Avicularia Genus Revision – A Quick Breakdown

Time to get out those label makers and to bid a fond farewell to your “Avicularia versicolor

At one time containing 47 species and two sub species, the genus Avicularia has long been in need of a revision. Many folks have patiently been waiting for some changes since 2011 when Fukushima first published her then incomplete thesis on the genus. Word quickly spread through the forums and social media that the paper may call for the creation of up to four new genera, and hobbyists couldn’t wait to hear the final result. However, with the original 2013 release date coming and going, serious hobbyists were long left to wonder about what changes this much-needed revision would bring. What would the new genera be called? Which species would be eliminated? How many species would remain?

Well, on March 2nd, the revision was finally released, sending many tarantula enthusiasts scrambling for their label makers. What follows is an (hopefully!) easy to follow breakdown of the biggest revelations and highlights from this important document. For the full publication, please click the link below. It’s long and the language can be a bit dense, but it makes for some fascinating reading.

New Genera for Six Species

Among the big revelations was the creation of THREE new genera: Antillena, Caribena, and YbyraporaThis meant that several species long identified as Avicularia would now call a brand new genera home, and hobbyists would have some new and interesting names to learn.

Which species have been moved to these new genera, you may be wondering? Well, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Avicularia rickwesti is now Antillena rickwesti
  • Avicularia laeta is now Caribena laeta 
  • Avicularia Versicolor is now Caribena versicolor
  • Avicularia gamba is now Ybyrapora gamba
  • Avicularia diversipes is now Ybyrapora diversipes
  • Avicularia sooretama is now Ybryapora sooretama

For anyone who owned these species, it’s time to do some relabeling  (while trying to wrap your tongue around some cool new genera names). These names are final and will not be changing back in the future.

Fun note: Antillena rickwesti now joins the likes of Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens as a monotypic genus (at least for now).

The Identified Avicularia Species

Once consisting of 47 species and two sub-species, the number of fully-described and accepted species has been whittled down to only 12. The “bona-fide” Avicularia species described in this paper are listed below.

  1. Avicularia avicularia
  2. Avicularia glauca
  3. Avicularia variegata
  4. Avicularia minatrix
  5. Avicularia taunayi
  6. Avicularia juruensis
  7. Avicularia rufa
  8. Avicularia purpurea
  9. Avicularia hirschii
  10. Avicularia merianae
  11. Avicularia lynnae
  12. Avicularia caei

But what about species not on this list? Are they gone?

As any Avicularia aficionado would notice, a good chunk of the species once labeled as avics are missing from this list. Where did they go? Well, that can be a bit tricky. The rest of the species were either switched to other genera or, in most cases, are now designated as nomen dubium, Latin for “doubtful name.” Some have reported that those species labeled nomen dubium no longer exist, and there has been some anxiety and confusion over what we should label species that fall under this designation.

Does this mean that your prized A. metallica is now a spider without a name?

For the time being, the name “Avicularia metallica” is still in use.

In short, no. Nomen dubium means that the name is in doubt, but there is not enough information yet to change the name, merge it with another species, or label it a new genera.  So, for the time being, you can keep your nomen dubium species labelled as they are.  Basically, these are the species that may be revised in the future when more research is done, but until someone takes a closer look at them, the names will stand. As a result, these species will still be listed in the World Spider Catalog. Considering how many years it took to get this revision, it’s not likely any of us will have to worry about changing the names soon. For the time being, it’s still Avicularia metallica (and not Avicularia avicularia “metallica”).

There was also one species labelled nomen nudum , which means the species wasn’t described enough to call for the scientific name, and five species that were combined with new genera to form a new combination. Read on for the species that still warrant revision.

Nomen nudum species (Not a valid name as a description was not presented)

  • Avicularia vestiaria — nomen nudum

Comb. n. (or new combinations)

  • Iridopelma leporina – Mygale leporina to Iridopelma for a new combination Also nomen dubium (immature specimens in poor condition)
  • Iridopelma plantaris  – Mygale plantaris to Iridopelma for a new combination Also nomen dubium (not sure if separate species)
  • Euathlus affinis – Avicularia affinis transferred to Euathlus to make new combination.
  • Grammostola subvulpina – Avicularia subvulpina moved to Grammostola to make new combination.
  • Thrixopelma aymara – Eurypelma aymara moved to Thrixopelma to make new combination.

Nomen dubium species

  • Ischnocolus hirsutum 
  • Avicularia metallica 
  • Ischnocolus gracilis 
  • Avicularia arabica
  • Avicularia aurantiaca 
  • Araneus hirtipes
  • Avicularia testacea
  • Avicularia detrita
  • Avicularia hirsutissima
  • Avicularia holmbergi 
  • Ischnocolus doleschalli 
  • Avicularia rapax
  • Avicularia ochracea
  • Avicularia walckenaerii
  • Avicularia azuraklaasi 
  • Avicularia braunshauseni 
  • Avicularia geroldi 
  • Avicularia huriana 
  • Avicularia ulrichea 
  • Avicularia soratae 
  • Avicularia fasciculata 
  • Avicularia fasciculata 
  • Avicularia surinamensis 

Some points of interest involving Avicularia juruensis:

A couple interesting tidbits found in this document involve Avicularia juruensis

The gold-banded species commonly being sold as Avicularia juruensis in the hobby is likely mislabeled Avicularia rufa

Avicularia urticans is now a junior synonym of Avicularia juruensis. If you own an A. urticans, you would now label it as “A. juruensis.” 

Personally, I’m excited about the revisions and am already enjoying how Caribena versicolor flows (although I’m having a heck of at time learning how to spell it!). And it’s fantastic that A. diversipes, a species long thought to belong to a genus other than Avicularia, finally has a proper name.

That said, with all of those nomen dubium species, it’s obvious that we still have a ways to go before this genus is completely sorted out. Considering how long this revision took, we can safely say it will be a while.

How do you feel about the changes? How many labels did you have to change? Chime in!

The above information comes from the following  article: 

Fukushima, Caroline and Bertani, Rogério Bertani  Taxonomic revision and cladistic analysis of Avicularia Lamarck, 1818 (Araneae, Theraphosidae, Aviculariinae) with description of three new aviculariine genera http://zookeys.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=10717&display_type=element&element_type=8&element_id=29871&element_name= (March 2, 2017)

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

An interview with Jason Calhoun, creator of Tarantul.as

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

After setting up my account and spending a bit of time uploading my photos, I was left incredibly impressed. The site is fast, fun, and super-simple to use. In less than a half-hour’s time, I had a beautiful gallery featuring my favorite spider pics. Even better, after some folks joined me on the site, I was able to try some of the fun social features, including liking other photos and commenting. Personally, I think that Jason has created something very cool for the tarantula hobbyist. Wanting to learn more about this site and it’s creation, I tapped Jason for a quick interview.

taran-one

The design is slick and easy to navigate.

Thanks for taking a moment to chat! So, first off, how did you get into the hobby?

I have always loved animals and nature. When I was younger, I owned many exotic reptiles, snakes, scorpions, bugs etc. It has been a while since I have been in the hobby and recently gained interest again, but this time with tarantulas.

Where did you get the idea for Tarantul.as?

I’ve been developing websites and software for many years and have actually been involved with similar projects in the past. I’m always looking for a way to create something that would fulfill a personal need and develop it into something that would be useful to others as well. I hate using the big name photo hosting services, so I thought why not just make one myself. And what better way to give back to the community than to create a free service that’s fun to use!

I’m assuming that this was a huge undertaking. How long does a site like this take to set up?

It’s a constant thing. It can take dozens of hours to write the code but there are always bugs to fix and new features to implement. A good website is never finished. Fortunately the hard part is over and now I’m having a blast seeing all of the new members share their collections with the world.

What was your biggest challenge creating the site?

Getting people to use it. This could be the best service in the world but that doesn’t mean anything unless people actually use it. It needed to be simple, fun, functional and look cool. I think that has been accomplished. I was confident that once people started using the service, they would enjoy it and recommend it to their friends.

Use it to host your pics (convenient embed codes provided!)

Use it to host your pics (convenient embed codes provided!)

Well, hopefully we can get word out. I know after I posted about it on Facebook, several folks responded enthusiastically to the idea. I’m definitely not the only hobbyist excited about it.

Besides the obvious perk of being able to share your tarantula photos with other hobbyists, what other features does the site offer?

It has a social network feel to it as well. You can follow other members, like their photos and comment back and forth. It has been complimented by being called “the Instagram of tarantulas” by some. You’re able to be very social or simply create a private album just for photo storage.

Personally, I LOVE that I can use it to host my images as well. Adios, Photobucket! You’ve mentioned that you have some more fun ideas for the site down the road? Care to give us any hints?

