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.

An Interview With Jamie from Jamie’s Tarantulas (Including a Sneak Peek at her Black Friday Sale)

Dealer Jamies

jamie-handlingAnyone who has read my blog knows that one of my favorite places to shop for Ts has been Jamie’s Tarantulas. Carrying an excellent and ever-changing selection of species, Jamie’s is also one of the few dealers where you can pick up a spider, an enclosure, and feeder insects all in one stop. Combine this convenience with great prices, excellent service, and some of the least expensive shipping with a LAG guarantee on the web, and you have the makings for a top tarantula dealer. Even better, Jamie is incredibly friendly and approachable and always willing to offer help or advice to those new to the tarantula keeping. She was definitely a huge help to me when I first got hooked on the hobby.

Considering that a good chunk of my collection was purchased from Jamie’s, I thought it would be fun to find out a little about the folks behind this wonderful business. Jamie was nice enough to take time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about tarantulas.

First off, I know you are quite busy, so thanks so much for taking the time to chat.

Thank you, Tom, for taking the time to arrange this interview.  Many might not know it, but Tom has contributed many fantastic ideas and feedback to help us better Jamie’s Tarantulas.  An example: Tom suggested we somehow distinguish tarantulas suitable for beginners from the rest we have available for purchase.  This makes choosing the right tarantula much easier for novice tarantula keepers.  Please don’t stop sending the great ideas our way!  

It’s my pleasure! And I think it’s AWESOME that you added that section. I’ve already spoken to some folks new to the hobby that really appreciate that you’ve got a designated heading for them.

So, let’s start with a little background: how did you first become interested in tarantulas? Which was the first species you ever kept?

Ever since I was a child I’ve been interested in “bugs”. As long as I can remember, my desk and dresser were always covered in various jars and containers with a variety of specimens. Of course, they were released after observation so new specimens could be found and observed. I once horrified my first grade teacher when she discovered the reason why I was so distracted; a pocket full of beetles was definitely not what she was expecting.

Many years ago, I was getting food for a gargoyle gecko when something blue caught my eye. One of the store employees was holding a juvenile versicolor. I was taken by the delicate way in which it moved; it almost “marched” with rhythm. I had to take it home and, well, you know what they say; Tarantulas are like potato chips…you can’t have just one.

Like chips and tattoos! I think many in the hobby can relate to the addictiveness. And I know that folks often speak of that first time they saw a tarantula in person as a huge moment for them.

So, what got you started in breeding? That’s a step above collecting and an aspect of the hobby many are fascinated by. What was your first breeding project?

After my first tarantula, I immediately began adding to my collection. Any Avicularia species I found for sale and could afford that wasn’t currently part of my collection, I purchased. My favorite was an adult female A. versicolor. While on my hunt to add to my collection, I came across a mature male A. versicolor for sale. I immediately contacted the seller to purchase him. Later that week an enthusiastic bachelor arrived in the mail.

In the time between the mature male’s purchase and arrival, every second I could afford was spent doing research. I took notes on all the information I could find regarding keeping and breeding Avicularia and useful tips and tricks for tarantulas in general. At that time, the information was limited; for every question answered it felt I had two more to ask. The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide by Stan Schultz, or the 376 page “Tarantula Bible” as it’s known by some due to it being the definitive word on tarantulas, was a huge help. The book covers taxonomy, history, husbandry and, of course, breeding. There are 36 pages on the topic of breeding alone! Anyone interested in tarantulas, whether it be for interest, keeping or breeding, should seriously consider purchasing a copy.

I designed custom cages based on designs found on the internet and in the Keeper’s guide. My handy father offered to help. I found fish tanks of the preferred dimensions, and I designed and built a shelf to house them. The cages were fitted with custom acrylic lids. The custom racks were set up and the females rehoused into their permanent digs. Being very motivated to start my breeding project, and thanks to my father’s effort and experience, the project was completed in a weekend.

The A. versicolor was given some time to settle into her new enclosure before the male was introduced. I was nervous (although likely not as nervous as the enthusiastic bachelor). Within seconds of placing him in the females enclosure he began to drum. She answered him immediately! I watched anxiously and they came closer and closer together. They touched gently then he went straight to business. After two or three minutes of hot spider sex, he set her down and walked to the edge of her enclosure and proceeded to groom.

The next few months were a waiting game. I fed her as often as she would eat and she quickly put on weight. She began to web more and more heavily and eventually wouldn’t come out of her web. Days turned to weeks. What was she doing? Is she OK? I resisted the urge to disturb her and then one morning I saw it. She was holding what looked like a big cotton ball. Success!

The date was carefully recorded and the waiting began. Once I was certain the spiderlings were first instar, the egg sac was pulled and the slings moved into a homemade incubator. They began to darken and molt. I sat for hours and watched the spiderlings molt into second instars.

That’s a fantastic story. I’m sure many folks out there who have bred or tried to breed their specimens can appreciate the nervousness you felt when you first introduced the male, as well as the anticipation of waiting to see if the paring was successful. And I can’t help but to be incredibly impressed over the fact that you didn’t just research and buy the spiders, but built your own enclosures and shelving as well. You certainly went all in.

How did you eventually transition from a hobbyist to dealer of tarantulas? How and when did Jamie’s Tarantulas come about?

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Avicularia  versicolor sac

During the time I was waiting for my first A. versicolor female to lay an egg sac I bred many other species and soon after the A. versicolors molted to second instar came a successful hatch of A. urticans and A. azuraklaasi. A. diversipes hatched successfully soon thereafter. I did not need to keep all of the slings hatched. I picked twenty or so to grow out from each clutch and began advertising the rest for sale or trade. At that time, I had already built a variety of custom enclosures for my own needs and customers were asking to buy them. Most of my transactions were originally done in person or via email or forum. I had always dreamed of having my own website and believed it would be an efficient format for selling my spiderlings and enclosures.

While in college for Marketing, I learned how to set up a basic e-commerce website. I thought a website would not only streamline the ordering process for both the merchant and customer, but it would also present all my shipping/LAG and care information in a format easy for customers to navigate. After a few transactions, I noticed many of the questions I received were similar, questions I asked when I first came into the hobby. I wrote care sheets and an FAQ to address common questions and concerns. As the orders went out just as many new tarantulas came in. Tarantulas became an obsession. It seemed there were never enough funds to cover the cost of purchasing those on my wish-list. In order to compensate for this, I actively sought out others who’d hatched egg sacs to trade and to expand my collection. Selling and trading ‘slings allowed me to quickly expand my inventory. The larger inventory increased sales, nearly all of the proceeds of which were spent on more tarantulas and… so it began.

I can definitely appreciate how expensive fulfilling tarantula wishlists can be. Sounds like transitioning to a dealer was the perfect way to finance what can be an expensive hobby! Are there any breeding projects you’re currently working on that you are particularly excited about that you would like to share?

Breeding projects so far this season include A. versicolor, A. metallica, B. smithi, B. emilia, B. auratum, B. albiceps, B. albopilosum, G. pulchripes, G. pulchra, Euathlus Red and L. parahybana.

