DKS Death – A. insubtilis

This is an update to an earlier blog. If you’d like to learn a little more about DKS (and read about the unfortunate T I’m about to reference), please check out my earlier blog HERE.

My first tarantula death.

Although I knew it was coming, it still stinks. I arrived home from work yesterday to discover that my A. insubtilis juvenile had succumbed to whatever had caused its DKS. It was a little over a week since it had first showed signs of the discombobulation and lack of coordination that characterize this malady.

My A. insubtilis tarantula after succumbing to DKS. It's been flipped on its back, but this is the standard tarantula "death curl".

My A. insubtilis tarantula after succumbing to DKS. It’s been flipped on its back, but this is the standard tarantula “death curl”.

Despite being kept in an ICU for the last few days of its life, it was not able to pull through. I will be heading over to Arachnoboards later this week to fill out a death report. As the true cause of the DKS symptoms are still a mystery and could be attributed to many factors, T keepers are encouraged to add details from their cases to a data base on the board.

With any luck, this will be be my first and last experience with DKS. It’s a very unpleasant experience to watch one or your pets die from it.

 

B. smithi (Mexican redknee) – A Tarantula Icon

When I was about six, my father used to take me to a local pet store on occasion so that I could check out the animals for sale. Although I was certainly interested in the puppies, gerbils, guinea pigs, and snakes, the highlight of the trip was always a large Brachypelma smithi, or Mexican redknee tarantula, kept in an aquarium at the back of the store. As a boy who was terrified of spiders, I couldn’t help but to be utterly fascinated by this amazing animal. Although it should have been the stuff of nightmares for me, I couldn’t get enough of it.

Fast-forward a few decades… With my T collection growing, I decided that I had to have a B. smithi. After all, this was arguably the animal that kicked off my fascination with Ts all those years ago, and it was still widely considered to be one of the most popular tarantulas in the hoby. As this species is known for its very slow growth rate, I decided not to pick up a sling and instead searched for a juvenile to young adult female. The B. smithi is thought to be one of the tarantulas with the longest longevity, with some folks suspecting  female could live 40 years or more. I’ll admit, it’s a little mind-blowing to think that a pet could outlive me!

My Brachypelma smithi female shortly after I acquired her in December of 2013.

My Brachypelma smithi female shortly after I acquired her in December of 2013.

I finally located my girl when my favorite tarantula dealer, Jamie’s Tarantulas, had her cyber-Monday sale last year. My 3″ B. smithi female arrived in early December, and she was gorgeous. For her temporary housing, I used a Sterilite 12 quart plastic storage box, filling it with about 2″ of dry coco fiber. Although I normally use cork bark for a hide, this time I bought a much more fancy resin cast log. A small ceramic water dish was supplied for fresh water. This is a tarantula that thrives in a dry environment, so I do not mist or moisten the substrate.

Check out my female B. smithi below!

B. smithis are generally known for being calm and docile (although there are always exceptions to these “rules”), so I was surprised to discover that my new acquisition was actually very skittish and very fast. My first time opening her enclosure, she nearly bolted out; this is why you can never let your guard down with any T. For the first two months I owned her, she was quite reclusive, rarely venturing out from beneath her log. When she did emerge, the slightest disturbance would send her scurrying for cover.

The first cricket offered was still alive and kicking the next morning, and I actually saw her bolt from it at one point. It was obvious she was not yet completely comfortable in her new surroundings. I waited a couple of days, then offered her a dubia roach with its head crushed (Yup… gross, but it keeps them from burrowing and playing dead). I placed on its back in front of the opening to her den in hopes that she would sense it when she ventured out. It was gone the next morning. Although I continued this process for a few months, she now readily takes live and kicking large crickets.

B. Smithis are New World tarantulas and, as such, use urticating hairs for defense. When stressed, they can kick these irritating bristles from their abdomens, causing itching, burning, and discomfort to any potential predator (or well-meaning keeper) mucking with them. I’m fortunate in that my girl doesn’t seem to be prone to kick yet. She also calmed down a great deal from when I first acquired her. Now when her cage is disturbed, she will usually just scurry to her den and perch herself on top of it. She spends the majority of the time out in the open now, which is great, as she really is a beautiful T.

