedule, I’ll look to start mixing in interviews and even live episodes. If all goes well, they will be available on both iTunes and Google Play as well.
Below is my first “pilot” episode in which I field a question about feeding dead prey to tarantulas and discuss shipping in the winter, as well as a bonus episode featuring a Q & A. I’m also including a link to my podcast page. Hopefully you all find it enjoyable and continue to check out future installments. I’ve got some cool ideas going forward, and I think that I’ll continue to improve with each outing.
EPISODE 1: Tom’s Big Spiders … The Podcast! (Pilot)
It’s one of the hobby’s most hot-button topics, and one that elicits spirited and emotional responses from both sides of the argument. For many, the topic of hybridization is a fascinating one, and curious hobbyists hear about hybrids and want to find out more about them. Unfortunately, any public inquiries in the hows, whys, and why nots of a potential mixing of species swiftly erupt into heated arguments and debates.
On the one hand, there are the folks that don’t think tarantula hybrids are that big of a deal, with some even expressing that a keeper can do whatever he wants with his spiders, as long as they aren’t sold into the hobby. Many of these keepers believe that the supposed problem of hybridization in the hobby is over exaggerated and that those who are staunchly opposed to it are alarmists.
Others find the idea of purposely crossing species appalling and unforgivably irresponsible under any circumstance. Many of the people on this side believe that hybrids are prevalent enough in the hobby to seriously compromise the purity of many bloodlines. Any attempt to knowingly breed them is a gross disservice to the hobby and, in some cases, a Frankensteinian perversion of nature.
Recently, I was emailed by a young man who was new to the hobby and eager to discuss some of his experiences with a more seasoned keeper. During our exchange, he mentioned that he had managed to obtain a mature female Brachypelms vagans as well as a mature male Brachypelma albopilosom. He really wanted to breed but was having difficulty acquiring a male for his vagans, so he came up with the idea of trying to crossbreed the two species to get, “a cool designer tarantula.” What ensued was a lengthy back-and-forth email discussion about tarantula hybridization and why it is a detriment to the hobby.
It can be difficult for new and casual hobbyists to understand why hybridization is so frowned upon by many serious hobbyists. Even after several emails, this young man still didn’t seem to fully grasp why this practice was considered taboo by many. As I’ve encountered this question many times myself, I thought it was time to tackle the topic in hopes of educating folks who may not understand why it is such a controversial issue.
Below are the arguments and counter arguments and how they usually break down. For clarity, stances supporting hybridization will be in GREEN; stances against will be in RED. Continue reading →
My buddies over at the Facebook Group Midwest Fang Gang are holding a charity auction to benefit a family who tragically lost their 2-year-old son to cancer very recently. The proceeds from the auction will go toward helping this family pay for doctor’s bills, funeral expenses, and other monetary needs incurred over the poor boy’s hospitalization. Below is a flier for the auction, including the vendors participating and the items that will be up for bid. As response to this event has been so great, an extra day or two may be added.
For my small part, I’m donating an original signed watercolor painting of a C. cyaneopubescens (GBB) from my personal collection. The painting in 7.5 x 11″ and on cold pressed watercolor paper. The bidding on this piece will start at $50. I know that most folks will probably be more excited about the actual living tarantulas, but I do hope some of you are interested and make a bid. Personally, I think it would look great framed and hung in a tarantula room… Just click on the image to bid.
As tarantulas are recognized as solitary creatures (mostly due to the fact that they view other spiders as lunch on eight legs) many find the idea of several tarantulas cohabitating peacefully to be a bit of a mind-blower. Perhaps that’s why successful communal setups garner so much curiosity and attention. A year ago, I started my first communal with 9 Monocentropus balfouri slings, and it has been incredibly rewarding and fascinating to watch these spiders interact. And, as I’ve shared my experiences through my blog and YouTube channel, it has also attracted a lot of attention from folks who would very much like to begin their own tarantula communals.
Although M. balfouris seem to present as one of the best species to successfully thrive in this set up, they are not the only species to display these tendencies. In fact, when I was originally giving thought to the idea, I was eyeing Neoholothele incei as a possible candidate. This species has been observed living communally in the wild, and a bit of research would produce several compelling accounts of successful group setups in captivity.
Even better, they were readily available and slings were much less expensive than those of the pricey M. balfouri, making such a venture less cost prohibitive. As communal setups always run the risk of cannibalization, many people would find the smaller investment much more palatable. I’ve received a lot of questions about H. incei communals, and having no first hand experience with them, I’ve had to refer these people to other keepers’ accounts.
With that in mind, I asked my buddy and fellow hobbyist, Casey J. Peter, if he could guest blog on Tom’s Big Spiders and relate his experiences with his H. incei communal. Casey began his setup a few months back, and he’s been keeping me updated as it progressed. Casey’s care and husbandry are top notch, and as a writer, he was no stranger to the written word, so I hoped he’d be game to pass off some of his knowledge.
He (obviously) graciously accepted the invite. A huge thank you to Casey for taking the time to share his valuable experiences. Now, enough from me. On to the article …
Years ago when I was getting serious about tarantulas and researching which species were currently available, I stumbled upon this gorgeous black spider with orange highlights on its legs and abdomen. Besides being an amazing looking spider (I’m a sucker for orange) it had one of the coolest common names I had heard…the “Venezuelan suntiger.” However, as I was new to the hobby, I was turned off to this species when I read that this arboreal was fast, skittish, and could have quite the attitude. For a while, I forgot about it as I became more interested in calmer, slower-moving terrestrials.
Fast forward several years…
P. irminia (c) Dallas Beck
After receiving a Psalmopoeus cambridgei as a freebie, I immediately developed more of an appreciation for arboreal tarantulas other than ones in the Poecilotheria genus. Eager to add some new tree spiders to my collection, I was again reminded of the P. irminia. I was more than ready for this spider now, so when I saw that Tanya at Fear Not Tarantulas had a juvenile female listed, I jumped at it.Continue reading →
Recently, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) released five action plans “to promote legal, sustainable and traceable trade in selected North American species” (West & Cooper vii) listed in CITES. 55 taxa were identified and organized into five groups: parrots, sharks, timber species, turtles and tortoises, and tarantulas. These plans were created under the guidance of the CITES Authorities of Mexico, Canada, and the United states, the three countries involved in the legal trade of these species.
Megan Ainscow from the CEC was gracious enough to pass the report on tarantulas to me so I could share it with my readers. For those interested in reading the report (and it’s actually very easy reading and quite interesting) just click the picture above or the link below.
To encapsulate, the CEC brought together the main stakeholders in the Brachypelma tarantula trade—Canada, Mexico, and the US—for a workshop in October 25-26 in Mexico City, and the reports were generated from consultation with these stake holders. Continue reading →