We recently paired a B. klaasi female who has been steadily gaining weight. Out of all my breeding projects so far this year, I’m most excited for this one. 

We’re looking for males of any species we’re breeding regardless if we have males already. The more diverse the genetics the better. Thank you to all our customers who’ve sent us their males. Without you we wouldn’t be able to offer such a variety of captive-bred slings.

We have many other breeding projects in the works we hope to announce soon.

Which species, in your opinion, has been the easiest to breed? How about the most challenging?

This is a bit of a difficult question, as I think everyone would have their own answer. There are some species that, for whatever reason, seem difficult to breed while others seem more forgiving to mistakes in husbandry and more likely to produce in a variety of conditions. Under many circumstances, the species someone’s familiar with and able to keep happy and healthy is a good candidate. I would imagine choosing a species whose native habitat/climate is similar to the native climate of the keeper, or is one the keeper is able to accurately imitate, would make breeding certain species easier.

That’s a fantastic point about breeding experiences differing dependent on local climate. I live in New England, where the summers are hot and humid and the winters cold and dry, so I would have to put in a bit more effort to get the ideal conditions for some tropical species. On the other hand, someone from warmer climes would likely have an easier time. So, which are the species you find easiest?

My personal “easiest” would probably be the more hardy Avicularia such as avicularia, urticans and metallica. A. avicularia and A. metallica have a wide natural range which may contribute to their hardiness. Recently, a customer sent me a picture of an A. aviculara adult female crammed into an 8oz deli cup clutching what appeared a bright white ball of webbing. It was thought to be an egg sac, so the customer purchased the A. avicularia from the pet store and took her home. The photo was taken and sent to me for verification. I had never seen anything like that before and was delighted to hear from the owner two weeks later the egg sac hatched out a couple dozen healthy slings. What a mom!

Wow, I can’t help but to be a bit jealous! Nothing like a buy one, get 24 free deal. That’s fantastic.

One of the great aspects of your business that is often brought up in reviews is that folks can find both the tarantulas and the enclosures at Jamie’s Tarantulas. People really love that convenience. How did you guys first get into the acrylic cage design and manufacturing end of things?

cages-oneOur enclosures were originally conceived with no intent or interest to resell. The only reason we made the original “Jamie’s Tarantula Enclosure” is we could not find anyone who produced the enclosure we wanted to put our beloved tarantulas in. At the time my collection was mostly Avicularia sp. We wanted good ventilation while maintaining humidity. Misting without having to open the cage was a huge advantage when keeping the Avics. It was also necessary that the enclosure opened from the middle or bottom as to not to disturb Avicularia’s web.

After many months of research, trial and error, and more trial and error, we came up with what is now our Juvenile Arboreal Enclosure. When fellow hobbyists came over to trade, sell/buy, etc. everyone who saw the enclosures expressed interested in purchasing them. Nearly every time a deal was made, the other party would leave disappointed as they weren’t leaving with an enclosure. Enough people showed interest in buying them that we wanted to find a way to make it possible. Thanks to a family contact we found a machine shop that could produce the enclosures at a reasonable price. All the other enclosures we have produced we’ve done originally for us and our own needs. Currently all our arboreal breeding females are housed in our adult tarantula cages.

cages-two

For a while, you didn’t have the extra-large adult tarantula enclosures for sale on your site, but it looks like you’ve had a batch for sale since late last year. Any hope of these becoming a permanent offering, or should folks jump on this limited supply while they last?

We hope to make the XL cage a permanent member of the Jamie’s Tarantulas cage line however, this depends on how the XL sales are this year. Thank you everyone for your support!

I’m assuming that keeping hundreds of spiders for breeding and sale could be an overwhelming and daunting task; what with feeding, maintenance, and packing for shipping. I’m also assuming that Jamie’s Tarantulas is a part-time business. How do you keep everything running smoothly and still have time for other work and other hobbies?

As of June 2016 we have about 3,200 specimens; it fluctuates between about 2.5-4k. We usually have the most slings from early summer to Black Friday and are pretty thinned out by February. Usually by March/April the eggsacs start to hatch and our selection then builds into the summer.

The job is challenging but very rewarding. If you do what you love you can leap out of bed every morning and keep going day after day. In a typical week we ship orders Monday through Wednesday. I am responsible for all tarantulas, roaches & customer service while Jon takes care of cages & packing. Every vial or deli cup has the tarantulas name hand-written so you know it was picked, prepped and packed by me with love. Thursday and Friday we spend doing business related errands such as picking up inventory. We also use these two days for our human related activities, such as doing laundry and grocery shopping. Saturday and Sunday we spend maintaining tarantulas and getting ready for the ship week. This includes feeding, breeding, misting, and roach maintenance. We also assemble enclosure kits, cut Styrofoam, assemble shipping boxes and pack shipping vials. Saturday through Tuesday nights, I’ll pull the tarantulas to be shipped and prep them for their journey, making sure they are healthy, the proper shipping weight, and well-hydrated.

During our busy week with Jamie’s Tarantulas, we must make time for our other responsibilities. We run an organic farm where we raise and sell organic-fed heritage poultry, eggs and pork. Before Jamie’s Tarantulas, I worked full time as a private chef. I still love cooking for a crowd, and Jon and I often cater weekend events featuring our home-grown organic meat and produce.

jamie-goatJon is a sub-contractor who can build and repair just about anything. As an extremely talented electrical engineer, he runs a side business, Elevated Audio, where he custom manufactures, repairs, resells and installs high-end audio systems and equipment. He also specializes in automotive electrical. As I’m here at my desk, he’s out working on a complete electrical system for a race car. He’ll rip every wire and sensor out then redo the whole thing from scratch to suit the unique needs of the build. I find it quite incredible!

I learned metal fabrication including MIG and TIG welding while interning for Martin Wilson at Monster Miata. The ability to create with metal has been instrumental in the success of all our businesses. We’ve custom made everything from metal catering carts, audio racks and tarantula room shelves.

All our income streams allow us to work for ourselves. It is a blessing our work and hobbies are one and the same. It brings me joy to share all the things I love with my customers whether it be organic free range eggs or a captive bred A. versicolor.

Wow, that sounds like an incredibly busy schedule for both of you. And as if selling tarantulas isn’t cool enough, the number of skills and businesses both of you have is staggering. Cooking, farming, metal-fabrication, and electrical engineering? Impressive just doesn’t cover it!

Now for a question I’ve wondered about for a while. Your Black Friday sale has become a bit of an annual tradition at my house, usually resulting in me waiting on the computer on Thanksgiving Day for the sales to go up. The variety of species and specimens you carry during this event is always quite impressive. When did you begin running this yearly sale? What does it take to get ready for this sale and to get the stock you need?

Years ago, I had multiple customers email to ask if I was having a Black Friday sale. It was a great idea so we went ahead and planned one. Although the sale was not as big as it is today, it was a huge success and has continued to grow over the years.