Like my other Ts, my B. smithi is kept at high 70s during the day and low 70s during the night. She generally eats two 1″ dubia or three large crickets a week. By late February, her abdomen was quite plump, and I cut back on the feeding in hopes that premolt would be coming soon. Finally, in mid-April, she molted.

My 3-4" B. smithi female after a molt. The white patches on her abdomen hint that she might have experienced a little trouble.

My 3-4″ B. smithi female after a molt. The white patches on her abdomen hint that she might have experienced a little trouble.

The discarded molt (exuvia) from my female B. smithi.

The discarded molt (exuvia) from my female B. smithi.

As she molted inside of her den, I unfortunately did not get to witness the process. I did, however, notice that when she emerged, she had two shiny white spots on her abdomen that probably signified that she experienced a bit of trouble with the molt. I waited a couple weeks  before offering her a prey item, and was relieved when she snatched up the first cricket I dropped in. Although she seems to be fine, I will definitely be paying extra attention when it comes time for her next premolt.

My 3.5'-4" B. smithi perched atop its log hide after a recent meal.

My 3.5′-4″ B. smithi perched atop its log hide after a recent meal.

It might have taken dozens of years, but I finally have my B. smithi. With their ease of husbandry, generally even dispositions, and undeniable beauty, there is a reason this species has been the face of tarantula keeping for decades.

DKS (Dyskinetic Syndrome) in Tarantulas

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

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

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

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

Or so I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE for an an update on this T. 

The Poecilotheria metallica – Yes, Tarantulas Can Be Beautiful

When  I first started researching the different species of tarantulas currently available in the hobby, I stumbled across a photo of a Poecilotheria metallica (common name “Gooty sapphire ornamental”). This stunning tarantula sported an amazing metallic blue coloration with a gorgeous fractal pattern on its abdomen and vibrant yellow marking on its legs. The tarantula in the photo was so mind-blowingly beautiful, that I immediately assumed that it was just a clever photoshop job. After all, there was no way a tarantula could be this blue; the picture had to be a fraud.

My 1.75

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.

It was close to a week later when I encountered another amazing photo of this species, and this time, I decided to do some investigating. Not only did I learn that this was, indeed, a real animal, but also that it was one of the most coveted species in the hobby. Despite being quite readily available, this species still commanded prices as high as $100 for a small sling. Also, although captive breeding efforts provided for healthy numbers in the hobby, this incredible animal is critically endangered in the wild. Limited to a 100 square kilometer region in India, its habitat is being threatened by deforestation.

Although these tarantulas are undeniably pretty, they are still members of the Poecilotheria genus. As such, they possess blinding speed and, though usually reluctant to bite, very potent venom. At the time, I decided that that I needed some more experience with faster species before trying my hand at keeping a P. metallica, so I moved on to other species.

Several months later, my wife took me to a semi-local exotic pet store called Cold Blooded Pets & Supplies for my birthday so that I could peruse their stock of Ts and choose a few for my gift. It just so happened that they had several P. metallica slings among their rather diverse stock. Needless to say, we left with one that afternoon.

Gorgeous … and So Fast!

Although I’ve found most poecilotheria slings to be high-strung and skittish, my P. metallica is particularly prone to make dashes whenever disturbed. Anyone who thinks that they could possibly react in time to a fast fleeing T should watch this little bugger zip around its enclosure four or five time in the blink of an eye. I’m extra cautious when opening its enclosure for feeding or maintenance, as to lose focus could result in an escape.

Like my other pokies (nickname for Poecilotheria), my P. metallica has been growing quickly, having molted two times since late February and picking up .5″ in growth or more. For an enclosure, I use a tall Ziploc Twist ‘n Lock container modified with numerous ventilation holes allowing for good cross-ventilation. Because this is a an arboreal species, the height offered by the enclosure is more important than floor space. Although it is provided with cork bark hide with a thick faux vine for climbing, it tends to just stay at the top of the enclosure. As P. metallica’s are known to be particularly photosensitive, I keep this T in a darker corner of a shelf where it is shielded from light a bit.

The current enclosure for my 1.75-2

The current enclosure for my 1.75-2″ P. metallica sling.

