Power Feeding Tarantulas

C.J. Peter:

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

Originally posted on 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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Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 6 – Construction foul up!

I shouldn’t laugh, as I’ve buggered things up this badly as well, but I did.

Short little video of one of my slings impersonating a government contractor. :-D

Realizing too late she was facing the glass with a load of dirt…let the juggling commence. -heh.

The Best (and Most Ridiculous!) Tarantula Myths

C.J. Peter:

Excellent post dispelling a bunch of hooey. Fun read. :-)

Originally posted on Tom's Big Spiders:

tarantula-myths

There is something just so fascinating about a giant, hairy spider.

Whether you love them or hate them, tarantulas have the uncanny ability to capture our imaginations, pique our curiosity, and illicit powerful emotions. For those who love and keep them, these furry bugs conjure feelings of wonderment and awe. Unfortunately, to those who suffer from arachnophobia, they can be the stuff of nightmares, creatures seemingly too frightening to exist. One way or another, these animals get a reaction.

Of course, it doesn’t help that these animals have traditionally been utilized in horror movies and television as cheap scares. In the 50s alone, the advent of the drive-in theater ushered in several tarantula and spider-centric horror flicks like Tarantula (1954), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), and Earth vs. the Spider (1958). Over the years, they have been featured in dozens of other movies and TV shows, including a memorable turn by an A. seemani in Home Alone (1990).  Media…

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Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 5 – Unboxing day!

Unboxing Day!

So this is the ‘unboxing’ post…or how to get the lil’ dudettes from this:

shipping containers

To this:

Iskierka -G. rosea

Iskierka -G. rosea

After learning the hard way about how NOT to unbox shipped tarantulas, having had to chase a tiny little Nhandu chromatus all over my bedroom office, I decided to document each step of the process on how to do it safely and easily without excess drama and cursing. (I knew how before, but it seems we 2-legged types never learn until we burn our fingers on the stove.)

The gallery after my blabbing here is a step by step method for transferring slings from vials to new homes.

It is also a view into how a vendor SHOULD ship. There are tales on the Internet aplenty from people who have received their new pets in bad shape or dead because of bad packaging by breeders who ‘on-the-cheap’ shipped.

A shout-out to Kelly Swift of Swift’s Invertebrates for being an awesome dealer.

Another shout-out as well to Jaime of Jaime’s Tarantulas, another vendor I have purchased from that has excellent packing techniques and fast service.

Also, for those who think my cages are too big, I am of the opinion that the slings need a more natural environment. A 2″ deli or compote cup ain’t it. I’m not “oversizing” such as putting a sling in a 5 gallon tank, but a 4x4x4″ cage gives me a deep substrate for them, and even at a 1/2″ sling size, there isn’t all that much room to roam. So far, every single sling I’ve housed has made the transition within a couple days. There are a couple slings that are in 2x2x4″ cages, but these are REALLY tiny (1/4 inch), and they have an environment that is similar to the ones shown here.

If I were a ‘breeder’, dealing with boatloads of slings, with heavy feeding and maintenance requirements, then yes, the small deli-cups and small plastic containers are a necessity. A good breeder can be dealing with literally thousands of small spiders, and keeping things ‘pretty’ really isn’t an option.

BUT… I’m not. I’m a ‘Keeper’, and part of the attraction for me is viewing these awesome animals in an environment that is easy on the eyes, and as natural as possible from the T’s perspective.

I am not deluded that this is fully possible, as one cannot keep a desert in a box, or a swamp, or a jungle…but replicating the look/n/feel even a tiny bit is part of the fun.

Tarantulas are one of the most resilient, hardy species of animal on the planet, existing in a myriad of conditions and thriving in most of them. Worrying about a couple more inches of space isn’t something I’m thinking will be a problem. :-)

[Aside: “Sling” = “Spiderling” = 1/4″ to about 1.5″ in size. Bigger than that they start to hit the “juvenile” stage. Shipping and packing are fairly similar, just a bit bigger in scale.]

[2nd Aside: There are a few species of tarantula that are considered “teleporters” because they are THAT fast. If you know you are going to be dealing with one of these speed demons, then the following gallery should be relocated into the bathroom in a corked bathtub…with the bottom of the door blocked with a towel. In this case, although I did have one road-racer in the shipment, the pictures show the slower, more docile Eupalaestrus campestratus (Pink Zebra Beauty) being housed.

On to the gallery! (Clicking on any picture will bring up the slideshow in a larger format.)

Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 4 – News and updates

Family growth, another petco rescue, and happenings!

So I’ve been “doing” and not “writing” lately.

I’ve added several additional members to the T-family. Here’s the whole gang:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ahh, Petco. I will be avoiding this store, as everytime I go in, I end up rescuing yet another T.
Their corporate policy is to wet the substrate daily and throw in a bunch of crickets. This is like coming into your home, spraying the apartment with a firehose and then setting loose ten to twenty cats and a bunch of rats. The spiders tend to freak out, quit feeding, and end up on tip-toes because the ground is a mess.

My kids are in the lap of luxury. :-)

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Speed needs to be respected.
Had my first chase recently. The chromatus housing went south when the little bugger decided to teleport away.
(They’re that fast at times.)
Spent half an hour trying to cup-capture and prod her out of tight corners to accomplish this.
Finally got that situation settled. No more “free-standing” chores with these dudes. A ten gallon empty tank will minimize the chances of this happening again. :-)

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Food decisions, or why I hate freakin’ crickets.

After dealing with the hoppy little monsters (feeder crickets) I did some research and discovered that roaches are an excellent alternative. They don’t hop…they don’t smell like rotten food, and they are easy to “keep/raise”.

Some tarantulas are reported to not like em’, but ALL of mine have chowed down heartily. (Good, because I hate freakin’ crickets. :-D )

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Siesta Senior?

The way is shut.

The way is shut.

As of this entry, I have three T’s that have burrowed and shut their doors. They do this when small so that they can molt. They are extremely vulnerable during this process, and so many of them do the deed in private. Sometimes taking months away from the surface world, many new “keepers” freak out and dig em’ up. This is not a good thing. Patience wins out here. (My Chaco has been “afk” for over two weeks, and I don’t expect to see her for some time. I just mist once in a bit to keep the humidity levels okay, and once a day take a peek.

The Ornata has molted. She’s gorgeous. She’s fast…at everything. She shed the old clothes within hours.
Unlike some T’s that take a loooong time to grow up, the P. ornata grows quickly. After seeing this, I’m going to have to agree with that.


There are two additional T’s that I’m going to be getting soon. The nice thing about this hobby is that purchasing them young, the costs are minimal, housing is cheap and easy to setup, and the food…well, I grow that myself. The regimen settles down quickly and like fish, these dudes are fun to watch.

The Psalmopoeus cambridgei – Trinidad Chevron
is an arboreal (tree climber). I want a good mix, and with several terrestrial species, this is a nice “change”.

Trinidad_chevron

Trinidad chevron

Psalmopoeus irminia -Venezuelan Suntiger
Another arboreal, this one is a bit more dangerous (bite and venom are medically significant), but are stunning to look at.

venezuelan-suntiger-tarantula

Venezuelan Suntiger

As for the whole “bite” thing. Some do and some don’t. I have the petco rescues and the Chaco and Brazillian pink hair for handling urges. The more dangerous species are exquisite to view, and that is where I’ll leave them.
Just like any other exotic pet, you have to learn about them, their habits, and their potential danger, to themselves and to you.

I’m really enjoying this. :-)

Next post will be the unboxing of a couple tarantulas, showing how things should be done. I’ve learned a bit since the chromatus chase. :-)

Help … My Tarantula Buried Itself!

C.J. Peter:

I was going to blog about this interesting behavior, but cancerides beat me to it. :-)

Originally posted on Tom's Big Spiders:

Help-topic

It’s probably one of the most common, yet stressful, scenarios for a new tarantula keeper. After months of research and homework, you purchase your first tarantula sling. Your anxiety level is high as you are new to the hobby, and despite all the preparation, you are still worried that you will make a husbandry mistake. You set up what you think is the perfect enclosure, rehouse your new little guy without incident, and take a moment to admire your new pet. Satisfied that you’ve done everything right, you head off to bed.

However, when you awake the next morning and check on your T, you find the enclosure empty … or at least it first appears to be empty. Closer examination reveals that your little guy has been busy, and he has now burrowed deep beneath the substrate. Not finding any hole or passageway, no way for your spider to resurface again, you…

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Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 3 – Deep thoughts

Tiphane G. proteri

“Tiphane”
G. proteri

Noob-keeper post:

So after a ton of reading and researching, the general conclusion I’m seeing about arachnid intelligence is…all over the place.