I have some really great ideas to expand to more than just a social network. Maybe even have ways to buy/sell/borrow tarantulas in a safer way than what’s currently out there. Most forums offer classifieds to accomplish this but they’re usually just a Craigslist style posting. I think I have a better way to do this. But this all depends on how the site develops over time and if the demand is there. What path the site takes will be largely based on my members feedback so I encourage everyone to check out the service and let me know what you think!

Ideally, what do you see Tarantul.as becoming in the tarantula community?

I don’t want try and put any other site out of business. I want to co-exist and be another great resource to the community. At the same time I wasn’t going to just do the same thing everyone else does and put up another forum with a bunch of threads which can be confusing to newcomers. It needed to be unique and simple to use. My goal is for tarantula.as to be THE go-to place for dealers & hobbyists to host their photo’s, research tarantulas and chat with other enthusiasts. And if someone just wants a neat URL to showcase their tarantula pics and doesn’t care about all that other stuff, then I’m fine with that too 🙂

Obviously, someone who spends the time to create a site just for tarantula enthusiasts must have an interest in the animals. Which species do you currently keep?

It all started in December 2016 when I purchased a Brachypelma smithi sling. Since then, I have acquired an Aphonopelma chalcodes, Avicularia avicularia, Avicularia versicolor, Monocentopus balfouri, and a Poecilotheria metallica. The first batch of many more to come, I’m sure!

Oh, yeah…MANY more. After all, the more tarantulas you have, the more photos you’ll be able to post! In closing, is there anything you’d like to add that I’ve missed?

If you’re reading this and own a tarantula, I invite you to try out tarantula.as. Sign up for free, upload some photos and show the world your beautiful pet!

I’d also like to publicly thank you for everything you have done for the community. Your great videos and information on your blog have guided me in my decisions on species, housing, feeding etc. Without people like you selflessly giving back to the community, ideas like tarantula.as would have never been realized.

Thanks so much, Jason! And thank YOU for taking the time to set up such an awesome site. I know I’m hooked already, and I have a funny feeling others will find it just as cool!

Come join me at Tarantul.as .com !

If you join, make sure to look me up!

If you join, make sure to look me up!

 

The Importance of Respect and Open-mindedness In the Tarantula Hobby

Or, Why we need to eliminate the “My Way or the Highway” Attitude in Tarantula Keeping

No matter the hobby or interest, there are always going to be debates and arguments between those with different views. Whether it be sports, music, movies, or cars, it seems that many folks believe that an integral part of becoming an “expert” in a particular area entails showcasing your vast knowledge in spirited kerfuffles with other enthusiasts. After all, what better way to show how much you know than to verbally beat down someone with less awareness on the subject?

The tarantula hobby, of course, is no exception. Anyone who spends time on a public forum or group dedicated to tarantulas will inevitably encounter some “grab the popcorn” level disagreements about various subjects. Topics like handling, water dishes, supplemental heating, and even basic husbandry can lead to many passionate, often nasty, disagreements between experts and novices alike. The difference between our hobby and others however is, when two folks argue over who has the better baseball team or who the best metal guitarist is, the only thing possibly hurt is an ego. When tarantulas are involved, however, these debates can lead to the propagation of misinformation…and in some cases, dead animals.

Recently, a couple negative interactions with other keepers really got me thinking about some of the issues with our hobby; namely, the close-minded adherence to personal anecdotal evidence and an unwillingness to accept that just because something works for a person, it doesn’t make it the only way to do things…or even the right way to do things.

In one instance (already documented in a previous post) an experienced keeper took issue with the fact that I said under most circumstances, heat and humidity are two things that keepers stress too much about. Said keeper explained that in his 18 years of breeding experience, he had learned that heat was very important, and he used mats to keep his enclosures warmer. He called the article one of the worst husbandry articles he has ever read.

In another instance, a YouTuber commented on a couple of my videos to say that “tarantulas don’t have water dishes in the wild,” and that all Ts can get their water through prey. When I tried to explain my point of view on the matter, I was called an “idiot” for wasting my time supplying these “useless” accessories.

Now, obviously there are jerks and bullies in every hobby, whether it’s gaming, exotic pets, or even cooking, so it’s not surprising that one might share his opinion in such a rancorous manner. Factor in that it’s the Internet, which can embolden even the most meek basement dwelling keyboard jockey, and the potential for useless, trollish banter increases 100 fold.

However, in both of these instances, it sounded as if the posters probably had some serious experience in the hobby. The rude tone of both comments indicated that these folks weren’t just ordinary internet trolls, but hobbyist who felt totally offended by what they saw as completely false and ridiculous statements. Their belief in their way of keeping spiders, one with heat and the other without dishes, was so strong, that they apparently found my statements to the contrary to be offensive. They were lashing out at comments that contradicted what they had witnessed with their own eyes.

It’s not their beliefs that I take issue with; on the contrary, although I don’t necessarily agree with their statements, I respect that it is apparently working for them. I also appreciate that trying to argue that using heat mats or leaving out water dishes is wrong as it would be fruitless. After all, if they are heating their collections and not supplying water dishes and their Ts are doing well, then how can I possibly say that they are wrong?

No, my issue is with the rude way they present their conflicting views, and the fact that they are not offering them as their opinions, but as fact. It’s an example of the whole, “I’m right, therefore you’re wrong” mentality that permeates the hobby. That’s dangerous territory, as there is already enough misinformation and opinion about tarantulas being passed around in cyberspace as fact; we don’t need more.

The problem is that we are taught to believe what we experience with our own senses, so it’s natural to trust our own observations as powerful anecdotal evidence. We keep our tarantulas a certain way, they eat, molt, and grow, therefore we have to be doing everything right. However, this type of evidence is far from scientific, and for it to become truly useful and important, we have to compare our experiences to those of other keepers. And for keepers to feel comfortable enough to publicly share their findings, we need to be a bit more nurturing and receptive as a collective when someone presents ideas that conflict with our own beliefs.

 

The catch 22 of anecdotal data

Is using anecdotal evidence wrong? No, it’s an invaluable part of the hobby. It’s important to remember that our hobby is very much built on the experience of past keepers, the pioneers who first experiment with keeping these unique animals. As more of these keepers recorded and reported on what worked (and sometimes, what didn’t) over the course of several decades, these anecdotes accumulated into something much more substantial and powerful. We could now examine a more sizable sample of data and draw much more accurate and reliable conclusions from it. It was no longer one person saying that certain tarantulas don’t need extra heat or high humidity; it was hundreds.

A single keeper’s observations, although important, are still just anecdotal. Our minds can often cause us to recognize false positives as connections are made too easily and other pertinent information is disregarded or ignored. Personal bias or beliefs can often influence what we think we see, tainting the lens we view the world through. Your perceived experience with one tarantula is not enough to declare an observed connection as fact.

As an example, a beginning keeper posted on a message board that she had come up with a new way of keeping her tarantulas. After reading about their natural habitats, she began mixing sea salt in with their substrate. It appears that one of the habitat descriptions she read mentioned that some live in areas known to have small amounts of salt in the substrate, and she decided to try to create this mix in her terrarium. She lauded this new technique, even going so far to say that her tarantulas were now much more active and healthy since she made the move. Many folks like to experiment with substrate mixtures, and this woman was obviously trying to emulate her spider’s natural environment.

There was only one issue.

Salt is recognized as being poisonous to spiders and tarantulas and, when mixed with water, is used as a chemical-free pesticide by some. The idea of purposely introducing salt into a tarantula enclosure seemed dangerous to many. And, even if this additive wasn’t hurting her tarantulas, it certainly shouldn’t provide any health benefits.

When folks tried to politely inform this hobbyist that she could be putting her animals, especially the fragile slings, at risk, she scoffed at it. Her main argument? They were doing fine, so there must not be an issue. She chose to believe what she thought she was seeing with her own eyes rather than defer to the scientific evidence and collective experience that disproved her theory.

In the above example, I use a keeper who is new to the hobby. However, the same situation can occur with keepers that have been doing this for a while. There are some amazing veteran keepers out there who are keeping up with changes and advancements in the hobby. Then, there are others who feel that if it has worked for a decade or more, it is obviously the “correct” way to do things. I’m guessing that the breeder who took umbrage to my temperature and humidity post fell into this category. These folks feel very strongly that any husbandry that differs from what they do is therefore “incorrect”, and they can be quick to disparage folks that don’t fall in line with them. The problem is, there is a huge difference between, “This is what I do, and it has worked for me,” and “This is what I do, and it is the correct way to do it.” In the second situation, the keeper is relying on his or her observations only to declare something fact.

How can we really tell if they are happy or merely surviving?

Tarantulas are not the most expressive animals, so it can be very tricky to discern their moods or overall state of health or well-being. Many keepers talk about spiders that are seemingly fine one day, then curled up and dead the next. The warning signs of trouble are few and difficult to recognize, especially for those new to the hobby. So, although anecdotal data is very important, it can also be misleading when not compared with the observations of other keepers.