I typically start setting things aside 3-4 months in advance, however, I never know who will make the “final cut” as we’re very picky about what tarantulas we put up for sale. About a month before the sale we start cutting Styrofoam, building boxes, assembling kits and stocking our supply & cage inventory.

The sale is a lot of work, but it’s also nice to have enough saved to take a couple weeks to spend the holidays with family and friends. This year we’re going to make Black Friday bigger and better then any Black Friday before.

The N. chromatus and B. albopilosum on the website currently sold as 1”+ are now molting to about 1 1/4-1 1/2”. I will be able to determine gender for some of the juveniles their next molt, which should happen around September and October. That’s perfect timing for shipping in November. If we have enough available we’ll offer a confirmed male or female with a Juvenile Terrestrial Enclosure Kit special. We will have over a hundred different items available including many spiderlings and specials under $20. As always we’ll have our biggest selection and best prices of the year. We hope to see everyone there!

(For an early Black Friday Price list, skip to the bottom of the article!)

You can count me in!

For any folks out there who might one day be planning on getting into the business, what are the most challenging aspects of the tarantula retail business? What are the most rewarding ones?

Start small. Keep tarantulas and see if their care and maintenance something you would want to do regularly. Keep in mind these are living creatures that must be housed individually. At Jamie’s Tarantulas, maintaining thousands of specimens and keeping them in top condition is in itself a full time job. They count on us for all their needs, and it is necessary to be persistent and consistent with their maintenance and husbandry.

Packing and shipping is an art necessary for a successful tarantula retail business. We must remember we’re shipping live creatures. They have no choice but to count on us for their safe arrival. Getting the tarantula safely to its new home is should be the top priority, and live arrival should be guaranteed. Be sure customers are aware of the live arrival terms. You can’t have a successful business with unhappy customers!

The most challenging part of a tarantula retail business is the commitment and budgeting time. There is so much that has to be done, and we are the only ones to do it. We can’t call in sick or take substantial vacation leave. That is alright though, because I love my job!

The most rewarding aspect of the business is seeing our customers get excited about their tarantulas. I’ve even had many customers who’ve purchased a T to get over arachnophobia who end up “getting bit” and growing their collection! 

I’ve encountered many folks who given thought to getting into tarantula retail, but I often wondered if they appreciated the work it would entail. It certainly sounds rewarding, but quite challenging at the same time. While chatting through emails, you also made a great point about the difference between “dealers” and “breeders” and where each fits into the hobby. Care to explain?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot and the truth is, we need more breeders and less dealers. It seems (based on a percent of tarantula keepers) There are far less hobby breeders now then in years past. Every other old-time hobbyist I’ve asked has agreed with me.

jamie-snakeI have seen a lot of new hobbyists have a few successful eggsacs, set up a website and try to become dealers. I can appreciate the enthusiasm however, I’m often surprised at how many new dealers pop up, then disappear. Why does this happen?

We have learned so much over the years running a business, and we could never have been successful without our combined experience keeping and breeding tarantulas however, at least in our case it is a very, very small part of becoming a successful “tarantula dealer.”

Before focusing on “becoming a dealer”, hobbyists who want to grow their collection, and possibly use it as a source of income should first and very least become exceptional tarantula keepers. Then, once a firm foundation in husbandry is established the individual or collective should be focus on becoming excellent tarantula breeders. Just like everything else becoming successful in the field of tarantulas takes practice, patience and time. Always be observant, open to new ideas and most importantly take notes! If it is something they are good at and enjoy slowly and comfortable increase the size of their operation. The quality of the animals and service will speak for themselves.

I wish more hobbyists would consider this option, rather than burning bright and burning out. This doesn’t do anyone much good. The overhead involved with selling slings wholesale is minimal and can turn a hobby into a side income. More hobbyists could get a “piece of the pie” and in the meantime hone their skill and refine their technique. There would be more quality U.S captive-bred spiderlings on the market.

I am curious if you’ve noticed less hobby breeders to dealers and keepers? I find it harder every year to buy slings from US breeders however, there are more imports available. Is this just me?

I definitely understand what you’re saying, and I’ve heard others comment on this issue as well. It’s become a bit of a running joke among serious tarantula enthusiasts here that the Europeans are light-years ahead of their American counterparts in breeding Ts and producing enough captive-bred specimens to support the hobby. Many folks in the US don’t realize that when they are buying from dealers, they are often buying wild-caught import or captive-bred specimens bred across the pond. The hobby is more popular than ever, and it would be great if more folks got into breeding so that we could not rely on import (and enjoy lower prices!).

From a personal standpoint, I now like to buy from folks that I know are breeding much of their own stock, as I know they have their care down and I can expect to get healthier animals who haven’t spent weeks in transit. 

Speaking of the spiders, are there new or uncommon species that currently have you particularly excited? What’s currently on your wish list?

Harpachia pulchripes is my current favorite sling. I like to keep my favorite slings on my desk this one currently has my awe and attention!

Iridopelma sabolosum is on my wish list, but unless Brazil changes its export policy or someone illegally brown boxes them into the country, they will not be available in the U.S. Currently, there is still much rain forest within their range, although their habitat is being threatened by deforestation. As long as their natural home is intact, I can enjoy I. sabolosum knowing they’re living and thriving where they should be, as an important part of their natural environment.

My favorites and those on my wish list are always changing. It’s like asking me to pick my favorite food – there are so many! and if you ask tomorrow I might have a different answer. There are nearly a thousand different species of tarantulas, still many to be discovered. Each is so different and special.

I get a lot of visitors on “Tom’s Big Spiders” that are new to the hobby and looking for a good starter species. Which species do you believe are the best introductory tarantulas for someone just getting into the hobby?

jamie-birdNew World Terrestrials over about 3/4” typically make the best starter tarantulas. Tarantulas belonging to genus Grammostola and Brachypoelma are highly recommended. Some classic examples include: G. pulchripes (chaco golden knee), G. porteri (Rose-hair tarantula), G. rosea (red rose hair), G. pulchra (brazilian black), B. smithi (mexican red knee), B. albopilosum (mexican curly hair) & B. emilia (Mexican red leg)

For those looking for something more active and colorful, the C. cyaneopubescens (Green bottle blue “GBB”) is a great choice. Avicularia species larger than about 2” or so can also make a great starter tarantulas.

Old World species are not recommended for first time or inexperienced keepers.

I know that the genus Avicularia is one that is very close to your heart. Which is your favorite species in this genus? What would be your top three?

Avicularia versicolor has always been close to my heart. I’ve thought about the other two the last few weeks and simply cannot narrow it down any further. I love all Avicularia species. Each Avicularia is unique and beautiful in its own way. 

Fair enough! I’m assuming that there are some tarantulas you would hold onto even if you weren’t in the business. What species do you keep as part of your “personal” collection?

I have a B. smithi who I adore. However, my favorite B. smithi tarantula “Snickers” was given to my mother in 2012 as a birthday present. She is the “family spider” and thus, part of the family!