Although kept at the same high 70s day/low 70s night temperatures, I do keep the humidity a bit higher for this T. I moisten, not soak, the substrate a bit once a month. To do this, I don’t spray as it would drive the little guy nuts. Instead, I dribble some water on the substrate.  Besides that, a water dish keeps the humidity inside the enclosure slightly higher.

My P. metallica is a great eater, consuming two medium sized crickets a week. The only time it refuses food is when it’s in premolt. As it does not like bright light, I usually drop a cricket in before bed, and it will grab and consume it overnight.

Ventral shot of my P. metallica sling. Despite the poor quality of the shot, you can still make out the yellow banding.

Ventral shot of my P. metallica sling. Despite the poor quality of the shot, you can still make out the yellow banding.

Update: 2/27/2016

As it’s been over a year since this post, and my P. metallica has been doing quite well. Time for an update!

The P. metallica, suspected female, has molted three times since the original post and is now about 4″ in total length. Currently, she is kept at temperatures between 80° during the day and about 74° at night. She eats two large crickets a week and has proven to be a lively and proficient hunter.

It’s worth noting that the P. metallica went through a lengthy period of almost six months in which she didn’t molt at all (previous to this, she would molt every two months or so). This period began in November and lasted until May and coincided with the winter months. It was a particularly cold and brutal winter in which the furnace was running constantly. Although the temps in the tarantula room never dipped below 70°, the humidity was in the teens for several months. The P. metallica had a water dish, and I would periodically moisten the substrate, but I’m convinced that these lower humidity levels and slightly-lower temperatures triggered some type of response in the specimen that led to the lengthy time between molts.

P.-metallica

It should be noted, however, that the P. metallica DID continue to eat during this period. However, due to the fact that its abdomen was quite large and distended, I reduced it’s feeding schedule to one cricket every week or so. Therefore, it appears that although it didn’t show any signs of distress as the humidity levels became less than ideal, it certainly slowed its growth rate a bit.

When it did finally molt, it was time for a rehousing. For its next home, I used a repurposed Sterilite “Showoff” container (15 1/4″ L x 9 3/4 W x 11 1/2″ H), which I ventilated with several holes in the sides for cross-ventilation. After packing in about 3″ of coco fiber, peat moss, and vermiculite substrate, I added a water dish, a cork bark flat, and some plastic plants. I also added some long fiber sphagnum moss to hold moisture. When winter approaches, this new enclosure will make it much easier to maintain a micro climate with higher humidity.

Enclosure-top-down

Temperament wise, I think that I got lucky with this one. Once very skittish and photosensitive, she now sits mostly out in the open and tends to crouch down rather than bolt when disturbed. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have frantic speed bursts left in her; she can still run when startled.

Poecilotheria metallica

Poecilotheria metallica

A Stunning Species for the More Experienced Keeper

When someone gives me that incredulous look after I say a tarantula can be beautiful, I usually show them photos of P. metallicas. Even to folks who don’t “get” tarantulas, they are undeniably pretty. Many keepers count them as the most beautiful species available. Still, they are Poecilotheria, and as such, are not a beginner species. This T has slightly more involved husbandry requirements, and its blinding speed and potent venom make it a potentially dangerous pet for an unwary keeper. For those experienced with fast-moving arboreal Ts, the P. metallica is a must for the collection.

For more information on this gorgeous species, please visit Arachnoboards and search for P. metallica care. 

L. parahybana Feeding Video and Husbandry Notes

After 17+ years of keeping a G. porteri, and with no idea that the tarantula hobby had exploded over the past two decades, I decided that I wanted to see what kinds of species were currently available. To say the number of animals available in the trade was overwhelming would be an understatement, and I soon found myself compiling lengthy lists of potential candidates. After several months of research, I decided on two slings; a Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens (GBB) and a Lasiodora parahybana (LP).

I purchased my LP sling in October of 2013 at a size of about 3/4″ or so. This species has a reputation for being a very fast grower with some keepers reporting their LPs reaching 4″ in a year. Mine has molted five times in the time I’ve kept it, and in that time, it has grown to about 1.75″.  I wouldn’t say this is the fastest-growing T I keep, but it molts like clockwork every two months, and puts on a little size each time.

