Tarantula bits #8

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Mature female Psalmopoeus cambridgei “Cami”

There comes a “first time” for stuff in every hobby. Breeding is one of these things in the exotic pet side of things. While it is not for every hobbyist, once the itch needs to be scratched, it’s only a matter of time.

That time, for me, came on this past Sunday.

One of my hobbyist friends mentioned online that she had two female Psalmopoeus cambridgei tarantulas that were being snooty toward her male, refusing to have anything to do with it other than as a potential snack.

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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:

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. 😀

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

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:

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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. 😀 )

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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!

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

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 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.  😀

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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.  😀

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. 😀

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!

 

So I’m going to be a pet owner at last…

chaco_golden_knee2

Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula – Grammostola Pulchripes

So after some research, I’m not getting a Tarantula. I’m getting TWO tarantulas and I’m seriously jazzed. All my life I have been an “Arachna-head”, probably due to an utter love affair with Charlotte’s Web when I was young.

Wilbur the pig? Meh. (baconnnn…mmmmm.)

It was Charlotte who caught my attention, and never fully released it.

Most of my life, with the exception of a period of marital “un-bliss” many years ago, I haven’t had the time nor inclination to have a pet, except for the house spiders who weren’t really pets, rather roommates. 😀

I don’t kill em’, won’t let guests kill em’, and have, over the years discovered that they are the best no-pest strips ever invented.

Currently I have three different species of spider I co-habitate with:

1. A solitary Wolf spider who lives in the back of my pantry, only occasionally coming out to wave at me while I’m in the bathroom. (About the size of a 50cent piece tip to tip.)

wolf spider

2. A solitary “Parson’s Spider who roams the corridors in search of evil pesty bugs and such. (Size of a nickel tip to tip.)parson's spider - herpyllus-ecclesiasticus

…and 3. The Barn funnel weaver. These buggers are pretty much everywhere in Colorado, and pretty much stay out of the way. (Size varies, but usually small, and almost always the dumb asses fall into the bathtub, requiring rescue.) If you see cobwebs in the winter in the corners of rooms, pretty much blame these walking raid cans.

barn funnel weaver

BUT, at the back of my head has there has always been a desire for two types of pet. The choices would be large bird (McCaw, or something similar), or Tarantulas. The problem with the bird choice is that they are smart, and social, and you cannot just leave em’ alone or they go nuts. Literally. They need company and companionship and attention, and I’m not willing to commit to that. Maybe at some point, but not yet.

Tarants on the other hand are more like cats. As long as they get to eat once in awhile, they could care less about you.

Also, no walking, no grooming, no spaying, neutering, and no picking up of poop or putrid smelling litter boxes…

and of course they are absolutely gorgeous in coloration, form and movement. (Although some variations are about as mobile and exciting as a rock, and in the trade are actually sometimes referred to as “Pet Rocks”. heh. )

Decision firmed up in the last few weeks, I started heavy research on sellers, habitats, mating information, breeding stuff, and general handling characteristics.

There are some types of Tarantulas that are known as Arboreal, meaning tree dwellers. The other type are “terrestrial” meaning ground/burrowing types.

Of the two, the Terrestrial variations are much easier to handle, care for and have a wider tolerance for different climates. They are also much more “docile”, meaning they can be handled if necessary (in fact some species actually LIKE it).

As a first time owner, I decided on two different…similar species. The first, a Chaco Golden Knee, which are considered docile, and can grow to over eight inches in diameter. Big, but not the largest. The Golden Knee, if cared for properly can live up to thirty years.

The second is a more common “first timer” called the Chilean Rose which is less expensive, has similar characteristics (mannerisms) to the Golden Knee, and are slightly smaller (Five inches diameter) and live 5-15 years.

So in the next week or so I’ll be the proud pappa, er, owner of two Slings. Oh…slings means “spiderling”. Both of them will be less than inch in diameter, meaning they are just out of the “nymph” stage (what they are called when they hatch before their first molting.) Think of it as a kitten or puppy that has opened its eyes and is big enough to take care of.

The slideshow below has captions and such. The picture at the very top of the post is the big girl, the Golden Knee.

Bet you can’t tell I’m excited, eh?  😀

Now back to my regularly scheduled date with a word processor.