I joke about giving my mother a tarantula for Christmas every year, but she is HIGHLY aracnophobic, so I don’t think it will happen. Guess there won’t be a family spider in the Moran family!

It’s funny that you should mention that. I have had quite a few individuals contact me regarding the purchase of a tarantula as a way to help get over fear.

One customer’s psychologist recommended she purchase a “pet spider” to get over her severe arachnophobia. She didn’t just change her own mind, all her family, friends and co-workers all know how she adores her tarantula collection. Last time we spoke she had over 20 different species.

Jon and I joke the one who get a tarantula to get over their fear “get bit” worst of all. It is rare a recovering phobic doesn’t come back for another tarantula.

It doesn’t surprise me! I actually got my first tarantula 21 years ago to get over my irrational and embarrassing fear of spiders. 140+ Ts later, and I think that I’m finally over it.

Finally, a fun question. If you were limited to keeping only three species of tarantulas, one arboreal, one terrestrial, and one other of your choosing, which species would you select?

For the Arboreal an A. versicolor, for the terrestrial B. smithi. For the wild card I would choose my B. albopilosum female “Bad Hair Day”. 

Jamie, once again, thanks so much for taking the time to chat!

Thanks, Tom!

And now…the Black Friday Sale List! 

Sale starts 7:00 pm PST on Thanksgiving Day. Check the website for availability; new species may be added!

$18/15 Acanthoscurria geniculata (Brazilian Giant White Knee) 1/3”

$79/49 Aphonopelma seemanni (Costa Rican Stripe Knee) 3-4″ FEMALE #660/61         

$26/19 Augacephalus ezendami (Mozambique Gold Baboon) 1-1 1/4”

$69/$49 Avicularia metallica (Metallic Pink Toe) 3″ FEMALE #419

$39/37 Avicularia versicolor (Martinique pinktoe) 1/2-3/4″#6S and 1/2- 3/4”

$39/37 Avicularia versicolor (Martinique pinktoe) 3/4″+

$24/19 Brachypelma albopilosum (Curly Hair) 1-1 1/2”

$85/69 Brachypelma albopilosum (Curly Hair) 4-4 1/2″ FEMALE #707/8

$14/$9 Brachypelma albopilosum (Curlyhair tarantula) 1/2″ #721

$145/$129 Brachypelma auratum (Mexican Flame Knee) 2-2 1/2” FEMALE #715 

$135/$119 Brachypelma boehmei (Fire Leg Tarantula) 2″ FEMALE #706 

$155/$129 Brachypelma boehmei (Fire Leg Tarantula) 2 1/2-3“ FEMALE

$39/$34 Brachypelma boehmei (Fire Leg) 3/4″ #717

$39/$34 Brachypelma emilia (Mexican Red-leg) 1/2″ #740

$135/$95 Brachypelma smithi (Mexican Red Knee) 1 3/4-2″ FEMALE

$145/$109 Brachypelma smithi (Mexican Red Knee) 2-2 1/2″ FEMALE

8x $155/$124 Brachypelma smithi (Mexican Red Knee) 2 1/2-3″ FEMALE

$165/$139 Brachypelma smithi (Mexican Red Knee) FEMALE 3-3 1/4″

$14/$9 Brachypelma vagans (Mexican Red Rump) 1/2” #421

$69/$59 Brachypelma vagans (Mexican red rump) 2 1/2-3″ FEMALE #713

$18/$12 Ceratogyrus darlingi (Horned baboon) 3/4″ #742

$29/19  Chilobrachys dyscolus (Vietnam Blue) 1″ #575

$55/$49 Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens (Green bottle blue) 3/4”

$65/$59 Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens (Green bottle blue) 1- 1 1/4”

$80/$69 Ephebopus murinus (Skeleton Tarantula) 4-5″ FEMALE #709 

$25/$18 Euathlus sp. Red (Dwarf Chile Flame) 1/3-1/2″ #736

$15/$9 Grammostola porteri/rosea (pink) 1/2-3/4”

$45/$34 Grammostola porteri/rosea (pink) 3-4″ FEMALE #653

$59/$54 Grammostola pulchra (Brazilian black) 1″+ #422

$14/$9 Grammostola pulchripes (Chaco golden knee) 1/2″ #16

$20/$18 Grammostola pulchripes (Chaco golden knee) 3/4-1″ #15

$18/$14 Grammostola rosea (Rose-hair RCF) 1/2-3/4″ #28

$34/$25 Hapalopus sp. Colombia “Pumpkin Patch Large” 1/4-1/3”

$95/$79 Haplopelma lividum (Cobalt Blue) 3 1/2-4” FEMALE #716

$65/55 Heteroscodra maculata (Togo starburst baboon) 2 1/2-3″ FEMALE #678

$45/$35 Heteroscodra maculata (Togo starburst baboon) 2-3″ MALE #677 

$34/$22 Heterothele gabonensis 1″ #175

$39/$29 Iridopelma hirsutum 3/4-1″ #687

$45/$39 Lampropelma sp. “Borneo Black” 1″ #727

$45/$39 Lampropelma violaceopes (Singapore blue) 1-1 1/2″ #725

$22/$16 Lasiodora parahybana (Salmon pink birdeater) 3/4-1”

$135/$119 Lasiodora parahybana (Salmon Pink Birdeater) 4″ FEMALE #711

$64/$55 Monocentropus balfouri (Socotra Island Blue Baboon) 3/4-1″ #732 

$14/$9 Nhandu chromatus (Brazilian White Striped Bird-eater) 1/4” #741 

$24/$19 Nhandu chromatus (Brazilian White Striped Birdeater) 1-1 1/2” 

$125/$109 Nhandu coloratovillosus (Brazilian Black and White) 3 1/2-4″ FEMALE #710

$89/$69 Oligoxystre diamantinensis (Brazilian Blue Dwarf Beauty) 1/2-3/4″ #728 

$29/$24 Pelinobius muticus (King Baboon Tarantula) 1″ #722

$79/59 Phormictopus cancerides (Hispaniolan Giant) 4 1/2- 5″ FEMALE #662

$29/$22 Psalmopoeus irminia (Venezuelan Sun Tiger)   1 1/2″

$195/$149 Theraphosa apophysis (Goliath Pinkfoot) 4-4 1/2″ FEMALE #427

$75/$59 Thrixopelma ockerti (Flame Rump Tree Spider) 1 1/2-1 3/4″ FEMALE

SPECIALS:

BF Special: Brachypelma vagans (Mexican red rump) 1/3-1/2″ & Terrestrial Spiderling Enclosure 

$19.00

$16.00

BF Special: G. pulchripes (Chaco golden knee) 1/2″ & Terrestrial Spiderling Enclosure

$20.00

$16.00

BF Special: Grammostola porteri (Pink Rose hair) 1/2-3/4″ & Terrestrial Spiderling Enclosure

$21.00

$16.00

BF Special: Grammostola rosea “RCF” 1/2″ & Terrestrial Spiderling Enclosure

$24.00

$21.00

BF Special: Lasiodora parahybana (Salmon Pink Bird-eater) 1/2-3/4” & Terrestrial Spiderling Enclosure

$29.00

$23.00

BF Aphonopelma seemanni (Costa Rican Stripe Knee) 3-4″+ FEMALE #660/61 & Adult Complete Terrestrial Enclosure Kit

$183.00

$143.00

BF SPECIAL: Brachypelma albopilosum (Curly Hair) 4-4 1/2″ FEMALE #707/8 & Adult Complete Terrestrial Enclosure Kit

$189.00

$164.00

BF SPECIAL: Brachypelma auratum (Mexican Flame Knee) 2-2 1/2″ FEMALE #715 & Adult Complete Terrestrial Enclosure Kit

$249.00

$223.00

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.