The fact that 10 different keepers can keep a spider 10 different ways and all report that the spider is seemingly thriving is a testament to just how adaptable and hardy these creatures are. It means that they are able to survive in a number of conditions, many of them adverse. Just because a T is eating and molting doesn’t mean that it’s getting the best care possible. Sadly, I’ve seen many folks justify their spotty husbandry by stating, “Well, it’s not dead, so I must be doing something right.” Can you imagine applying the same reasoning to your dog or cat?

To recognize when we are doing a good job with their care, we also need to consider what others are doing.

There is no instruction manual for raising tarantulas, and the handful of good husbandry books available often offer pertinent but limited information when it comes to the individual needs of specific species of tarantulas. After all, with over 900 species in the world, a book that covered the specific and detailed husbandry needs of each one would be one massive volume. That means the majority of the species-specific husbandry information we get comes from the cumulative accounts of those who keep them.

For example, Keeper A picks up a new species, does some research on its natural habitat, sets it up, and reports his observation on a blog, care sheet, forum, or in the comments of a YouTube video. Keeper B finds these accounts during her research, but she keeps her specimen in slightly colder temps and with less substrate. The tarantula appears to be fine, so she reports on her findings. Over the years, more keepers tweak this husbandry recipe until we finally come to having a “definitive” mode of husbandry.

And, on occasion, the generally recognized and accepted husbandry for a particular species proves to be incorrect. Take the genus Avicularia as a recent example. The internet is still rife with care sheets that state Avicularia need to be kept humid with moist substrate and frequent spraying. When hobbyists first began keeping this species, they looked to their natural habitat to determine how they should be kept. As they hail from humid locales, it seemed to make sense to keep them in humid enclosures. However, these species soon got a reputation for being fragile and difficult to keep as more and more hobbyist reported incidences of “Sudden Avic Death Syndrome”as their spiders died suddenly and with no apparent cause.

Then one day, some keeper or keepers got what must have been seen as a crazy idea. What if, instead of keeping them in stuffy and humid enclosures, we tried dry and well-ventilated ones instead?

Having witnessed what can happen in groups or on message boards when someone recommends a radical new husbandry idea, I can only imagine the backlash this poor guy or gal received when first sharing his or her findings. I can just imagine responses like, “Everyone knows avics need high humidity!” or “You can’t keep them dry…they’ll die!” For anyone who has spent time on certain message boards or Facebook groups, you can probably appreciate what a fracas this would have created.

And yet this out-of-the-box thinking not only revolutionized how we keep this species, but also likely saved thousands of spiders. It is now widely recognized that many of those SADS deaths could be attributed to dank, stuffy cages, and folks who keep them dry and well-ventilated report healthy spiders. If this person or people had their voices drowned out by close-minded hobbyists that “knew better”, we might still be keeping these animals wrong.

It is crucial that folks in this hobby feel safe to express new ideas.

Instances like this serve as sterling examples of why it’s always crucial to be open-minded when hearing new techniques or ideas. Does it mean we have to accept everything as true and valid? Of course not. There are going to be times where keepers come up with some outlandish ideas that seem to lack any shred of common sense. I’ve also seen a lot of new hobbyist who read something false then report it as fact in an effort to appear “in the know.” However, the way we respond to these folks is still important. Instead of a dozen people hopping on to decry the keeper as reckless, irresponsible, or stupid, perhaps a more civil reply is in order. Consider these two responses to someone who has reported something suspect:

Ridiculous. That’s a great way to kill your T. Do some more research.”

Or

Interesting. I do appreciate your perspective. However, experience has taught me otherwise. Here is what I’ve found (insert explanation here). Thanks for sharing and good luck!”

As this is a public dialog, the first reply is going to be seen by others who are now likely worried about opening their mouths and sounding stupid. After all, who wants to be rudely and publicly admonished in such a manner? Talk about a great way to choke off discourse. Furthermore, by scolding the poster in such a brash manner they’re likely to become defensive and close off to hearing conflicting viewpoints. Absolutely nothing is gained in this exchange. However, with the second more polite response, the original poster is more likely to at least consider that he may want to rethink his technique. This type of mature reply will also foster a more open and friendly tone for the communication of ideas (good and bad), and invite more folks to share their experiences.

Everyone wins.

Valuable information can be gleaned from alternative viewpoint and strategies.

Recently, popular YouTuber Deadly Tarantula girl shared a video about how she keeps her P. muticus specimens, and the video received quite a bit of backlash. Although the general consensus is that these are fossorial species that require deep substrate in which to dig in order to thrive, Marita explained that she keeps hers terrestrially with a bit of substrate and a hide. Now, although this flies in the face of how most folks choose to keep this species, it should be noted that Marita has been in the hobby for a long time, and although she does some things that might be “controversial”, she has years of experience to fall back on. And, having kept the muticus for over 20 years, she should definitely know a thing or two about their care.

I must admit, when first viewing the video, I was impressed that she would post something that she obviously knew would be incredibly divisive. At the same time I was not quite in agreement, as this was NOT how I kept mine. That said, instead of firing off some snarky knee-jerk comment about the video, I mulled over what she said and took to following the comments being posted about it.

The incident served as the impetus for an amazing dialog between several hobbyists and I about this species, leading many of us to realize that trying to replicate its natural habitat with the deep substrate could be creating some problems with its husbandry. Many folks, me included, reported issues with their specimens sealing themselves up in the bottom of deep burrows and never resurfacing to eat. In some cases, the animals seemingly starved to death after months secreted away in their burrows.

Which is the “correct” way? I don’t have a definitive answer yet, but DTG video spurred the type of thought and discussion that would hopefully lead to better husbandry practices and healthier Ts. Many of us were left rethinking what we thought we knew about this species and its proper care. It clearly illustrates how important the sharing of information can be in this hobby, as well as the importance of always keeping an open mind when being presented with new perspectives.

Now, before someone gets the idea that I’m encouraging wild experimentation in the hobby, that’s not at all my point. Although I think it’s healthy to consider new perspectives while evolving your husbandry, turning your back on scientific evidence or years of generally recognized husbandry can be dangerous. There is a big difference between experience-guided decisions and blind experimentation.

I AM advocating for two very important things; respect and open-mindedness.

Respect the opinions of others, no matter how outlandish or contrary they may seem. I love when those on message boards ridicule or chastise someone for a poor husbandry choice, then justify it by saying that they are “teaching.” That’s not teaching. A teacher will politely address the person, offering clear and non-judgmental feedback as to why they feel the person may be incorrect. The “student” should leave the conversation feeling educated and supported, not ridiculed and attacked.

Of course, respect goes both ways. If you’re the seasoned keeper addressing a newbie who may be suggesting something strange, try to remember what it was like to be new to this hobby and be patient with your reply. Ridicule and browbeating has no place in constructive discourse. If you’re the newbie and a seasoned keeper offers your polite feedback, be respectful of their experience level within the hobby. Becoming snotty and contrary does no one any good.

And I don’t care if you’re a keeper with 10 years of experience or 10 days, it’s always important to keep an open mind. The question you should always use to guide you through keeping is not “Does it work”; it’s “is there a better way?” Even when confronted with husbandry techniques and practices that differ greatly from what you do, you should try to be open-minded and see if there is something to be gleaned from the experience. After all, what you do may work for you, but it may not necessarily be the best way to do it.

The importance of sharing information without fear of repudiation or admonishment is crucial to the advancement of the hobby. The truth is, no matter how large our collections may grow, they still only represent a micro-fraction of the animals being kept. To really get a better, more accurate view of what “works”, we need a much larger sample than that of just one keeper. We need to collectively pool our experiences, both good and bad, to ensure that this incredible hobby continues to grow and to improve.

The Best Tarantula Species For Beginners Revisited (Video Version)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s where these lists become important…

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

The Criteria

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

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

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

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

Now, on to the video!

 

Avicularia juruensis “Yellow Banded Pinktoe” Husbandry Notes

a-juruensis-sling

While looking for a unique arboreal species, I noticed that Tanya at Fear Not Tarantulas had some Avicularia juruensis slings for sale.  Although I already had a couple of avics, including an A. versicolor and an A. metallica, for a while I really wasn’t too interested in getting any more. However, I had been on a bit of an arboreal tear the past couple months, and I was seeing this genus in a new light. I Googled some photos of adults and was immediately enamored with this fluffy little spider with the pink feet and golden bands that give it the common name “Yellow-Banded Pinktoe”. Excited to acquire a spider that I hadn’t heard much about, I picked up a 1.25″ sling in April of 2016.

This little guy/gal has definitely spurred a renewed interest in this genus.

Housing

For housing, I set my juruensis up in a 32 oz deli cup that I vented with three rows of holes along the top. I added about 2″ of slightly moist substrate to start (which I allowed to dry out), a mixture of topsoil and vermiculite. Coco fiber or peat would work just as well. I also included a piece of cork bark flat placed at an angle for hiding, a plastic plant, a pinch of sphagnum moss, and small bottle cap for a water dish.

