A roach in a coach is still…food

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Roach coaches. Dubia to the right, lateralis on the left. Top coach is a “nymph house” for smaller lats. Bottom left is the main house where the bigger meals go.

Recent discussions I’ve had over what to feed exotics (specifically in my case, tarantulas) led to this post.

crickets

Typical feeder crickets

At first, almost every exotic pet animal owner (keeper) starts out with crickets. They are the ubiquitous “feeder” insect for everything from lizards to some snakes, tarantulas, scorpions and on and on.

[They ARE ubiquitous at this point because vendors were selling and raising them first. Go to any full service pet store/supplier, and you will see boxes of crickets for sale. Many species of exotics will only take crickets for the most part. We won’t even get started on worms/superworms/etc. heh.]

Almost every keeper comes to loathe the little evil bastards at least a little. Many of us more than a little. Crickets are smelly, noisy, short-lived, hoppy, annoying creatures. To top all of that off, they aren’t even the best food for animals that need insects for food.

Why? Because of this term: “Gut loading”. Sounds like a bad Monty Python sketch, but it is a very necessary process whereby the feeder insects are fed the “good stuff” that the animal being cared for needs nutritionally. You load the insect’s gut with high protein, enriched stuff, and that gets passed on to the animal eating the insect.

Turns out that crickets don’t hold on to the “load” nearly as long. Now this doesn’t matter much for animals that feed frequently, but as this is a “tarantula” post, it does matter more as our pets don’t feed nearly as often.

Crickets typically hold onto their food for about 24-48 hours (tops) as they have a very short digestive tract. Roaches (dubias and lateralis specifically) have much longer digestive systems and can hold onto the nutrients for 3-4 days. And as tarantulas will sometimes initially ignore food until they are hungry, that is a difference to consider.

[I will note as an aside that a lot of keepers won’t keep a cricket in with the tarantula for more than 24 hours, and I applaud them, but I hate freakin’ crickets, and once in, unless a molting situation is happening, El-Senior hoppy-dude gets to stay where he is until the prima-donna tarantula is ready to feed. ]

The cricket is also a known carnivore. If a tarantula begins its molting process, the keeper had BETTER pull the cricket(s) OUT of the enclosure, as they will try to eat the tarantula, and during a molt, the tarantula is very vulnerable until its exoskeleton hardens. One bite by a cricket can literally cause a T to bleed out.

This becomes a REAL problem if the species of tarantula is a burrower, or is of a species that is unhandleable. Fishing out crickets with a pissed off tarantula within reach is a pain in the rear end. (Been there/done that as well.)

So after a period of time, quite a few keepers get real tired of horrid smelling cricket enclosures (they die quickly, make a rancid mess of things, eat each other, and other assorted nonsense) and begin looking for food alternatives.

Enter the much longer lived roach. Again the initial information almost always begins with the Blaptica dubia, commonly known as the “Orange Spotted Roach” or just plain ol’ “dubia”.

Dubia Roaches

Blaptica dubia “the Orange Spotted roach”

These are outstanding feeders, requiring very little care, gut load supremely well and can get really big, meaning they are a steak dinner to a lot of animals. (Dubia can live for several years, meaning a colony can be very easily built/sustained with just a few adults and the right temp/food conditions.)

They are also a NON-invasive species as they require tropical conditions to thrive. (This does mean that southern latitudes in the US and other places could mean “invasive”.)

For tarantulas though, they are (as they say in the military) SUBOPTIMAL. :-D

The dubia roach is a slow mover, and has a really well developed instinct for self preservation.  It will tend to freeze up (for days, I’ve seen it!) and then when the coast is clear, it will attempt to burrow, never to be seen again, or at the very least, seen months later. The dubia, if it has its head crushed, will wander about aimlessly until caught, but I don’t know anyone who thinks this is awesome. I have tried it, and find it less than an enjoyable task.

The tarantula, being a sense hunter with poor eyesight, depends on motion to track, locate and eat. No motion…no eat.

And that is where we get to the focus of this post:

Blaptica lateralis, the rusty red, red runner, or the “Turkistan roach”.

laterlis roaches

Blaptica lateralis “Turkestan Roach”

These act like crickets in their wanderings but they don’t fly, (males can “glide”, but in general don’t/can’t lift off or do anything major like zip out of an enclosure), they can’t climb smooth surfaces, don’t kill each other, and don’t smell like the bottom of an ice hockey bag after a season of play. The roaches don’t live as long as the dubia species, but in general have 6-12 month lifespans which means this species will be sustainable quite easily.)