A Nasty Email (and Temperatures and Humidity Revisited)

Well, it was bound to happen.

After several years of writing for Tom’s Big Spiders, I finally received my first piece of nasty correspondence. Honestly, the streak had to end eventually, as to date, 100% of my interactions with other keepers has been completely positive. These conversation are the single greatest perk of having the site and my YouTube channel.

However, after a rather stressful week, I sat down to answer some emails on Friday afternoon and got a bit of a surprise. I had a collection update from hobby friend (Hi, Dallas!), a question about a P. crassipes “goliath’s” odd eating behavior, a request for help by a fellow teacher whose class tarantula wasn’t doing well after a recent molt, and an email from a keeper to who needed help identifying the mislabeled T she bought from Petco.

And then, there was this little gem:

Name: [Redacted]

Email: [Redacted]

Website:

Comment: This is one of the worst care sheets I’ve read in my 18 years of breeding t’s! Humidity DOES matter! Heat DOES matter. Heat mats work well with burrowing t’s! As long as you use a probe to keep the heat set at about 80 and have deep enough material that they can pick a level they prefer. I’ve done no heat before and they will stress out if not kept properly. Won’t breed well either.

I currently own around 240 t’s and many have heat added to their tanks,via heat mats. Dry tanks = bad molts.

Time: September 30, 2016 at 3:03 pm

I’m assuming that the “care sheet” this person was referring to was my article “Humidity Temperature, and Tarantulas”, but this is only an educated guess. This is a blog I wrote a while back to help folks understand that they didn’t need to agonize over achieving the “ideal” temperature and humidity levels they encountered in care sheets. Since publishing this article, it’s been viewed over 6,000 times and has sparked numerous conversations with hobbyists who were worried about their temps.

TEMP-AND-HUMID.jpg

Unfortunately, this email really rubbed me the wrong way for two reasons. First, it was rude. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent years trying to teach high school students to intelligently state and defend their positions (sorry, but “it sucks” is not a good argument…give me examples of why it sucks.), so it drives me insane when someone makes an curt, argumentative statement but does little to support it. If this guy had approached me politely with a “Hey, Tom, I completely disagree with this article, and this is why…” it could have turned into a fantastic discussion.

Second, and most importantly, it came off as another sterling example of an advanced keeper who seems to think his way of doing things is the gold standard. I’ve discussed with many folks the issue I have with seasoned keepers who pontificate on forums and Facebook and chastise any keeper who doesn’t follow their lead to the letter. Although I obviously give advice through Tom’s Big Spiders, I always endeavor to say my piece and let the keeper decide what to do with it. Even when someone chooses to not take my advice, I’ll continue to try to help them in any way I can.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: just because something works for you, doesn’t mean that it is the “only” way to correctly do things.

Now, maybe this guy is good dude who was having a bad day. It happens. I have all the respect in the world for someone with close to two decades of breeding experience. No joke. Who knows, I may even have some spiders this guy bred in my collection. However, just because you’ve done something for 18 years doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to do it.

Now here’s where things get a little interesting.

After emailing back to ask him to get clarification on which article he read before I replied, and getting no response, I decided to start writing my retort. Although I planned on working on my pet store article this weekend, I was instead wasting time responding to this email. Perhaps I became a bit too obsessive, but I take a lot of pride in presenting current and accurate information on my site, and I felt the need to thoroughly refute the statements made in that email. 

Once I passed around 1,500 words or so, I decided that it would be a waste to just send this to someone who will likely not read it or not care. After all, if this individual really thought this information was that bad, why not post it in the comment section so it could be addressed publicly? I had always planned on revisiting the temperature and humidity article, and this could be an entertaining way to do so. I had also planned to start a feature where I print some questions I receive from keepers and the responses I give (as a lot of them are common and the answers could benefit others). This could be a fun way to kick that off.

Therefore, I’m presenting my response in this blog post. I’ve redacted the breeder’s name and email address, but the original message is being presented as I received it. Hopefully, this will again raise some awareness on this topic, as I still get several emails a month by folks who are stressed out because they can’t match the temps or humidity they found in a care sheet. Also, it will hopefully served to further clarify my thoughts on the topic. 


Hello, [redacted]!

Unfortunately, you didn’t respond to my polite request for clarification, so I’m left to guess which article offended you so. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it was “Humidity, Temperature, and Tarantulas.” First off, I’m not sure if it was the general theme of this article you took umbrage to, or just one of the statements I made within that caused you to fire off such a rude email.

It’s a shame you couldn’t have approached me in a more polite manner, as I usually enjoy mature discourse over some of the hobby’s controversial topics. I’ve had many polite and professional debates with both new and established keepers, and I always enjoy the opportunity to hear a different perspective as it relates to tarantula keeping. Heck, I even try to thoroughly present both arguments, even the ones I might disagree with, in my Tarantula Controversies articles. As you are obviously an experienced keeper with a vast amount of knowledge about tarantula keeping and breeding, we could have discussed the article maturely and productively.

Instead, I’m left with a hyperbolic and insulting statement backed with scarce supporting “evidence” that comes across more as a pot shot that a mature attempt to discuss differing opinions. With that in mind, please allow me to retort…

I think it’s important to consider that much of the information on my site and channel is targeted to those just getting started in the hobby. Although I enjoy traffic from some amazing advanced collectors who are looking for species info or for my “fun” opinion articles, I’m not currently giving breeding advice. In fact, I’ve stated many times that hobbyists looking to breed need to research elsewhere for their info for the time being. Besides, I’d like to think that most advance hobbyists don’t find it necessary to hunt online for basic husbandry info.

Being as seasoned as you are in the hobby, I’m certain you understand that keeping tarantulas as pets and breeding tarantulas are two VERY different situations. As a breeder, you will often have to try to emulate local temps and seasonal changes, or wet and dry seasons, as you try to stimulate breeding behavior in your tarantulas. That will require more careful creation and monitoring of your micro-climates and will likely necessitate the need for individual heat sources. In that case, heat mats or other heating devices might be needed to raise temperatures in single enclosures (instead of just heating the entire room).

However, this is something a breeder would worry about, not the average hobbyist.