TIP: To encourage webbing, it’s advisable to include plastic plants and foliage in order to provide the T with plenty of anchor points to attach it to. Cages barren of decorations tend to lead to less webbing and often unsettled avics.

After being introduced into its new home, my sling took residence between the top of the cork bark and cover of the container. There, it started webbing a bit of a silk “sock” to hide in, a sign that it was settling in well.  Although it webbed a section of the cover closed, I could easily open the enclosure from the other side for maintenance and feeding without tearing up the web. Whenever disturbed, the tarantula would retreat to this web to hide.

My A. juruensis enclosure.

TIP: Avicularia species love to make their homes in the highest corners of their enclosures. This can give keeper fits, as many use top-opening designs to house their animals. Although I use 32 oz deli cups, folks have become quite creative when setting up enclosures for their arboreal species. A quick Google search will bring up some great possibilities. 

For prey, I have a red runner roach colony, and I always have the pinhead roaches on hand, so I started by feeding it these. I would drop in a couple twice a week or so and they’d be gone in a day.

It molted for the first time about a month after I got it, hiding out in its web hide for close to two weeks before taking its first meal. It molted again in September and once again took over a week before it ate its first post-molt meal.  This species seems to take a bit longer in premolt, as well as some extra time to eat again after molting. It is about 1.75-2″ at the time of this writing. Now that it’s put on a bit of size, I’ve switched to medium crickets, which it has no trouble subduing. It’s been an excellent eater so far, and it has only refused food when in premolt.

Once it hits about 3″ or so, I will rehouse it into a 1 gallon clear plastic jugs I get at my local Walmart. They are crystal clear, easy to vent, and a great size for juvenile arboreal tarantulas. At that point, it will be getting one large cricket a week. When it inevitably outgrows that container, it will get rehoused into something around 5-7 gallons.

TIP: Now, most Avicularia will come out hunting at night and will have no issue locating prey on the ground. That said, I have kept a couple of specimens that seemed to be missing the prey that I dropped on the ground. When my Avicularia versicolor was a tiny sling, she would never venture on to the substrate to hunt (as evidenced by the fact that prey items I dropped in were still there days later). To make sure she ate, I would prekill a pinhead and place it in one end of her web sock. It got to the point that she’d wait at the opening for prey, and I could carefully use tweezers to drop live prey at the lip, and she’d snatch it right up. Now that she’s an adult, she hunts fine, and I haven’t had to continue bringing the food to her. So far, this has definitely not been an issue with the juruensis

Temperature and humidity

A lot of care sheets talk about the high-humidity requirements of Avicularia species, encouraging keepers to keep them on moist substrate and to spray to keep moisture levels up. However, many keepers are now realizing that the majority of these species do better when kept mostly dry with good ventilation. For years, folks spoke about “SADS” or “Sudden Avic Death Syndrome”, a phenomenon where a seemingly healthy Avicularia species would suddenly die for no apparent reason. Many seasoned keepers now believe that the moist conditions encouraged by care sheets were the culprit, as the stuffy, stagnate cages proved to be death traps for these animals. This genus seems to thrive in a drier environment as long as fresh water is provided.

a-juruensis-sling

I keep my A. juruensis the same way I keep my other avics (A. versicolor, A. metallica, and A. sp. Amazonica); plenty of ventilation, dry substrate, and a full water dish.  When I fill the water dishes, I overflow a bit, but I let it dry out in between. Once in a while, I’ll spritz some water on the side of the enclosure and webbing just in case it wants to grab a drink up high, but that’s only on occasion. It has done very well in this setup.

As for temperatures, my Ts are kept between 70-75° in the winter and 75-80° in the warmer summer months. When I first acquired it in April, the temps in my spider room were still on the low-end, and she ate and grew fine.

TIP: When in premolt, many avics will web themselves up in little “cocoons”, closing off both ends. If you see this behavior; don’t panic and don’t open up the web and try to push prey through! It just means that a molt is imminent. After it molts, the spider will stay in this web for a while; again, don’t tear down the web trying to get it out. It will emerge when it is ready.

Temperament-wise, this little guy/gal has been fairly calm. When disturbed, it scoots to its silk sock or behind the cork bark, but it doesn’t frantically bolt like other arboreal species I keep. Now that it’s larger, it also sits out in the open more often. Those who have kept this species usually describe them as calm.

The Avicularia juruensis is turning out to be a hardy, relatively fast-growing, and beautiful tarantula that would make an excellent addition to any collection.

* A WORD ABOUT MY HUSBANDRY NOTES: This article is not meant to be a “care sheet”, but rather an account of my observations as well as a description of what works for me. As always, I encourage folks to research all species thoroughly and seek multiple perspectives.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now -Tarantulas FAQ

Or, the very basic information every new tarantula keeper needs to know.

Anyone who has followed my blog or YouTube page has likely heard me talk about the first tarantula I ever acquired. About 20 years ago, after being an arachnophobe for my entire life, I decided that I would get a tarantula to help me get over my irrational fear. This was an animal that fascinated me as much as it terrified me, and I was hoping that handling a big, hairy spider would be an eventual cure. Finding one for sale in the Bargain News, I drove to a fellow exotic pet keeper’s home to procure my new pet. $20 later, I was the proud owner of Grammostola porteri (which I knew only as a “Rose Hair” tarantula). Although I had several dozen snakes at the time, this fluffy little spider was the biggest “oddity” in my collection, and folks often asked to see her when they visited

The fact that this tarantula survived all of my husbandry missteps and general arachno-ignorance those first few years (there wasn’t a lot of great information back in the mid-’90s!) is a testament to just how hardy this species is. Every mistake that could be made, I likely made it, and I truly feel terrible for my poor girl … hence why she has a fancy cage kept right in the center of my vast collection now!

I spend a lot of time talking to new keepers, and when I get asked questions that they think might be foolish or obvious, I try to point out that it really doesn’t feel like that long ago that I had the very same questions. We all start somewhere and, for some of us, many mistakes were made along the way. After doing some reminiscing about my beginnings in the hobby, I thought it might be fun to put together a list of some of the information I wish I knew back then along with some anecdotes about by own missteps and misinformation. With any luck, this will be a fun and informative way for those new to the hobby to learn some basic information about these fascinating creatures while I share some personal (and sometimes embarrassing) anecdotes. For those who are more established, perhaps you will have some stories of your own to add…

And now, things I wish I knew when I first started keeping Ts!

A tarantula on its back is not dead; it’s simply molting. I worry that this misconception has lead to much misery and more than a few dead spiders. During my first year keeping my G. porteri, I discovered her on her back one morning. I called my wife over, and we were both very upset that I had apparently lost my spider. As luck would have it, I had to go to work, so I left her in her enclosure with the full intent of burying her later. When I returned home that night, I opened her cage and stared in total confusion. Not only was my girl still alive, there were now TWO tarantulas in the enclosure!

Itabunae-post-molt

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

It took me a few minutes to realize that my T hadn’t miraculously spawned a duplicate a-la Gremlins; she had molted her exoskeleton. I had come dangerously close to burying my new pet alive. Sadly, I’m not the first keeper to experience this, and I’ve heard many horror stories about owners who mistakenly tossed their pets thinking them dead. When tarantulas molt, they turn onto their backs for the process. If you see your tarantula on its back, there is no need to panic. Sit back, relax, and enjoy one of nature’s most fascinating events.

Mature males live far shorter lives than females. The second tarantula I ever bought was an adult Aphonopelma seemanni that I acquired at a reptile convention. I took my new pet home, built him what I thought was an awesome enclosure with deep substrate, a pre-made burrow in florist’s foam, and a water dish. I put it in its new home and waited for it to acclimate and eat.

Well, it never did. Instead, it spent all of it’s time climbing the enclosure walls in a seemingly endless effort to escape. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong, and I worried that my husbandry was leading to his restlessness. My fears were seemingly realized when, several months later, my new pet curled up and died.

It was years before I stumbled onto an article about spiders that helped me to understand what really happened. My A. seemanni had been a mature male at the end of its life cycle. Many mature male spiders don’t eat ever again and spend all of their time wandering and looking for a female. At this point, they are on borrowed time; they will either be devoured by the female during copulation, or die of old age. A dealer had likely unloaded this specimen on me as it had either already bred or he didn’t have use for it.

Over the past several years, I’ve talked to many folks who were either sold a mature male, or had a sling mature into one and had no idea why it was restless and wouldn’t eat. This can be very upsetting to folks who blame their husbandry for nature taking its course.

There are major differences between Old World and New World tarantulas. For years, I thought that a tarantula bite was like a bee sting. Luckily, this wive’s tale didn’t end up biting me (no pun intended) in the can. At the same show I bought my A. seemanni at, a dealer was selling a magnificent and terrifying spider labeled “Thailand Black Tarantula.” This large ebony beauty was in a five gallon tank, and it was baring its fangs and spastically slapping at anything that moved (which, in this crowded show, was a lot). I was totally enamored with this animal, and came very close to buying it. Although my wife worried about it’s temperament, I assured her that if it did bite me, it would only be about as bad as a bee sting.