They DO feed the same way as the dubia, and keeping them is an identical process.

Their drawbacks are few but VERY important to keep in mind:

They ARE an invasive species. This means if they escape, they can and will propagate just like the normal American cockroach.

Their biggest plus, that they act like crickets, can also be a bad thing. These bugs are fast as hell. This means the keeper needs to develop methods for catching them in order to feed the target animals.

By now, I’m betting you realize that I have developed a method for this, and you’d be right. Following the article here is a gallery that I’ve set up showing how I take care of these critters and the process I use to feed my tarantulas.

I’m a huge fan of this roach as it has made things so much simpler on the feeding side. There is no concern that it will burrow (they don’t) or that they will freeze up for days on end (they won’t). When dropped into an enclosure they WILL GET EATEN. (Which is kinda’ the whole point of feeding, eh? :-D )

The last upside is that they won’t bother a tarantula in molt. The only time I’ve observed them going after “real prey” is to munch on dead prey. In this regard they are scavengers. I’ve also talked with a friend (pet store owner) who has observed them hunting other insects, but this was only after a LONG period of deprivation where there was absolutely no other food to be had.

So overall this means no need to go on a “fishing expedition” during a molting situation for the pet.

I will caveat at this point: I have read anecdotal evidence that a few species of tarantula will not go for these or dubia. At that point the keeper might be stuck with crickets. Personally I have over twenty species and not one refusal from sling to adults.

With all of the basics in the can, time for the slideshow. I’ve captioned each piece with the pertinent information as to my method for dealing with these little speed demons.

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Feedin’ like a sir.

 

Just click on the first picture to the left, and scroll through. After the slideshow come on back for some good links on where to buy and comparisons between feeders.

 

Comparison information between feeders:

Dubia vs. feeder insects

Where I buy my feeders and supplies:

Dubiaroaches – Roaches (multiple species) and supplies to care for them

Another good roach supplier:

Aaronpauling – Roaches and supplies

I have used both of these vendors and appreciated their quick shipping and reasonable prices.

Outstanding faq on dubia roaches:

Care of the Blaptica dubia – this in general applies to the lateralis as well.

For a general overview on more of this stuff, including worms and such, Tom’s Big Spider Blog has an excellent article on feeding:

Tom’s Big Spiders -care and feeding of Tarantulas

New Year, new posts

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I’ve been away a bit. Doing stuff, and work has taken a turn for the busier. As this is what I consider my “journal”, I’m not going to spend a bunch of time on the missed items, as most of it is boring day-to-day stuff. Instead, here are few shots of the zoo, which I DO find interesting, and I hope you all do as well!

Aquatics is progressing nicely. I have branched into freshwater planted stuff just to see if I can do it. (So far so good!)
The reef stuff is going along smoothly, and the Fish only tank is populated and happy.

 

The Tarantula gang lost a member, and gained two new denizens, so I’m up to twenty at this point. Other than the late lamented P. ornata, everybody else is doing nicely, building tunnels, molting, and generally just doing their spiderly bits.  My OBT (Pterinochilus murinus) has decided to become an avid fan of all things computer screen-ey, and as such, even during meals has created a silk TV chair to watch the screen. This is one of the T’s that is supposed to be a terror and purveyor of the “Major Threat Display!(tm)”. So far, this kid has been calm, figured out the noise at the top of the enclosure is “feeding time”, and is a fan of “The Expanse’.  Go figure.  :-D

The Pterinochilus murinus in a comfy chair, eating and watching scifi.  :-D

The P. murinus in a comfy chair, eating and watching scifi.  :-D

 

 

Writing is picking back up for those who are waiting with baited breath. I’m not pushing it. There has been a minor pause for a rework on the outline and a critical look at the manuscript as it progresses. I’m having fun. If you can’t wait for book #2, I suggest getting into tarantula keeping or fish. heh heh.

 

Anyway, here are some shots of my passions…er hobbies.

 

I hope the new year is treating all of you well, and if not, you should grab the new year by the ears and smack it with a trout.  ;-)

Tarantula Controversies #1: The OBT as a Beginner T

Excellent article (series) on the controversies in the Tarantula hobby.

Tom's Big Spiders

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

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

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

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Tunnel rats and the art of patience

Grammostola pulchripes 10-20-15

Grammostola pulchripes 10-20-15

Further proof that the art of T-Keeping is patience. Behold the Grammostola pulchripes (Chaco Golden Knee). Since July, I have seen this git a grand total of three times. 1. Unpacking. 2. Came up…actually just opened the den hole…for food. 3. Now. This is the first time OUT in the open. Growth is excellent, as this was less than a 1/4″ when it arrived.
100_2912Shown here munching…no hesitation. Of course if I’d spent the last three months (for the most part) buried with no food…I’d be scarfing like a madman as well. heh.