Also, you make a point to mention your “18 years of breeding t’s [sic]”, likely as a way to tout your credentials as an expert in the hobby and someone who knows their stuff. I totally respect that; it’s folks like yourself that produce the captive-bred tarantulas we all buy. But again, let me point out that being a breeder, you likely have different goals and needs for your animals. For example, many breeders I’ve spoken to keep the temperatures in their T rooms higher than normal to stimulate faster growth in order to get breedable mature males and females faster.

Again, not something the average keeper will be worrying about.

I don’t know if you finished the article, but I actually concede these points at the end. To quote:

“Is there a time where more careful, species-specific micro-climates are necessary? Yes, as those looking to breed species, especially some of the more difficult ones, will look to recreate natural environmental triggers, like high temps, winter lows, or wet seasons to stimulate a mating response. In these cases, some careful management of their tarantulas’ micro-climates will be warranted.”

That said, although you may have to keep a certain species at 80 degrees for breeding purposes, that absolutely does NOT mean that this animal has to be kept this high for it to be healthy and stress-free. Most species do very well at room temp (and I did put a cutoff in the article so that folks know when their “room temperature” might be too cold.) and require no extra heat.

And where, exactly, did you come up with 80 degrees as the ideal? Am I to read this to mean that ALL tarantulas have to be kept at 80 degrees? Or is this just “burrowing species?” If so, I find that to be a pretty ridiculous notion. Sure, higher temps lead to faster metabolisms and faster growth rates. However, to insinuate that all tarantulas need temps in the 80s is just silly; they don’t. And this fact is not only evidenced by my personal collection of 140+ with 75+ species (not as impressive as yours, I concede, but a sizable sample nonetheless) but also as dozens if not hundreds of other keepers’ collections who frequent forums like Arachnoboards and the Tarantula Forum. Heck, on Arachnoboards, there was just a thread that addressed temps today with many hobbyists explaining to a new keeper that he shouldn’t worry about the temps in his home.

I don’t know how much interaction you have with other hobbyists, but the ideas presented in this article are by no means new or revolutionary. The majority of informed hobbyists now recognize that the bogus “ideal” humidity and temperatures listed on countless care sheets are useless. As we’ve kept these creatures and learned more about them, many are straying from obsessively monitoring temperatures and instead adhering to the “room temperature” rule. Basically, if you are comfortable, your T will be as well. You’ve found that 80 degrees works for you, and that’s great. I’ve found the 70-80 works for me. Is either one of us wrong? Nope. However, the fact that the spiders in my collection are thriving does prove that although temps in the 80s will work, they are by no means necessary.

The majority of species available come from areas that experience seasonal shifts that include temperature extremes as well as wet and dry seasons. We often look at one extreme (Wow, it’s 88º in June and July with 20 inches of rain!) and assign arbitrary ideal humidity and temperature requirements based off of this. The truth is, for many tarantulas, the optimal number is probably somewhere in the middle. Also, Ts that experience rainy seasons as well as droughts are obviously able to live in less than humid conditions.

Now, if your 80 degrees only pertains to burrowers, I have to ask which species are you referring to? I currently keep several fossorial species, including T. gigas, C. guanxiensis, C. dyscolus, C. lividum, P. muticus, M. balfouri, E. pachypus, O. philippinus, H. albostriatum, P. crassipes, and L. crotalus. Not one has heat, and all are currently eating, burrowing, and doing all of the things a seemingly content spider will do. It’s about 71º in my tarantula room now, and it will remain between 71 and about 75 throughout the winter. I should also add that several of the species listed above I raised from slings to adults in those exact same temperature ranges.

And what signs are you using to determine if the animal is stressed? Not eating? Odd behavior? Leaving its burrow? I often hear “stress” tossed around, but I’m very curious as to what indicators you are using.

It’s important for you to consider that many of the folks reading this article have just picked their first spider up at a local pet shop and are currently researching their new pet online. They are being exposed to a staggering amount of misinformation as well-meaning keepers and bloggers regurgitate bad husbandry advice, many just cutting and pasting info about animals they have never even kept. This causes panic, as this poor soul is now convinced her new G. pulchripes will die if not kept at exactly 82º and at 65% humidity.

I know…I’ve been there. When I first got my G. porteri in ’90s, I probably could have killed her by giving her a heat rock and spraying her constantly. 

Do you seriously think folks that are picking up G. roseas or B. albopilosums at their local Petcrap store are going to buy complicated probes, rheostats, and heat mats? No. If they are sold anything, it’s going to be a cheap Zoo Med rheostat, and heat rock or heat lamp, and one of those useless hygrometer/thermometer combos. Having not used these devices before, they will then set up this useless heating system, stressing over an “ideal” temperature that they read in some care sheet they dragged up online or due to the poor advice of an ill-informed clerk. And in many cases, you know what happens next?

They end up with a dead spider.

I could honestly show you over a dozen emails, maybe more, from keepers who tried to heat their tarantula enclosures with mats, rocks, lamps, etc. and ended up with dead Ts. The fact is, most end up doing more harm than good when trying to heat these enclosures. You obviously have years of experience and know how to properly set up heat mats with rheostats as to pose no harm to your animals; the average keeper new to the hobby does NOT. And, please keep in mind that the majority of these folks are keeping Brachypelma, Grammostola, Aphonopelma, and other species that experience natural seasonal temperature shifts in the wild and do not, under most ordinary circumstances, require extra heat or humidity.

Furthermore, tarantulas, unlike reptiles, are notorious for gravitating toward, and parking themselves on, heat sources like mats and basking spots and not moving, even as they become overheated and eventually dehydrated. I literally just received an email less than two weeks ago by a keeper who was using an under-the-tank heat mat to warm up his B. vagans because he was told it had to be kept at 80°. He came home from work to find the spider in a death curl in the heated corner. Luckily, he rehydrated the T and removed the heater, and it survived.

Often, they do not.

And let’s examine your blanket “Dry tanks = bad molts” statement. Which species are you talking about here, all of them? C. cyaneopubescens? G. porteri? P. murinus? M. balfouri? Surely you’re not insinuating that all tarantulas, even arid species, require moist conditions…

How many keepers out there have unwittingly subjected their tarantulas to damp, stuffy, potentially deadly conditions as they over sprayed their animals in an attempt to keep the humidity unnecessarily high? As you know, too much moisture with not enough ventilation can lead to mold and other undesirables.

Might I also point out that in many cases, heating sources = dry cages. Obviously, any type of supplemental heat can dry an enclosure (and a spider) up, right? This means that someone who is heating their enclosure individually will now have to pay extra careful attention to make certain their T doesn’t dehydrate, especially if this is a moisture-dependent species (as many fossorial species are).

I understand and appreciate that using mat and heating cables is a popular way to heat and especially favored by many European collectors. However, not only can these setups be pricey, but it takes a lot of experimentation and finesse to use them appropriately and safely. Then you have to take into account that majority of folks getting into this hobby are starting with one of the “beginner species” that doesn’t require supplementary heat. I’ve had some folks contact me over the years, many from overseas, who unfortunately experience winter temps in their homes that are a bit too low for their spiders. In these instances, I’ve suggested a space heater or pointed them in the direction of articles/blog posts that explain how to safely use mats to heat their animals.