WRONG!

The fact is, HAD I bought that T, and HAD it bitten me, I would have been in for a very nasty surprise. As an Old World species, this tarantula’s bite was medically significant. Although the bite wouldn’t have killed me, I would have been in excruciating pain and suffered other complications like cramping, nausea, and vomiting.

New World species, or tarantulas from North America, South America, and the Caribbean islands, kick urticating hairs from their abdomens as a means of defense. These barbed, irritating hairs get caught in skin, eyes, and nasal passages causing extreme discomfort. New World species have weaker venom, and in many instances, their bites are about the same as a bad bee sting. However, the hairs can be just as nasty and effective.

NEW-WORLD-COMPARISON

Old World species of tarantulas (Ts from Asia, Africa, Australia, etc) on the other hand, lack the urticating hairs of their New World counterparts and will therefore use their fangs and more potent venom for defense. Although a bite from an Old World species won’t kill you, it can cause excruciating pain, dizziness, full body cramping, and nausea. Simply put, the can put a real hurtin’ on you. These fast ‘n feisty spiders demand a bit more caution and experience to care for.

I still talk to many folks who are new to the hobby that don’t realize that the “bee sting” comparison is a myth and don’t know the difference between New and Old World tarantulas. Even more disconcerting, I have many try to tell me that they’re not worried about being bitten by a T because it can’t kill them. Yikes. For those interested in learning more about tarantula bites, you can check out the article “A Word About Tarantula Bites”.

You don’t have to handle your tarantulas to be a “real” keeper. When folks find out that I have tarantulas, one of first questions they usually ask is, “do you hold them?” Back when I first got my G. porteri, my friends and family were constantly asking when I would handle her, and I’ll admit to feeling like a bit of a chicken for having never attempted it. After all, that was the point I got her, right?

Finally, the day came. Mustering up all of my courage, I sat her enclosure on my floor, opened it up, and set my hand inside. Using my other hand and a paintbrush, I carefully poked her back legs. With a speed I had never seen from her before, she wheeled around and latched onto the brush with her legs and fangs.

And this sudden violence, a feeding response most likely, shocked me so badly, that I actually passed out. Yup, like out cold.

I woke up a bit later, confused,light-headed, and slumped against the wall, to find my girl perched right at the lip of her enclosure almost as if she was laughing at me. I regained my composure, shooed her back into her cage, and decided that was the last time I would ever attempt to hold a tarantula.

Since that embarrassing experience, I’ve completely overcome my fear of spiders, and I’ve actually held a few of them without incident. However, I choose not to handle them anymore as they get nothing out of it and I know that if I get bit, I’m likely to toss the T, hurting or killing it.

Euathlus sp. red

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

Now, can you hold your pet? If you’ve done the research and have a tractable specimen, of course. However, handling is certainly not mandatory, and many serious keepers have a hands-off policy with their arachnids. I’ve spoken to many new keepers who seem to think that all “expert” tarantula keepers hold their animals, which is definitely not the case. It’s personal decision best left up to the responsible keeper to decide.

Care sheets and their “ideal” temperatures are total nonsense.  When I first acquired my G. porteri, I got a tri-folded care sheet from a convention that supposedly detailed the correct husbandry for this species. This document mentioned “ideal” temperatures in the 8os and (wait for it) humidity levels around 80%. Even worse, it suggested using heat lamps or heat rocks for added warmth and recommended spraying the T and its enclosure once a week.

Of course, this is a species that does well in temps in the mid 60s, so this ideal of 80 is nonsense. At the time, I didn’t realize that, so I used to keep the enclosure dangerously close to one of my snake’s heat lamps to keep it nice and warm. It was a minor miracle that I didn’t fry my poor spider doing this, as the heat could have very well have dehydrated my G. porteri.

Even worse, this guide made me think that I had to keep my spider moist, when in fact, this species abhors moisture. For a while, I kept half of the substrate in the enclosure moist, as I thought that this species needed high humidity. It was only after I noticed that she seemed to avoid the wet areas like the plague that I stopped the needless spraying and just started using a water dish.

As it stands, this bogus care sheet led to me accidentally torturing my poor spider with inhospitable conditions (although it could have been much worse). The fact is, generic care sheets usually do more harm than good, and anything mentioning “ideal” temperatures or humidity requirements should immediately tossed in the garbage. I would be willing to bet that many tarantulas are lost due to folks obsessing over false temperature and humidity requirements. Pet stores will often try to sell folks supplementary heat items, like lamps, heat rocks, and mats, and the fact is, these can prove deadly to tarantulas. In most cases, no supplementary heat is needed; they do fine at room temperature.

For more on temperature and humidity, check out “Humidity, Temperature, and Tarantulas“. Or discover more about why care sheets are to be avoided in “Tarantula Care Sheets – an Unnecessary Evil”.

When a tarantula buries itself, there’s no need for panic. Although I never had a problem with my G. porteri burrowing, this became a issue for me when I got my first slings. After about a month of watching my Lasiodora parahybana sling take down every prey item I dropped into its enclosure, I awoke one morning to discover that it had completely closed off the entrance to its den.

Was this purposeful? Had the den caved in? Was it dead? How would it eat?

As the days passed with no sign of my LP, my anxiety grew. I was convinced that the little guy was dead, and I even made the terrible mistake of trying to push a roach into the area I thought to be its webbed up its den entrance (something one should never do). I continued to keep a corner of the substrate moist, and just assumed that I had lost my first sling. Luckily, after a bit of research, I learned that this was normal behavior, and I decided to leave the poor thing along. Sure enough, about a month later, it reopened the mouth of its burrow and sat at the top, hungry and a bit larger.

The fact is, when a tarantula buries itself, it’s the T’s way of putting up the “Do Not Disturb” sign. This is a very natural occurrence, and the keeper just has to trust that their spider knows what it’s doing. It’s not buried alive, it’s not starving, it’s not dead … it just wants to be left alone for a bit. Still don’t believe me? Check out “Help…My Tarantula Buried Itself!”.

Tarantulas can be terrestrial, arboreal, or fossorial. Back when I first got into the hobby, I was heavily into snakes and attended many reptile conventions. At these events, there were always a few dealers who were peddling tarantulas with most displaying them in large terrariums to garner a bit of extra attention. I keenly remember that a few of the species seemed particular ornery as they sat in the center of barren enclosures on a couple inches of vermiculite, angrily slapping at everything.

I now realize that part of the problem was that many of these species were being kept incorrectly, either due to display purposes or just bad husbandry. Back then, I could remember dealers telling folks that all species do well in a 10 gallon aquarium with a couple inches of substrate. This one size fits all approach to tarantulas was of course quite wrong.

I now know that there are three basic types of tarantulas.

Terrestrial tarantulas live on the ground and do well with a few inches of substrate and a hide (often a piece of cork bark). It should be noted that many terrestrial species will burrow as slings, but will outgrow this behavior and stay out in the open as they mature.

Fossorial tarantulas live in burrows under ground. These species need deep substrate to construct their homes, and do not need to be offered hides as they will dig their own. Many fossorial species will spend the majority of their time underground, proffering their keepers only glimpses of their front legs as they wait for prey.

Arboreal tarantulas live off the ground in trees in their natural habitat. These species need more height for their enclosures and branches or cork bark to climb on. For most, substrate depth isn’t important as they will spend the majority of their time on the decorations or walls.

In the same vein, there are also arid species that require dry substrate and moisture-dependent species that need moist substrate to thrive. A keeper who does his or her research will be careful to consider all of these factors when setting up a proper home for a new spider.

Tarantulas are amazing escape artists. This one almost bit me in the butt with my A. seemanni. The first tank I put her in was meant for fish, so the acrylic top had a smallish hole in it for a filter. Considering that this tarantula was about 5″ long, I figured there was no way he could fit through the hole.

Boy was I wrong.

While at work, I got a frantic call from my mother who was babysitting my son at my apartment. Mom was terribly arachnophobic, and it took a lot of convincing to get her to come to my home because of the spiders. Well, while she was there, my A. seemanni squeezed out of the hold and was sitting right on top of the enclosure when she entered the room. She grabbed her keys and my son and refused to come back.

Although the story is quite funny now, this oversight on my part could have led to the death of my spider. The fact is, these animals can squeeze through any gap that will allow their carapaces to fit through. They are also quite strong and able to lift up the corners of unsecured tank tops. Do you have a fancy enclosure with wire mesh vents? Well, you might want to replace them as tarantulas can chew right through them with little effort.

When choosing a home for your new acquisition, it’s always important to make sure that it is secure enough to adequately contain your new ward.

chewed-vent

A wire mesh vent that my L. itabunae nearly chewed completely through.