Once done with said food, I’m rehousing it to a deeper enclosure with better “diggability” as this species is a tunnel rat until a bit larger.

So a few more T-pics from casa du casey:

Exotic Pet Updates

The Evolution of a reef tank

The Evolution of a reef tank

Tiphane - G. porteri. Mature female. Six inches. "Havin' a snack".

Tiphane – G. porteri. Mature female. Six inches.
“Havin’ a snack”.

There is nothing like a day where the two applications I have for managing my reef tank and my tarantula feeding schedule sync up. That was almost work. :-D

Lack of blogging…lack of writing…well, just chalk that up to “I’m DOING” instead of talking about it. Things are finally settling down though. The nano-reef has settled in, and all the chemical tests have been optimal for weeks now even after adding various corals and cleaner crew members. Sub 40 gallon tanks are called “nano” when a reef tank is involved. (Fish setups as well, but more it is used more in the ‘reef’ side of things.)

Cleaner crews = hermit crabs, snails and cleaning shrimp. They are a necessary part of the reef tank’s life support. They scavenge junk/detritus/dead stuff, and scarf up algae and such. Some of the snails act like the sandworms of Dune and surf around UNDER the sand, eating stuff and with this motion giving vital oxygen to the bacteria that lives  there.

15 tarantulas. There are times I wonder how folks do it with 3-4 times as many, but usually I only wonder this when the feeding schedule coincides for almost all of em’ on the same day. heh. I’m getting very good at wrangling prey, so it is getting a lot easier, and I have also discovered that I was tensing up every single time I opened an enclosure. Not from fear of the tarantulas, but rather a fear I’d have a runaway. This is part of the ‘noob’ process to veteran tarantula keeper. The T’s LIKE where they are. They would bolt out of fear, but they actually have set their homes up to their liking, and if the Keeper (that’d be moi) gets the environment right, then the whole ESCAPE!!! thing isn’t really an issue.

I’ve got some pictures of the latest goings on in the hobby side of things, and rather than blather on, I’ll post em in a gallery, and stick relevant comments in there.

Work is going well, writing…slow…but that is changing now that I’ve finally gotten all of this zoology stuff in place and running smoothly.

I’ve been asked a few times if that bothers me that I’m not pounding the keyboard every single day lately, and I thought about it…and no, I’m not sussed about it all. I am living my life and doing things that appeal to me. Writing is ONE of those things…not the ONLY thing. (I have never been one of those writers who loses the “mojo” of a story by going away from it for a bit. I always come back refreshed, mental batteries charged, and tend to go like blazes following a break.)

The last couple months have been “setup” for some things I’ve long desired to get involved in or get BACK involved in (aquaria), and now that I have these things in place, I can get back to ‘primary’ which is the writing.

I’m having a blast. :-)

And with that, here comes ze gallery!

Tarantulas – The Application

The application that I use and has saved me multiple “oh-crap-did-I do-XYZ?” scratching o’ the head moments. Worth the download if you keep 1 or 100 tarantulas!

Tom's Big Spiders

Tarantulas-The-App-Title-fl

Simply the BEST application for tarantula record keeping!

For those of us who get seriously bit by the hobby and find ourselves keeping dozens of these fuzzy little arachnids, a conundrum soon presents itself.

How do we keep track of data?

Many hobbyists find it necessary to track feedings, molts, enclosure cleanings, temperatures and other observations about their pets. This information can prove very useful in recognizing patterns and behaviors and for noticing when something might be amiss. What is the average time between molts for a certain specimen? What was the feeding schedule during that period? Was there any difference in growth rate when the temps dropped for the winter? These are all some questions I’ve actually posed and answered using data.

When my collection first grew from one specimen to 10, I found it easy to record feeding and molts on the family calendar. However, my Norman Rockwell wall calendar was…

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Tarantula roundup 9-9-2015

“This is my water dish. There are many like it…but this one is mine.” -Victory Jr.

So this post will show all of my kids at this particular time. I’m also using this to test the gallery feature of wordpress, and what better way than to show off the menagerie?

At this point we have fifteen in the gang. I am most definitely going to add a few more to the zoo, but unlike the bigger collectors in the hobby, I’m very satisfied with the species variation I have here. There are a couple more arboreals I am interested in for color as well as behavior, and 2-3 more terrestrials for similar reasons. I will most likely top this out at 20 in the collection for awhile. One of the nice features about keeping these animals as pets is that space issues are truly not that big a deal, and as most tarantulas take quite awhile (relatively) to get to full size/mature, there is some nice “lag” between rehousing situations.