Besides their awesome adult size (8″ is the norm with 10″ possible), it was their rather simple husbandry that attracted me to this species. I keep mine fairly dry and only moisten the substrate in the corner once a week, letting it dry out in between. I’ve provided my 3″ female with a water dish, which I overflow to provide a moist spot. Usually, it quickly ends up filled with dirt. The substrate is a 50/50 mix of coco fiber and sphagnum peat moss, and for the slings, I give them several inches of depth as they like to dig.

For the first five months I kept my LP, I rarely saw it. The little guy had dug an extensive burrow beneath the surface, and he would only pop out to snatch a prey item. There was a two-month period where I never saw it at all. When entering premolt, it would often close off  the entrance of its burrow for weeks at a time. Eventually, the hole would reopen, and I would catch a glimpse of my slightly-larger LP.

I keep my LPs at the same temps as my other Ts; high 70s during the day and low 70’s at night. They are great eaters, only refusing a meal if in premolt. Like my P. cancerides, they usually attack their prey with gusto, often rushing at it from across the enclosure.

As slings, LPs are quite skittish, and will quickly bolt or dash down into their hides with the slightest disturbance. My female is a bit more brave, often sitting right out in the open instead of using her hide.

I know keep three LPs; two slings and the gorgeous female my wife gave me for my birthday. I look forward to the day that these beasties mature into an 8″+ behemoths.

Below is a recent feeding video featuring my 1.75″ juvenile.

L. parahybana – Pre and Post Molt Pics

Mama’s Got a New Fuzzy Suit!

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

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

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

My 3" LP female before a molt.

My 3″ LP female before a molt.

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

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

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

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

My female LP stretching out in her new exoskeleton.

My female LP stretching out in her new exoskeleton.

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

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

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

Michael Jacobi’s Spider Shoppe – A Review

I had first heard of Micheal Jacobi when I purchased the Kindle edition of his TARANTULAS book from the Animal Planet Pet Care Library. I very much enjoyed this book, and found it to be a very accessible read and an excellent introduction to tarantula keeping. About that same time, I stumbled across an advertisement for his online store, Micheal Jacobi’s Spider Shoppe. I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I placed my first order with him, as he had a very diverse selection in stock, and his prices were quite fair.

Well, last week I was given a little extra incentive to do so when Michael announced a three-day blowout sale in preparation for a trip he was taking oversees. To receive the price list, folks needed only to be signed up for his newsletter (or sign up before the sale). I immediately jumped on the site and signed up.

Man, am I glad that I did.

The list was extensive, and the prices were amazing (and I honestly thought his prices were good already). Unfortunately, the sale started on a Wednesday, and I didn’t get paid until Friday, so I missed out on a couple fantastic deals (I almost bought them anyway, but I didn’t want my wife to kill me). I was able to grab three .5″ C. darlingi slings ($10 each), three 1.5″ H. incei gold juveniles ($20 each), and one 1.5″ P. regalis juvenile ($25).

Despite the fact that Mr. Jacobi was obviously fielding dozens of emails and pulling stock, his communication was excellent. When a T I wanted had sold out, he responded immediately with the info so that I had an opportunity to quickly adjust my order. Payment info and shipping info was sent promptly, and although I expected a delay in shipping due to the volume of business he was doing, my package was shipped as soon as I gave the go ahead. He even sent a little FAQ-style email with a lot of useful information and tips. Very cool.

Box was well packed and properly labeled to prevent damage.

Box was well packed and properly labeled to prevent damage.

Packing was excellent, with foam insulation, heating pack, and air bag padding inside the box. Individual tarantulas were well-packed in dram bottles and the drams were then taped up in another layer of thick paper towel for added shock protection.

The box opened and showing the receipt, a business card, and some very cool stickers.

The box opened and showing the receipt, a business card, and some very cool stickers.

The box opened with the top piece of foam and a couple pieces of padding removed. Spiders are well packed in dram bottles  surrounded by a layer of thick paper towel.

The box opened with the top piece of foam and a couple pieces of padding removed. Spiders are well packed in dram bottles surrounded by a layer of thick paper towel.