Tarantula common names, although sometimes cool, are often quite useless. For years, I referred to my G. porteri as my “Rose Hair” or simply my “rosie”. I was used to referring to my pets by breed names, like labrador retrievers, pit bulls, etc for my dogs, or common names for snakes, like boa, corn, or king. It never occurred to me that I should ever have to learn the scientific name of anything.

Unfortunately, the hobby is rife with overlapping, inaccurate, or just plane bogus common names for the various species of tarantulas available. There are so many “bird eaters” and “striped legged” spiders currently available that it’s enough to make a person’s head spin. In some instances, species don’t have common names at all. The fact is, those truly into the hobby only use the scientific names when describing their animals. Most tarantulas dealers also list their stock alphabetically by scientific name, with many not including the common name at all.

Now, that’s not to say that there is anything wrong with using common names. It’s just with the amount of overlap and the fact that some are literally made up by dealers, the best way to accurately identify a tarantula (or theraphosidae) is by their scientific names. Those interested in learning a bit more about scientific names can check out “Tarantulas – The Importance of Learning (and Using!) Scientific Names”.

Tarantula can drink just fine out of water dishes. For the first several months I kept my G. porteri, I had a chunk of natural sponge in its water dish. After all, I was told that tarantulas couldn’t drink from just a normal dish, and that they needed a sponge to “suck the water out with their fangs.”

I can’t even begin to explain how embarrassingly wrong this is.

First off, tarantulas have mouths to drink and eat. Their fangs are meant to inject venom, not to suck up water like two pointy straws. Trust me, I’ve seen mine drink directly from their water dishes many times. Secondly, sponges are incredibly unsanitary and will soon turn a water bowl into a veritable petri dish of bacteria. They serve no purpose in a tarantula’s home.

This hobby is ridiculously addictive. If you’ve been keeping tarantulas for a while, this needs no further explanation. If you’re brand new to this amazing hobby, consider yourself warned…

Did I miss anything? What do you wish you knew before getting into the hobby? Please, chime in using the comments section!

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

Possibly the best tarantula ordering experience I have ever had.

My new N. tripepii female courtesy of Tom Patterson.

My new N. tripepii female courtesy of Tom Patterson.

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

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

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

Boy, am I glad that I did.

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

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

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

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

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

What an amazing box of spiders.

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

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

Just WOW.

3" P. muticus juvenile rehousing.

3″ P. muticus juvenile rehousing.

Take the chance and order directly from breeders

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

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

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

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

Tom’s Current Price List:

Thereaphosidae spiderlings

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

Augacephalus ezendami
2″ $30.00

Chaetopelma olivaceum
1″ $25.00

Cyriocosmus bertae
1/8″ $20.00

Grammostola pulchripes
2″ $30.00

Heterothele gabonensis
1/4″ $25.00

Kochiana brunnipes
1/8″ $15.00

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

Pamphobetues fortis
3″ $50.00

Pelinobius muticus
3″ $50.00 each

Phlogius crassipes
1″ $25.00

Phlogius sp. “Eunice”
2″ $45.00

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

Poecilotheria smithi (suspected males)
4″ $60.00

Psalmopeous cambridgei
1″ $20.00

Pseudhapalopus spinulopalpus
1″ $40.00 each

Sericopelma sp.”Santa Catalina”
4″ $50.00

Vitalius paranaensis
2″ $50.00

Thereaphosidae females

Hapalopus sp. “Columbia large”
3″ $85.00

Heterothele villosella
3″ $75.00

Nhandu tripepii
5″ $179.00

Poecilotheria tigrinawesseli
5.5″ $200.00

Mygalomorphae

Cyclocosmia torreya
1.5″ $40.00 each

Macrothele calpeiana
1/4″ $30.00 each

Araneomorphae

Africactenus poecilus
Hatchling $10.00 each

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

Cupiennius salei
Hatchlings $25.00

Heteropoda hosei
1″ well started taking crickets.$25.00

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

Heteropoda sp “Sumatra violet”
Hatchlings $15.00

Kukulcania hibernalis WC females
2″-3″ $19.00

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

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

Tarantula Controversies #1: The OBT as a Beginner T

Recently, I sat down to write an article about some of the divisive, hot-button topics that dog the tarantula hobby and often ensnare uninitiated keepers in heated debates. These are subjects that new hobbyists are often interested in learning about, but an internet search or an innocent forum query produces two equally heated and opposing answers. My hope was to present both sides of these gray-area arguments so that keepers could develop their own informed opinions.

Please take a moment to participate in the poll above. Thanks!

As this feature took shape, it was apparent that there were enough of these topics that to try to cover them in one blog post would prove daunting (not to mention provide for a particularly long-winded blog post). The logical decision was to instead cover these topics as a series, focusing on one issue at a time. And, I could think of no better way to kick off this feature than by starting with one of the most incendiary topics in the hobby today…

Should OBTs be kept by beginners?

AOBT

Background

Like politics, climate change, taxes, gun control, or any other hot button issues sure to spawn heated debates, the subject of OBTs in the hands of beginners is perhaps one of the most divisive and incendiary topics in the hobby today. At least once a week, some unsuspecting newcomer will start an OBT thread on Arachnoboards that quickly de-evolves from a constructive discussion to ruthless one-sided admonishment replete with petty name calling. Things heat up so quickly when this infamous animal is mentioned, that threads have been known to hit several pages in an hour.

Talk about a popcorn thread.

When I first got seriously into the hobby and was spending the majority of my free time researching which tarantula I might want to get next, I stumbled upon a blog post titled “Top Ten Beginner’s Tarantulas”. As it was currently the top site to come up with my search, I assumed that the blog must be a fairly reputable source. Although the majority of this article listed spiders I had already read were good beginners, #10 on the list was one I hadn’t encountered before…an OBT.

The Pterinochilus murinus was a stunning orange tarantula, and I was immediately fascinated by this gorgeous animal. Although the author of this list mentioned that this species was an Old World with a “bad attitude and dangerous venom”, the majority of the post detailed the ease of husbandry and hardiness. This spider immediately shot to the top of my wish list, and I set off to do some more research on it. Had I not spent the next several days scouring the boards for more info about this species, I might have immediately hopped over to Jamie’s tarantulas and snatched up a couple of the slings she had for sale.

However, a quick search revealed that this was a bit more than a spider with a “bad attitude”; in fact, this animal was literally infamous for its vicious temperament, blinding speed, potent venom, and propensity for biting. A quick review of Arachnoboard’s Bite Report section convinced me that this was a spider not to be trifled with. It didn’t take me long to determine that I wasn’t ready for the feisty beauty affectionately referred to as the “Orange Bitey Thing”.

Not all newer keepers wait to acquire this fascinating and notorious T, and this can prove quite problematic to hobbyists that consider this  species to be an “expert-level” spider. They believe that the P. murinus is potentially dangerous tarantula that is best kept in the hands and collections of seasoned keepers. However, not all agree with this assessment. On the other side of the fence, hobbyists argue that this species is okay for beginners. Although this used to be an argument favored more by folks newer to the hobby, I’ve seen at least one reputable breeder and several experienced hobbyists come out in support of this idea. Below are the arguments and counter arguments and how they usually break down. For clarity, stances supporting OBTs for beginners will be in GREEN; stances against will be in RED.

The Arguments

Ease of care is what defines a good “beginner” tarantula, and there is none easier than the OBT  The P. murinus is widely recognized as one of the hardiest Ts on the market. They do well set up as terrestrials or semi-arboreals, meaning they can adapt to just about any enclosure type. They have no moisture or temperature requirements and thrive on bone dry substrate; many folks don’t even give them water dishes due to their propensity to web them over. OBTs eat well and grow fast, meaning your precious spider will be out of its fragile sling stage quickly. Finally, they are readily available in the hobby and quite inexpensive, which makes them a great, low-risk introductory spider.

As for the OBT’s legendary and unpredictable temperament, some argue that the notoriety it receives for being hyper aggressive and fast actually renders them predictable. Informed newbies who acquire this animal will have already heard scores of stories about its nasty nature and will likely be overly cautious when working with it. Although this spider is more of a handful than other beginner tarantulas, a bit of caution and common sense would go along way. For those just getting into the hobby, this would be a great hands-off introduction to tarantula keeping.

Temperament MUST be considered when choosing a beginner tarantula, and the OBT’s attitude renders it inappropriate for a beginner. Folks in this camp tend agree that there’s more to a good “beginner level” tarantula  than ease of husbandry. Although the OBT is an undeniably hardy tarantula, with many joking that they can thrive if kept on shattered glass for a substrate, their temperaments, speed, and venom potency render them potentially dangerous in the hands of people who don’t have a lot of experience keeping tarantulas.