Also, I don’t believe I state in my article that heat DOESN’T matter or that humidity DOESN’T matter; no, the entire point is that folks shouldn’t obsess over these arbitrary ideal temperatures and humidity requirements named in many terrible online care sheets. If I believed that moisture and temperature wasn’t at all important, would I have spent so much time discussing both?

The whole impetus of this article was hearing from huge number of keepers who were causing themselves unneeded stress (and putting their spiders at risk) by desperately trying to maintain elevated temperature and humidity levels because of some care sheet they read.

I could see you getting upset if I said that temperature doesn’t matter at all, but I didn’t. In fact, I spent a chunk of the article clarifying “room temperature” and defining an acceptable range for most species.

I could see you getting upset if I said moisture doesn’t matter, but I didn’t. I spent some time talking about just HOW to keep moisture levels up for tarantulas that require it.

I could see you getting upset if I said that there are NEVER instances where supplemental heat is needed, but I didn’t. I actually recommend the use of space heaters and concede that mats can be used, but can be tricky to set up.

And, I could see you getting upset if I said that ALL species should be kept the same way, but I didn’t.

So, when you say that “This is one of the worst care sheets [you’ve] read in 18 years of breeding t’s [sic]”, I’m left to wonder if you just completely got hung up on one detail in it, perhaps the part about heat mats, and therefore missed the entire point of the piece. To be clear: I’m not telling people that temperature and humidity doesn’t matter. I’m telling them not to stress over arbitrary, often incorrect ideals.

I do thank you for emailing me (although I wish your phrasing was more constructive) as it seems to indicate that the message of this piece could be misinterpreted. Although the response to this article has been overwhelmingly positive, I could always tweak it to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. I would also like to personally thank you for your breeding projects and contributions to the hobby. Without folks like you, the hobby would progress in the way it has. Also, I will be using this email and my response as the subject of a blog post, as although our “debate” was lacking, it could create some positive and useful discourse with other keepers

All the best!

Tom Moran

 

Communal Project Part 3: First Week’s Observations

The Communal Project series will document my setup of a Moncentropus balfouri communal, starting with the planning and acquisition of both the enclosure and tarantulas and continuing through as they mature. This is the third installment in the series; the first part is “Communal Project Part 1: An Enclosure by Brooklyn Bugs.” and the second part is “Communal Project Part 2: Nine M. Balfouri Slings” .


How will they adapt to the communal setup?

Now that the nine M. balfouri slings were housed in their new enclosure, it was time to let them settle in and to observe their behaviors. Although I had read plenty of accounts that should have assured me the risk for casualties was minimal, I still worried that that the tiny little slings would somehow turn on each other as they staked out territory and fed. After hearing for years how cannibalistic tarantulas were, it was very difficult for me to subdue the nagging feeling that this wasn’t going to work out.

However, I would soon learn that my fears were completely unfounded.

Within 24 hours, I started to see signs that my new wards would indeed be able to live peaceably. The following details my observations over the first week, including any details I thought were important or interesting.

DAY ONE: The evening they arrived, I decided to offer food right away. For the first meal, I dropped in 10 tiny B. lateralis pinhead roaches. I won’t lie; when I woke up the next morning, I rushed down to check on the communal partially expecting to find signs of spiderling cannibalization. Instead, I discovered that the little ones had been busy the night before, and fine curtains of webbing now covered some of the den entrances and cork bark.

Even cooler, four of the slings were bustling in and out of one burrow opening. Despite having shot off in several directions upon being housed, it seemed that the slings really had started to gravitate to the same den.

I also watched nervously as two slings encountered each other in another corner of the enclosure. At first, I was convinced that the larger of the slings was going to attack and kill the smaller. As they met, he froze, then reached out carefully with his first set of walking legs, almost as spiders do when they sense a prey item nearby. However, the other sling quickly reciprocated by putting out his fist sets of the legs. The two entwined for a bit, much in the same way males and females do when mating, as they continued to feel each other out. Then, about a minute later, they both walked off in different directions.

No attacks.

No bites.

No devoured sling.

I was amazed by the encounter; it appeared that they could differentiate between one of their own species and a prey item. There was no friction whatsoever. After watching many spiders reflexively pounce on anything that moved in their enclosures, I couldn’t help but to feel a bit mind-blown by this development.

As for feeding, I wasn’t sure if any of the roaches were devoured, and there still appeared to be several of them running around the enclosure. The slings either didn’t notice or didn’t care as they continued working on their den. I decided to give it another day to see if I could catch one or more feeding.

DAY TWO: Having seen a few of the roaches I dropped in still roaming around without a care in the world. I worried that some of the slings might not be eating. Remembering that the M. balfouri mothers often kill prey for their young, I killed a large cricket, mashed it up a bit, and dropped it in front of the den entrances. My hope was that I could catch some of this group feeding I had read about.

I popped in to check on the little guys before bed, and was floored by what I saw. Several of the slings were feeding on the cricket at the same time. Even more interesting, there was no fighting or friction between the feasting tarantulas. They very calmly approached the cricket, tore off a chunk of meat, and simply ate their meals.

I also observed that at least FIVE of the slings now occupied the same burrow. They really were purposely gravitating to the same burrow despite having enough space to stake out their own homes. This was true communal behavior I was witnessing, not just a bunch of spiders sharing space because they were forced to.

DAY THREE:  I crept down late at night to see what my communal was up to (darned insomnia), and I discovered that all nine slings were apparently sharing the same den. For a full five minutes, I watched as they moved in, out, and around the single den entrance with at least four of the slings laying down webbing. They weren’t just living together; it appeared that they were cooperating with each other to build their home. AMAZING.

DAY FOUR: Failing to capture the group feeding on film the first time, I dropped another cricket in on the third night hoping that I might be able to get the next meal on video. I awoke early the next morning to discover several of them eating off of the same cricket. Like a buffoon, I sat their ogling this for bit before remembering to record it. By the time I grabbed my phone, a couple of the spiderlings had toddled off. Still, I managed to catch a few of them eating in the video below. Again, there were no spats or fighting to speak of, and the slings obviously recognized the difference between the prey and the other spiders.

DAY SEVEN: It’s official: all of the slings have adopted the center den as their home, and all are living communally in a single den. The amount of webbing in this area has increased with all lending a hand (or their webbing) to the construction. There are now several entrances including the main one, and the slings spend much of their day going in and out of them.

So, I can cross one of my questions off my list.

  • Will the slings all gravitate to one burrow?

Yes, they sure will…and cooperate to build it apparently.