The tarantulas themselves were lively and in excellent health. Even cooler, every one I ordered was much larger than I was expecting. The C. darlingis all measured about an inch, and two of the H. inceis were about 1.75″ with the third a beefy 2+”.

And the P. regalis? Well, I haven’t gotten an accurate measurement yet, but this “1.5” inch juvenile is actually over 3″. What a fantastic surprise and a discovery that made this purchase even more of a phenomenal bargain.

One of the three H. incei juveniles purchased from Michael Jacobi. Unfortunately, my picture doesn't really capture the amazing color.

One of the three H. incei juveniles purchased from Michael Jacobi. Unfortunately, my picture doesn’t really capture the amazing color.

Speaking of lively, one of the C. darlingi slings launched itself from container after I removed the piece of paper towel blocking holding it in. To say that the little bugger was fast would be an understatement. Luckily, I always work over either a box or large plastic bin to prevent escapes. After leaping from the dram onto my hand, he actually ran off of my hand and right into his new enclosure. Thanks, buddy!

I could not be more pleased with my purchase from Micheal Jacobi’s Spider Shoppe. The prices were amazing, the communication was outstanding, the packing was perfect, and the animals were in great shape. This was an A+ experience, and I would definitely recommend Mr. Jacobi to any enthusiast looking for a professional and trustworthy vendor.

A quick note: as Michael will be travelling extensively over the next several months, his online store will not list tarantulas for sale for time being. Those interested in pricing or ordering will want to sign up for his newsletter.

 

 

Box of Roaches … A Review of Jeremy Stichler!

Having amassed a collection of 47 tarantulas and counting that now includes many larger spiders, I was finding it more difficult to keep adequate food supplies handy. Although I’ve used mainly crickets for prey, I also keep a small quantity of Blaptica dubia and Blatta lateralis roaches. Having found that the dubias were easier to maintain and relatively odorless, I started keeping a lookout for a fairly priced starter colony.

While perusing the for sale page on Arachnoboards, I stumbled on an ad for 125 count starter colony of large Blaptica dubia for only $27 shipped. The vendor was Jeremy Stichler (Jerm357) who had several pages of sparkling reviews on the boards. Having priced out starter colonies before, I was expecting to pay much more for this many roaches (and that was not counting the 10% overcount he offered on top of it). Even better, he guaranteed all larger roaches unless specified that you wanted smaller ones.  I jumped at this tremendous bargain and immediately emailed Jeremy.

Communication was excellent, as Jeremy emailed me back immediately with payment information. Correspondence was friendly and very professional, which is always a huge plus in my book.  He also shipped quickly, and my package was mailed USPS Priority on that Monday and arrived on Wednesday.

Box arrived in great shape.

Box arrived in great shape.

Packing was excellent, with the roaches double-boxed and insulated with newspaper. There wasn’t a single dead roach in the bunch, and all were quite lively when I opened the package. In fact, one of the larger males quickly shot out of the package and landed on my arm. Now, I know I have dozens of giant, hairy spiders, and most would find that frightening, but I don’t think I’d ever seen a roach that big. And, perhaps I panicked just a bit when I tried to quickly brush it off and the little beast barely budged. Wow, those suckers are strong…

After opening the first box, I discovered a second box safely nestled in a bed of newspaper. (Note: Notice my 3-year-old's creepy Mega Blok figure. Those little pagan-looking totems are all around my house. Creepy!)

After opening the first box, I discovered a second box safely nestled in a bed of newspaper. (Note: Notice my 3-year-old’s creepy Mega Blok figure. Those little pagan-looking totems are all around my house. Should I be worried?)

The second box is now open. A piece of cardboard serves as a spacer. You can now see some of the roaches...yum!

The second box is now open. A piece of cardboard serves as a spacer. You can now see some of the roaches…yum!

With the cardboard moved aside, you can now see more of the little buggers.

With the cardboard moved aside, you can now see more of the little buggers.

With the cardboard (and some of the roaches) out of the way, you can now see a bunch of very large and healthy roaches.

With the cardboard (and some of the roaches) out of the way, you can now see a bunch of very large and healthy roaches.

All of the roaches have been rehoused in their new home (I will post later about their new quarters), and all are eating well. I honestly couldn’t have been more happy with my purchase from Mr. Stichler. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from him again.