Although ease of husbandry is definitely a priority, temperament should also be a consideration, especially for species packing medically significant bites. A mistake with a docile tarantula, like a Grammostola or Brachypelma, could lead to a bite that is little more annoying than a bee sting; a mistake with an OBT could lead to a hospital visit. Bites from this species can lead to excruciating pain, nausea, cramping, and other unpleasant symptoms in a full-grown adult.

Transfers are also a major part of husbandry, and this is an area where OBTs can be their most troublesome. Escapes are a major concern for those working with tarantulas, and a keeper not used to these spiders’ sudden speed bursts often experience the panic of suddenly having a large spider on the loose in his or her home. For slower New World terrestrial species, this isn’t as much of an issue as they are usually easily cupped and returned to their enclosures. As for the OBT, these speedy little devils can be a nightmare to wrangle.

With proper research, and new keeper can prepare to correctly care for an OBT.  Any responsible hobbyist is sure to do adequate research for any species he or she is looking to acquire, and it’s no different with the P. murinus. Keepers new to the hobby can prepare to receive an OBT by spending some time researching this species. This research should include speaking to experienced folks, watching the YouTube videos illustrating their speed and attitude, and reading accounts from those who keep them. 

These folks also argue that NO ONE is ever really ready for a defensive and unpredictable species like the OBT, and even an experienced keeper isn’t necessary going to be any more prepared for an escape or a bolting spider than someone new to the hobby. After all, isn’t an experienced keeper who’s getting an OBT for the first time in the same boat as a newbie as neither has kept this species before? Experience is gained by doing, so the best thing to do before procuring this species is to read up and prepare.

Research isn’t enough; experience is necessary. On the other side of this debate are generally more experienced keepers and those newer to the hobby who feel that reading about a species is in no way the same as the experience garnered from actually keeping them. Many of these folks have been around long enough to see inexperienced keepers acquire this species only to later become afraid of it, and some have even acquired OBTs from folks who became terrified of them. Respect for any tarantula is necessary, but fear can can be dangerous to the keeper and the spider. This intimidation can lead to poor husbandry, as the keeper is unable to clean or rehouse their pet.

Keepers who have already worked with calmer species for a while will have honed basic skills like cleanings, feedings, and rehousings, which will make dealing with a spider that can be this defensive, fast, and unpredictable much safer. They argue that an experienced keeper getting a P. murinus for the first time might not have experience with that particular spider, but their hands-on experience with other species and an understanding of T keeping fundamentals will leave them much better prepared for mishaps.

Many keepers believe in the “Ladder System”, or the idea that people new to the hobby should work their way up to more advanced Old World species only after gaining experience by working with more docile New World beginner species. In this scenario, a keeper might start by keeping a “calm” species like a B. smithi or B. albopilosum before “graduating” to something a bit larger and more feisty, like an A. geniculata. After spending a couple years with these species, this keeper might then move to getting a beginner Old World, like E. pachypus or C. darlingi.

In this system, the keeper spends time working with tarantulas for at least a couple years as he or she develops the skills and instincts needed to successfully and safely deal with advanced species like the OBT. Proponents of this system argue that reading about spiders only gets you so far; the best knowledge comes from actually keeping them. They believe that inexperienced keepers that skip this step are setting themselves up for problems. For example, you wouldn’t give someone with only a few months of experience driving a moped a Ninja to ride; they would have to work up to the more advanced bike.

Obviously, many folks new to the hobby have kept OBTs over the years without incident, so it’s no big deal. Head to any online tarantula vendor to check out their stock, and you’re likely to find that they have plenty of P. murinus slings available for purchase (and at really low prices). The OBT has been a hobby staple for quite some time, and there’s a good chance that the majority of the hundreds, if not thousands, of slings sold each year are going to folks who are not tarantula keeping experts.

The fact is, for all of the alarm and condemnation when a newbie to the hobby procures this species, there really aren’t a lot of reports out there about a newbie losing, getting bit by, or being overwhelmed by his/her new pet. After all, if hundreds or thousands of these spiders are out there, there should in the very least be dozens of bite reports, right? In several instances, those who have been in the hobby for a while will eventually admit to acquiring an OBT early on and raising it without incident, seemingly debunking the theory that they are an “expert species”.

It puts the hobby at risk. For folks on this side of the fence, the issue also goes beyond the welfare of the individual keeper and spider; they feel that a well-publicized bite report could lead a species ban or a ban on tarantula keeping in general. In all likelihood, the majority of bites aren’t reported on public forums, meaning there is no way to tell how folks are handling this animal. However, many feel that all it would take is for one bite report to make the news in a sensationalized manner for the hobby to be put in jeopardy.

If we’re being honest, tarantula keeping is a bit of an eccentric, niche hobby. Anyone who has been in the hobby a while has gotten used to the strange, often judgmental looks when you tell folks that you like to collect giant spiders. And, as many people are very ill-informed about these animals, fallacious stories abound about deadly spiders capable of horrendous violence against their keepers and their unsuspecting families. One publicized trip to the emergency room could lead to a campaign to ban these animals by an over-zealous politician.

On a personal note, I live in Connecticut where it is already illegal to sell venomous animals (including tarantulas) in pet stores and at public conventions. Even worse, after the highly-publicized chimp attack in 2009, legislators proposed a bill that would have banned ALL exotic pets. Folks who worry about a partial or full ban on the hobby are not being alarmists; it could happen.

My $0.02.

Again, like many debatable topics, this topic really isn’t a black and white issue. If you’re a keeper who is still panicking because your spider has buried itself for a molt or who has never had to transfer a spider from one enclosure to another, you really should avoid the OBT until you have some more experience. I do feel that base experience is necessary before one attempts to keep an OBT, but I also feel the amount of experience needed is going to vary greatly from keeper to keeper. Are the majority of new keepers ready for an OBT? I’ve spoken to many over the years, and my experience tells me “no.” There are just so many basic skills necessary for this hobby that are much more easily mastered and perfected with slower New World species. However, there are those I have encountered who are more than ready, and do a great job transitioning well into keeping this feisty T.

Again, it’s not black and white.

I’ve seen many instances of new keepers announcing that they’re ready for an OBT only weeks after posting a  panicked cry for help because their T has flipped to molt. Or, they post that the transfer of their B. smithi was a total debacle, then later explain that the same thing won’t happen if they get a P. murinus. These are the types of alarming statements that raise the ire of more experienced keepers and get those OBT threads heating up…

Furthermore, I truly believe that if you’re taking to a public forum to ask if you are ready, the answer is most assuredly NO. As much as many folks would like to pretend that there are some set ground rules for who can get an OBT and when, that’s really not the case. Asking folks on a forum only evidences that the keeper is probably not ready for this animal and is looking for confirmation from other keepers (and believe me, that keeper will get it!). Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to make the responsible and informed decision as to if he or she is ready for this animal.

I do feel strongly that this is an species that should only be purchased by someone who, in the very least, has the basics of husbandry under control. This means, cleaning, recognizing common issues, feeding, transferring, and other common housekeeping aspects. As many accidents and escapes happen during rehousings, I believe that it’s particularly important that keepers have a practiced and safe system for transfers. Once you have the basics of tarantula keeping down and you’ve worked with a few species of spiders, then it might be time to consider some more advanced species.

Again, fear is dangerous in this hobby, and this species is one of the “scarier” spiders available. If you’re thinking of getting an OBT, but the idea of having one of these speedy orange devils scares you a bit, wait. Respect and caution is paramount when dealing with fast-moving defensive spiders; fear can lead to mistakes which then lead to a bite or a dead spider.

I do believe that some individuals are just more inherently capable of correctly caring for an OBT and dealing with its attitude without as much experience as others. That’s a fact. However, it’s not up to me or other keepers to determine who those folks are. I have noticed that many of the folks that post about getting one on the forums seem to be the ones I would rather not have them.

I also think that this species should be for adults only. There is also the very real issue of younger keepers who are still living at home acquiring this species. Although OBTs will not kill you with their venom, a bite from this species will definitely make an adult individual miserable. Now, imagine for a moment that one of these spiders escapes and ends up biting the family dog, cat, or a child in the house. By their nature, teenagers, can be a bit reckless. Heck, I used to be one, and I still marvel at some of the less-than-informed decisions I’ve made. Hop on YouTube and you can find a plethora of videos featuring younger keepers proudly displaying reckless behavior with their Ts, and more than a few featuring the OBT.

Obviously, there are likely some fine young keepers out there who innately possess the maturity and skills needed to safely care for this animal. However, I do think that parents need to be informed and a big part of the decision process for a teen who is looking to acquire a P. murinus, as a mistake could affect the whole household. In the very least, a younger keeper still living at home needs to do his or her best to inform parents or anyone else in the household about these animals so that a decision can be made as a family as to whether or not to keep one.

Final thoughts

The P. murinus is a gorgeous and amazing species of tarantula that I personally believe is a great addition to any collection. That being said, it’s notoriety as a vicious, unpredictable speed demon is well deserved, meaning that this is a species not to be trifled with. A quick glance at bite reports for this species illustrate that it is quick to bite, will bite repeatedly, and its strong venom can produced intense pain and lingering full-body cramping.