Clicking on any picture will bring up the gallery feature:

Last Bits 25

The lair at night.

The lair at night.

1. So it has been awhile since I posted up a “last bits”. I’ve been busy. So nyah! Anyway, let’s get to the points.

2. Writing has slacked off.

There is something that I’ve noticed about myself over the last several years. Sometime between late June and mid July until early to mid September…every single year…I slack off pounding the keys, and delve into other things that interest me. The stories are still there, the passion is still there…BUT…other things also interest me. As I write for ME, scratching an itch as it were, and not a deadline or for others, I have come to terms with this. At first, every time this happened I would feel guilty and TRY to continue the pattern that is my norm, and this irritated me every time. This year, when the waning of the key pounding started again, I consciously decided to just give into it and go with the flow…after all it is MY LIFE, and the things I want to do also interest me.

This year, those things have been hobbies. One of them a life long passion since childhood…and the other…hmmm…also a lifelong passion since childhood.

A reef under construction

A reef under construction

A. Salt water aquariums

(Some of you thought I’d say tarantulas first, huh? -heh.)

The actual reasoning behind the tank you see in the picture above actually DID have a lot to with tarantulas (which are a passion that is a subset of arachnids in general). Originally the thought was to have just a basic tank with some scaly dudes in it to increase the humidity in the bedroom-office FOR the tarantulas. (As well as me as I’ve been dealing with a dry skin condition for some time now that humidity seems to knock back down quite well).

The more I thought about it and researched, however, I discovered that the advances in the technology, lighting and things associated with salt water and reef keeping have advanced to a point where maintenance is nearly as easy as that of my 8-legged furry friends. So with that in mind, I started putting together a basic system to build a “nano-reef”, which is mostly live corals and a few fish/shrimp to keep things in balance.

Without going into a lot of detail, the end result is that I have had a lot of fun, not just in the building of the system, but in the research and learning involved. :-)

The picture NASA doesn't want you to know about...the spiders of Mars! :-)

The picture NASA doesn’t want you to know about…the spiders of Mars! :-)  This is my pride and joy. Tiphane, posing in red light. Beautiful G. porteri.

B. Tarantulas. Yep. As some of you have seen, I have been heavily involved in this hobby as well. The reason I took so long to get into this? First, I thought that they were truly “exotic” and just assumed would be a royal pain in the ass expense wise and care wise. Turns out once I started to actually do the research, neither are true. Second, I have shied away from “hobbies” for years due to life long patterns brought about by travel and strange houred jobs.

Set up is more time consuming, but if done properly this is mostly mechanical, and in this hobby, a LOT of the enjoyment is actually designing and building the enclosures for my 8-legged friends, as a tarantula (most of em, anyway) are NOT crazy-time-party-animals. They are slow in their day to day lives and other than insane bursts of speed come feeding time, ‘EXCITEMENT’ isn’t on the menu. –and that is okay by me.

3. So back we go to the writing situation. I’m not concerned about it. I have over 80,000 words in the current project down, and already feeling the urge to ramp back up and “get er’ done”. I love the world I’ve created, and the story intrigues me just as much as it always did, so back to the writing chair I go.

4. Driving has been going very well. Crazy busy the last four days with the labor day weekend. Happy that it is over, but also very pleased that I was able to take care of my customers.

5. So that about wraps it up for this last bits post. I hope all of you out there in reader-land have had a great weekend and that life is treating you all well!

Power Feeding Tarantulas

An excellent treatise on the pros and cons as well as the “whys” and “why-nots” of power feeding captive tarantulas.

Tom's Big Spiders

Powerfeeding-for-dummies

Power feeding: The act of accelerating a tarantula’s growth by increasing temperatures and the amount and/or frequency it is fed.

If you’ve been in the hobby for any amount of time, you’ve likely been privy to a debate between hobbyists about the virtues or dangers of power feeding tarantulas. Although a less incendiary topic than handling, this subject still manages to elicit some strong views as folks are fairly split over whether this is a harmless practice or a detriment to tarantulas’ health and longevity.

However, like other contentious topics in the hobby, the answer might not be so black and white. While snake breeders have used power feeding for decades in order to quickly get their specimens to breedable size, the practice has been recognized for having adverse effects on the animals’ health. Therefore, the assumption is that the same practice would also be harmful for arachnids.

Unfortunately, comparing snakes to tarantulas, two…

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