Having raised three M. balfouri slings to adulthood that were kept alone, I do have a couple observations:

  1. I’ve noticed that these slings are out in the open MUCH more than my specimens kept separately ever were. Although I’d catch mine out and about every so often, they were very skittish and would spend the majority of their time hidden in their burrows. Perhaps my communal subjects will display more of that secretive behavior as they become more mature, but so far they seem to be much bolder than my last specimens. Could this be because they feel more secure when kept communally? I’m not sure.
  2. My first batch of slings were very finicky eaters, often going weeks without eating and often refusing prey one week only to indulge the next. They would also be intimidated by normal sized prey items, and I’d have to feed them crickets that were smaller than what I would usually feed slings that size. As a result, they grew slowly often taking several months between molts. These new slings, however, have been eating like machines. I drop a cricket in and they are on it in minutes. Now I’m wondering if these slings will eat more and grow faster in the communal setting.

With these latest developments, I would have to revise my list of question I wanted to answer.

  • Will the slings all gravitate to one burrow? An enthusiastic YES for this.
  • Do they really eat together and without friction? (I want to catch more feedings)
  • Is their any difference in behavior in M. balfouri slings kept communally as apposed to kept individually (I raised three from slings previously)
  • Will their ability to get along change as they mature?
  • Do M. balfouri slings kept communally eat more and grow fast than those kept alone?

As I move ahead, I’ll look to answer these questions and will post updates whenever I observe, photograph, or film something of interest!

Next up…M. Balfouri Communal Project Part 4: How Many M. Balfouri Slings Does It Take to Eat a Large Roach?

 

Communal Project Part 2: Nine M. balfouri Slings

The Communal Project series will document my setup of a Moncentropus balfouri communal, starting with the planning and acquisition of both the enclosure and tarantulas and continuing through as they mature. This is the second installment in the series; the first part is “Communal Project Part 1: An Enclosure by Brooklyn Bugs.”


After a couple of years of research and daydreaming, I will finally be setting up my first communal.

I’ve been fascinated by communals since I first saw photos of H. incei setup on a forum several years ago. I had always known tarantulas to be cannibalistic, so I was intrigued by the idea that a group could live together harmoniously without it turning into a survival of the fattest bloodbath. Since then, I’ve read articles and blogs, watched YouTube videos, and even spoken to a couple keepers who have tried it. I’ve researched the many species said to tolerate a communal living situation, including Poecilotheria species, Heterothele villosella, Neoholothele incei, Pterinochilus murinus, and of course, the Monocentropus balfouri.

Although all of these species have demonstrated the ability to co-habitate with other members of their species without immediately resorting to cannibalism, the level of true “communalism” can vary greatly. Every keeper would love to witness a true tarantula community where members actually benefit from living in close proximity to each other, possibly hunting and even eating together. But the fact is, many of these species are forced to live closely together in the wild due habitat constraints; they don’t naturally prefer it. Therefore, when they are forced to live together in an enclosure, the relationship between the inhabitants more closely resembles a fragile tolerance than a strong communal bond.

As a result, many keepers who have tried to keep communals have found the need to abort the projects upon discovering that their ten lithe specimens had suddenly become five portly ones. With many of the communal setups,  cannibalism is a constant threat, and the thought of needlessly loosing often expensive Ts is enough of a deterrent for many keepers. Personally speaking, I love my spiders and pride myself on not having many deaths in my collection. The possibility that by creating a communal I might putting a group at risk of unnecessary death was a tough concept for me to get by.

One species has always stood out for me in the communal list…

One of the species that seemed to demonstrate some legitimate communal tendencies was the Monocentropus balfouri. I had discovered early on that this beautiful tarantula had some of the strongest motherly instincts of any species, and a quick Google search of “M. balfouri mother with slings” brings up some amazing photos of this maternal spider seemingly nurturing its young. This is an animal that keepers have witnessed killing prey to feed its spiderlings, as well as standing guard over them like a protective parent. Hobbyists that have kept this species communally report slings huddling together in the same burrow, even when given space, and feeding on the same prey…together. I have read several accounts by folks who have set up more than one balfouri in an enclosure, and it seems that it doesn’t matter the size of the specimens that are introduced together, they all live quite harmoniously.

After reading several accounts by keepers who had tried communal setups, it seemed that the chance of casualties was low…ridiculously low. I only found one instance where one of a group of about a dozen disappeared, but there was nothing to indicate it didn’t just die a natural death (and not at the fangs of one of its cage mates). Even more promising were the many photos of juveniles and adults living and even feeding together peaceably.

It seemed like if I was going to attempt a communal setup, M. balfouri would be the species to do it with. However, although the prices on these gorgeous Ts have continued to drop over the years, they still run about $60 or so for slings. It would be quite an investment to get one of these going, especially if I wanted to start with more than just a handful. For a little while, it seemed like it would remain a bit of a pipe dream.

Enter Tanya from Fear Not Tarantulas

After my last fantastic experience buying from Fear Not Tarantulas, I got to chatting with Tanya about spiders, the blog, and her breeding projects. It’s been fantastic conversing with someone who is not only knowledgeable, but also thoroughly entrenched in this amazing hobby. During one of our conversations she made an amazing offer; she would hook me up with enough M. balfouri slings to finally start that communal I had been pondering for years. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement.

The original plan was to start with five or six specimens, so I had to go ahead and set up an enclosure that wouldn’t be too large for the .75-1″ slings, but that would also allow for plenty of room for growth (for more on the enclosure, click here!). Once the enclosure was ready, I gave Tanya the go ahead to ship my tarantulas. I had shared my photos and ideas for the design of the enclosure with Tanya, and when it arrived I explained that it was a little larger than my first idea, but I thought that it would work out well. After texting me with updates on the packing (as well as a photo of the A. amazonica I was was also getting), Tanya informed me that she was actually sending nine M. balfouri. NINE. I was absolutely floored. The extra space would definitely go to good use.

She shipped them promptly and they arrived expertly packed, labelled, and in fantastic shape. As a picture is worth 1000 words, I’m guessing that a video is worth even more. Below is the video of the unpacking along with the rehousing of the nine M. balfouri slings into their new homes (the rehousings start at about 3:32). I will admit to feeling just a bit of apprehension as I started loosing the slings into their new enclosure together. A part of me really worried that they might turn on each other or I might capture friction on camera.

It soon became apparent that my fears were unwarranted as the rehousing went off without a hitch and the nine little slings scuttled to the pre-formed burrows without a single incident of aggression. Even better, when I checked on them later in the day, a few of the slings had actually taken residence in the same burrow.

I’m finding the communal setup utterly fascinating, and I’ve been checking on them constantly to see how they are getting along. So far, so good. As these little guys continue to make this new enclosure their home, I will continue with updates including my observations and video/notes on any behaviors of interest. A few questions I hope to answer are:

  • Will the slings all gravitate to one burrow?
  • Do they really eat together and without friction?
  • Is their any difference in behavior in M. balfouri slings kept communally as apposed to kept individually (I raised three from slings previously)
  • Will their ability to get along change as they mature.

Next up…M. Balfouri Communal Project Part 3: First Week’s Observations (and Video of Group Feeding!).

* A very special THANKS to Tanya at Fear Not Tarantulas who made this whole project possible!