In other words, the OBT has all the makings for a really bad day.

That said, responsible keepers with a modicum of common sense and a basic understanding of tarantulas and their husbandry might be tempted to keep this unique an notorious spider. However, before any hobbyist, new or experienced,  brings one of these Ts into the home, she should ask herself, “am I ready?”

Bumba cabocla “Brazilian Redhead” Husbandry

A gorgeous beginner-friendly species.

B.-cabocla

When I first encountered this unique tarantula, it was known as the Maraca cabocla or “Brazilian Redhead”, and I was immediately enamored with its build (and, if I’m being honest, with its funny name). With its deep red carapace and long, lithe, tapered legs, it bore more than a passing resemblance to a true spider, and I wondered why this species wasn’t more prevalent in the hobby. While doing research on its husbandry, I discovered that information was rather sparse and often conflicting. Some kept it dry while others kept it moist. Some reported fast growth rate while other reported less frequent molts with modest size gains. I was fortunate enough to find tips from a keeper who had successfully bred this species to get me started. Having kept these guys for a while, and with several folks asking me about their care, I figured it was time to share some of my observations.

A hardy species offering some husbandry wiggle room.

I acquired my two slings about a year ago at about .3” or so. Both were housed in dram bottles with about 2.5” of moist substrate, and both quickly dug a system of complex tunnels straight down to the bottom. It seems if given the substrate depth, this species will dig. Over time, I allowed the substrate to dry out a bit and just periodically moistened part of it by carefully pouring some water down the sides of the bottles. Although I’ve heard some keepers report that their B. caboclas gravitated toward moisture, mine haven’t shown any preference for it. In their natural habitat, this species experiences a several months long dry period followed by a rainy period, so it seems to be physiologically equipped to deal with the two extremes.

My B. cabocla specimens have proven to be slower growers.  Both are currently kept at temperatures that range 72-76 in the winter and about 75-80 in the summer. Since I acquired them, they have both molted about three times each and are both just over 1” in size now. Both are now showing some of their adult colorations as well, which is quite cool. As tiny slings, I would feed them pre-killed baby crickets or pieces of mealworm. When still very small, my two specimens were not particularly voracious eaters; they would occasionally refuse meals when not in premolt and seemed intimidated by live prey. Once they put on a bit of size, they seemed to develop better prey responses. Mine now have no trouble chasing down small crickets.

I have spoken to a keeper who has experienced slightly faster growth rates with hers as she keeps it in warmer temperatures year round. As always, warmer temps will lead to faster metabolisms and growth rates, so it’s very possible that caboclas kept at higher temps will grow much faster than mine have.

A note about burrowing…

During the first winter that I kept my cabocla slings, both buried themselves, covering up the entrances to their burrows completely. In one instance, I was able to see the sling at the bottom of his burrow through the pill bottle. The other sling, however, covered up all openings, and it almost appeared that the tunnels had possibly collapsed. Now, I warn keepers all of the time not to disturb their spiders if they should bury themselves. After all, tarantulas know what they are doing, and if they suddenly disappear into their dens, you can bet that there’s a good reason for it. However, after three months of seeing no signs of life, I succumbed to my impatience and carefully dug through the sub to find the little guy. What I first mistook to be a shriveled corpse proved to be a molt; the actually spider, a bit larger now and obviously upset, popped out a moment later.

That’s the last time I don’t follow my own advice.

Now that the slings have put on a bit of size, I have moved them both to16-oz deli cups with a couple inches of substrate, cork bark for hides, and bottle cap water dishes. Both have taken to the hides and have done a bit of digging.

Temperament-wise, they have proven to be a bit skittish, often bolting directly to their burrows when disturbed. Once the largest of the slings hit the 1” mark, it began hanging out on the surface much more and seems a bit less likely to run when disturbed. It also has no problems chasing down and subduing small crickets, seemingly having outgrown its fear of moving prey. As far as the experience level needed for this species, I would think that it could easily be kept by someone new to the hobby as long as they were cognizant of it’s flighty behavior.

Check out one of my B. cabocla slings in the video below!

For those looking for a unique, beautiful, medium-sized T that’s tough as nails, the B. cabocla should definitely be a consideration. I’ve been seeing more an more of these guys on the market, and I’m hoping that they start getting the attention that they deserve.

Breeding Project: Poecilotheria Regalis

What better way to start the new year than with some breeding projects?

With many of my females maturing, it’s time for me to get going on some of the breeding projects I’ve been anticipating. First up is a pairing between my mature male and female Poecilotheria regalis. I was very fortunate that this male and female, purchased separately as a sling and a juvenile respectively, matured at about the same time. Although I was cutting it a bit close (the male had his final molt a couple months ago), everything eventually fell into place nicely.

Background

7" mature female P. regalis

7″ mature female P. regalis

The female was purchased as a 2.25″ unsexed juvenile about 22 months ago. Her last molt was on December 2, and since then I’ve fattened her up a bit with three large dubia roaches and a hissing cockroach.  She is currently about 7″ in length.

6.5" male P. regalis

6.5″ male P. regalis

The male was purchased about 14 months ago as a 1.5″ sling and had its final molt in early November. He’s been observed tearing down sperm webs a couple times over the past several weeks, so he’s been ready to go.  Although I would have ideally used this male earlier to breed, I wanted to wait until my female molted out one more time and gained a bit more size. He is currently about 6.5″.

Introducing the male and female.

I’d considered a few ways to introduce the two potential mates to each other. Courtships can last quite a while for Pokies, and I reasoned that I might not be able to sit by with a camera and hope to catch the process. I was also hoping to leave them overnight as to offer a dark, noise-free breeding environment. As Poecilotheria species are rather tolerant of each other (as evidenced by the many successful communal set-ups out there), most keepers reported that they allowed the two specimens to remain in the same enclosure unsupervised anywhere from overnight to a week. I planned to keep them together for an evening.

I had read about “shark tanking/shark caging”, which is when the male is added to the female’s enclosure for a few days while inside a smaller enclosure to protect him. The idea is to allow the pair to get accustomed to each other while still keeping the male our of harm’s way. Eventually, the male is released so that he can mate, hopefully with less risk of getting eaten by the female.

I know that several keepers have used this technique with some success, but the breeders who I have spoken to had not used shark tanking with the successful pairings of their Poecilotheria species. Also, the size of my female’s enclosure wouldn’t have allowed the space needed for this practice, so it became a moot point.

I also considered capturing the male and carefully introducing him directly into the female’s enclosure. Again, however, I worried that the size of the enclosure might not be conducive, as a spooked male might run directly into the female, getting munched before he could do his thing. Also, if the male was able to successfully insert, my female’s enclosure would offer minimal space for escape should she then decide she was hungry.

After measuring the two containers that housed my specimens, I decided that I would buy a much larger enclosure that would accommodate both the cages. With this setup, I would be able to put both enclosures in, open the tops, and let the spiders find each other on their own. This would avoid spooking the tarantulas during the introduction and allow them to encounter each other as they might in the wild. This breeding tank also offered plenty of free space should the male need to beat a hasty retreat.

A "breeding chamber" for my P. regalis pair. Both pokie enclosures were place inside this larger enclosure and their lids removed.

A “breeding chamber” for my P. regalis pair. Both pokie enclosures were place inside this larger enclosure and their lids removed.

The tank I chose was a 27-gallon latch-able Sterilite container that offered enough floor space and height to allow the spiders to mingle on neutral territory. I used my soldering iron to put ventilation holes in both sides to allow for air flow, and I placed it on a small table in a corner of my tarantula room that doesn’t get much traffic.

The pairing

I placed both enclosures in the breeding chamber earlier in the day, but I waited until the evening to take the tops off. Within an hour, both had started to crawl out of their cages to explore. Just before bed, I observed both the female and the male drumming their legs as they courted. I’m taking this as a good sign that their may have been an insertion after I went to bed. When I turned the lights out, they were still at opposite ends of the enclosures continuing their courtship ritual.

I left them in unsupervised overnight, and when I checked on them in the morning, both were fine and perched in opposite ends of the larger enclosure. All told, they spent about 14 hours together, with about 10 of that being in darkness. I left them a bit while I had my morning coffee so I was awake enough to wrangle them both back into their cages. As it turns out, I didn’t need the coffee; each had returned to his and her respective enclosures while I was gone. I couldn’t have asked for an easier pairing.

The next step

Although I’m pretty optimistic that the two mated last night, I’m going to go ahead and try again next weekend while I still have the male. After that, it will be a watch-and-wait game as I hope to discover the female is gravid. With any luck, I’ll have a sac in a few months. I will not only post a blog update if I have any news, but I will also update this post.

Next up … it’s time to find a date for my female P. vittata.

Wish me luck!