The Tarantula molt process, or how to become a virgin again.

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Brachypelma smithi in her old clothes

This would have been a “tarantula bits” post, except I liked the title, so hey.

Last night my Brachypelma smithi, a purchase from a local Petco, molted, and Tom Moran posted up a Grammostola iheringi update where the molt had just occurred with one of his 8-legged cats.
SYNCRONICITY!   heh heh.

I had photo-documented the process with my B. smithi, so I figured I’d post up about the how, what and whyfores with some most excellent shots to illustrate just how Tarantulas “do”.

One of the interesting facets of the exotic pet hobby (not JUST tarantulas) is the molting process. Reptiles shed, as well as snakes, and almost all inverts as well.

[aside: This includes all of the sea-abiding cousins such as this kid here:]

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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.

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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.

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Tiphane checking things out.

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

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 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!