Tom’s Big Spiders “The Ultimate Tarantula Sling Guide, parts 1 & 2”

spider critics

For new tarantula owners, I will say that THIS should be required watching. For old hands, it’s an excellent refresher course.

Tom, thank you for taking the time to do this!

 

Part #2 will start following this installment.

 

 

Guest Blog post: Neoholothele incei (gold) Communal by Casey J. Peter

In which I guest blog on Tom’s Big Spiders about communal living, Tarantula style! 🙂

Tom's Big Spiders

Introduction

As tarantulas are recognized as solitary creatures (mostly due to the fact that they view other spiders as lunch on eight legs) many find the idea of several tarantulas cohabitating peacefully to be a bit of a mind-blower. Perhaps that’s why successful communal setups garner so much curiosity and attention. A year ago, I started my first communal with 9 Monocentropus balfouri slings, and it has been incredibly rewarding and fascinating to watch these spiders interact. And, as I’ve shared my experiences through my blog and YouTube channel, it has also attracted a lot of attention from folks who would very much like to begin their own tarantula communals.

Although M. balfouris seem to present as one of the best species to successfully thrive in this set up, they are not the only species to display these tendencies. In fact, when I was originally giving thought to the idea…

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Tarantula bits #3

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Aphonopelma anax “Tango” hard at work on the new house.

So in the last few days I’ve had a death in the family. One of my Avicularia tarantulas succumbed. The first one of these I had also died from the same issue. (What that issue is…I don’t really know.) The local reptile shop replaced the failed T with this one, and it lasted longer, but eventually expired the same way. Best guess is that both were infested with some sort of parasite or infection as they were from the same source, and were probably wild caught. It is sad, but when dealing with exotic animals such as these the Keeper needs to understand going in that there will be failures. Sometimes for no apparent reason.

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Enclosures part deux! How to build a house for a spider.

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I’ve been asked a few times to write up how I build my smaller enclosures. I figured sure, why not?

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To start with, the tools and materials needed:
 

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Pre-step A!!!!
SAFETY FIRST.  Any time you are working with plastic/glass/acrylic and cutting, shaving or using high speed rotary tools, ALWAY ALWAYS ALWAYS use safety goggles. Your eyes are more important than a little plastic box!
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A. AMAC plastic boxes. These are available directly from the manufacturer, or several vendors. I get mine from “The Container Store“. I know that in some places these are hard to find overseas, but there are (should be) equivalents locally. They are cheap, easy to futz with and modify, sturdy and best of all, reusable.

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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!

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 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.)  🙂

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

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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.