This was an A+ experience, and I would highly recommend Jeremy Stichler to any hobbyist looking for a dubia feeder roach starter colony.

 

Pamphobeteus antinous

As my T collection grows and I gain experience with different species, I’m finding that I’m developing an affinity for the larger South American Ts. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place in my collection for some of the slow-growing genera, like aphonopelma, grammostola, and brachypelma. Many of the species in these genera are simply gorgeous, and their slow growth rate means that I’ll have these guys for many years. However, for the impatient keeper in me, the faster-growing, aggressive eaters are just a thrill to watch. Recently, I decided to investigate some new  species for potential purchase, and I wanted something big and feisty.

While perusing the Net-Bug site, I came across a Pamphobeteus antinus, or “Steely Blue Leg”, female for sale. I had researched several species in the Pamphobeteus genus many months back, and at that time, I wasn’t sure I was ready for a T that required a bit more humidity. Having gained some experience since then and become more skilled at maintaining humidity in the enclosures, I decided that I was ready for this species.

My 3.5" P. antinous female.

My 3.5″ P. antinous female.

For my new acquisition’s home, I set up a large Kritter Keeper with about 5″ of a moist 50/50 peat moss and coco fiber mix. As the heavily-vented tops of KKs allow for too much ventilation for species requiring higher humidity, I used contact paper to block off much of the top and sides while still allowing for cross ventilation. Using a 5″ cork bark round, I sunk part of into the ground as a starter burrow and covered it with soil and sphagnum moss. As I want to maintain a higher level of humidity, I also provided her with a large water dish. Once a week, I sprinkle water on her substrate and on the sphagnum moss (think a good, quick rain shower) to keep the substrate from drying out too much. For temperatures, she is kept in the low 70s during the night, and high 70s/80 during the day.

A large Kritter Keeper modified to accommodate a species with higher humidity requirements.

A large Kritter Keeper modified to accommodate a species with higher humidity requirements.

 

It didn’t take long for the P. antinous to create an impressive burrow. Gnawing through the bottom of the cork bark, she dug straight to the bottom, constructing a small compartment in the lower corner. Here she sits until she detects prey items above. Alerted to a meal, she bolts from her hide, her lithe legs tapping against the plastic as she scrambles for the surface. Out of all of my Ts, this is the first one I’ve actually HEARD coming for a cricket. The speed and ferocity she displays when attacking her food easily rivals that of my P. cancerides. Right now, she gets four large crickets, or two 1+” dubia roaches, a week (this species is known for being a good eater).

My P. antinous inside its den (back view).

My P. antinous inside its den (back view).

With my female still sporting her immature reddish-brown colors, I will look very forward to seeing if she gets any of her “steely blue” coloration on next molt. Also, as this is also considered to be a species with a fast growth rate, I will be anticipating quite a size jump. Although I’ve only owned her for a couple months, my P. antinous is proving to be one of my most interesting tarantulas.

 

 

 

P. cancerides Feeding Video

Dinner Time!

One of the thrills of keeping tarantulas, in my opinion, is watching them stalk and snatch their prey. I know for anyone who doesn’t keep Ts, this probably sounds a bit strange or sick even. However, it’s not that I don’t feel a bit of sympathy for the prey items after they are unwittingly dropped into an enclosure, or when they wander around the unfamiliar terrain, blissfully unaware that they are mere inches away from their doom. No, I do feel bad for the poor roaches, crickets, or meal worms.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to holding my breath a bit in anticipation as one of these brutal hunters senses its next meal. I can’t help but to get a bit excited watching these fascinating predators in action.

Recently, I was able to capture my 3″ P. cancerides as it ambushed its latest meal, a large cricket. As mentioned in earlier posts, I find these particular spiders go after prey with an energy and ferocity that surpasses that of many of the other species I keep. Although the following video doesn’t depict a particularly impressive take-down, I still think it’s a fascinating look at one of these amazing creatures as it captures its prey (and a healthy reminder of just how fast these guys can move). Enjoy!

Note: My apologies for the music; I was so absorbed in catching this feeding, that I didn’t realize that my three-year-old was screaming in the background. Trust me…the music is better.