100_1149

Iskierka G. rosea

Recently my G. rosea sling “Iskierka” managed to squeak out of an air-hole that was just a tiny bit big and go on “walk-about” in my office bedroom. I found her on the floor merrily tromping along toward a book case a good 10 feet from her starting point. (And In no hurry, she was just walking along.)

As an experiment, I placed her cage in a larger wide container, and placed a glass lid on her cage. (not exactly lightweight, but unanchored.)

She escaped the cage.

How? She isn’t more than 1/2″ in complete diameter and the lid is 1/8″ thick glass. She SLID the lid back enough to squeeze out. She then wandered slowly and in no hurry about the large container, checking here and there for who knows what. I re-caged her easily with a light tap on her rear leg and she waltzed into a small pill bottle. I put her back in her original home and she went back to her normal spot as if nothing had happened.

Now WHY should she want to? Or care? We keep these wee ones in tiny little cages no bigger than a large vial or deli cup at this point as it is supposed to be “big enough”. If these creatures ARE comfortable in this kind of an environment, WHY BOTHER with the Houdini act? -rhetorical.

Without anthropomorphizing, this tells me that even as a tiny sling, these animals can problem solve.

Tiphane on the left and "Ms. Fumblebutt" - temp name-- on the right.

Tiphane on the left and “Ms. Fumblebutt” – temp name– on the right.

100_1086

Tiphane checking things out.

100_1078

Ms. Fumblebutt sucking down some water. She can’t make up her mind as to whether this is a drinking hole…or her toilet. :-D

I have two larger T’s who are within 1/4″ in growth of each other, the same species…and couldn’t be more different personalities. In fact I keep falling back on my “cat” analogy. If you put eight legs on cats, I don’t see a whole hell of a lot of difference in behavior. (Granted cats are larger, and do some different things, but way too much is the same for me to just blow it off as imagination.)

These animals have moods.

They can determine that their owner isn’t a threat and allow itself to be picked up and handled as opposed to lunging/running or what one would assume to be an automatic flight/fight response.

OBT on the attack!

OBT on the attack!

Or they can be like OBT’s (Orange Bitey Things or their name:Pterinochilus murinus) and make the attack the primary modus operandi no matter what. (UNTIL the exception…there are always exceptions with T’s.)

Not saying “brain surgeons” here, but there is a whole hell of lot more going on in those prosomas (the front body part that contains the brain), and it doesn’t take a biologist/entomologist  to figure THAT out.

They can barely “see” as vertebrates do…until you realize/discover that they have an overall sensory apparatus that would make Daredevil feel like a 2nd rate charlatan. (Their entire body is a sense organ in essence.)

I’m betting that these creatures can “SEE” better than we can, but in an alien way that combines all of this stuff into a coherent picture that we human types can’t really visualize…much the same way that multiple dimensions beyond the 4th one buggers up our poor ape brains.

And then I read over and over how little they have actually been studied, and the first thought that pops up in MY prosoma is…WHY THE HELL NOT?  -heh.

Also Tarantula wikipedia entries need fixing…badly. (egads.)  :-)

Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 2 : Random Observations

Sometimes there is too much information absorbed too quickly. For instance, in my reading of “sling care”, I interpreted my Grammostola pulchripes [the Chaco Golden Leg’s real name] behavior as “pre-molt” (what they do before shedding the old exoskeleton). Instead, it uses the bark hide and burrows below it normally. Badass hunter, probably 2nd only to the adult G. porteri. I’d take a picture, but the booger is in its sling-cave vegging. (If I ate 1/2 a cow in one sitting, hooves and all, I’d be vegging as well.)

—–update—-got a shot of the Chaco peeking out of the hide/burrow.  :-D

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I’m probably going to name my G. rosea sling: “Iskierka”, after the baby dragon born on the battlefields in Naomi Novik ‘s “Temeraire” series.
That dragon was a little bloodthirsty fiend, an awesome smartass, and I cannot help but make the comparison. (Yeah, I’m a geek. …heh.)

This lil go-getter tries to take down crickets almost as big as herself. Then she realizes, “uh…nope, nope, nope” and boogies to the top of her hide until I injure the food for her. Then, of course she pounces, and drags it all over the cage before settling down to devour the entire thing like she did the deed all herself.  :-D

I have four spiders, and they all have different personalities. (We won’t mention Fumblebutt and her need for bifocals for hunting.) …heh.

Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 1: History

From the pov of the spider
So the last week I’ve been busy. It seems that a new hobby always requires an inordinate amount of time at the outset before settling down.

I am now the proud owner of four Tarantulas. Two immature adults that I rescued from a Petco and two spiderlings (slings) that were mail ordered from Swift’s Invertebrates in Mississippi.

This post at first seemed like an overwhelming task as there is a lot to say and describe, and I’d rather be writing novels than a non-fiction book about this, but like any hobby that intrigues and excites the hobbyist, I get excited talking about it.

I decided that I’m going to treat this section of my blog as an ongoing journal. Not so much date specific, rather things I find interesting about the hobby, the antics of my 8-legged cats (which I will elaborate on in further posts), and my journey from a noob “Keeper” to an experienced one.

The nicest part of this hobby is that it is far less intense than many other pet-keeping responsibilities. These creatures are extremely hardy, long-lived and the only emotions they have involve catching their prey and kicking back. They don’t care about their owners, pretty much like cats…mostly. And I’ll get to that part as well going forward.

For now, this is a little background on how I came to WANT to do and be a part of this hobby.

The Golden Orb Weaver Spider

The Golden Orb Weaver Spider

First up, I have been a fan of spiders…arachnids, for most of my life…as far back as early elementary school when I read E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” and fell in love with the little barn spider who saved the piglet’s life. The picture above is that of a Golden Orb Weaver which was actually my first pet other than some goldfish in a 10 gallon aquarium.

The Weaver's Web

The Weaver’s Web

At around the age of 15, one of these  spiders set up shop outside my basement bedroom window. Watching her build her web and catch bugs was endlessly fascinating. This was also the year that I took Biology class in highschool. So after a quick request from the teacher, finding an old terrarium/aquarium in the class storage area, I captured the weaver and we set her up in the terrarium at school. The spider received so many crickets, grasshoppers and other bugs that I’m surprised she didn’t burst at the seams. In her web, there were at least 5-10 “sack lunches” dangling every day the rest of the year. (My classmates thought it great fun to help out here.)  -heh.

Sadly, as is the nature of most “true” spiders, she laid her egg sac and like Charlotte in the story, curled up and died shortly thereafter, having done her duty.

Years went by, and I would occasionally read up on the animals, getting irritated with how people always seemed to want to just kill them. It is my firm belief that Hollywood is directly responsible for a lot of this, turning these amazing creatures into the stuff of nightmares.

They are nature’s very own “no-pest-strips” and in general are not pests. They kill and eat the pests. But try and convince someone who just watched that pile of dogcrap film “arachnophobia”. -sigh.

For a long time I admired people who were raising tarantulas (the pictures of people holding the animals was just sooo cool!) and I often wondered if I would have time and money to get my own.
Then several months ago I happened upon an article talking about the spider trade, and I discovered that the hobby is actually very reasonably priced, so I started researching.

I found that the prices of these creatures depended upon the species, with some being as expensive as some rare or large songbirds or salt water exotic fish, and others being as cheap as 20$-30$ (U.S.).
Hope sprang up and more reading and researching was done. Then based on online recommendations  in several places, I picked up a copy of this book:

T Keeper's GuideThis volume is pretty much universally considered “THE BIBLE” for T-Keepers. After devouring it pretty much cover to cover in a reading frenzy I usually reserve for fiction, I realized that not only did I have the funds to do this, I had the time. Tarantulas, after all, don’t eat all that much or that often, and for the cost of one bag of good quality dogfood, I could probably keep 6-10 of these creatures fat and sassy in crickets for a coupla’ years. :-D

Originally I was going to just order a couple “slings” -the hobby term for “spiderlings” which are very inexpensive, but while shopping at my local petco for some preparatory supplies, I stopped by their reptile aisle (where the “T’s” are kept) and saw they had two “Chilean Rosehairs” available.

They aren’t actually called that, but I’m nit picking. The bad thing was that they were housed under UV light, and that is a bad BAD thing. (More on that later.) One was about 4 1/2″ diameter, and the other a little smaller. They get to about 5″ at maturity, so I knew that these spiders weren’t all that old.

Seeing that store had a 50% off sale in the reptile aisle, this meant that I could purchase both of them for 30$ total.

So I did. :-)

And that is the history in a very condensed fashion.

Next post will be all about first impressions, learning the habits of these amazing animals, “SLINGING it”…as well as discovering that they at some point share more than a few qualities with cats.  -and I’m not kidding there. More than most folks realize.

Grammostola porteri

Grammostola porteri
“Chilean Rose -Brown”
One of mine!