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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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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Observing a tiny little mind do big things

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Observations. Obvious: Tarantulas sit still a lot between motion.

Not as obvious:

Watching them build things, I’m of the opinion that they are working around the small limitations of their brains. As a former IT guy, I understand what caching of data and swapping is, and when a cpu is memory constrained, pauses will occur to swap stuff from active to storage memory and back again depending on the data needing to be operated on.

As I watch my T’s, I cannot shake the idea that this is what is occurring with them.

My arboreals will slowly move through a new enclosure, pausing for minutes, even hours at a time, and then continue the pattern until it appears they have mapped out the living quarters. Then the building of things begins. I’m using an arboreal as an example, but terrestrial and fossorial species exhibit the same pause/work/pause/change up things patterns.

In this case, my P. cambridgei spent the entire evening waltzing about, pausing and moving to the limits of the enclosure.

Then it sat in the den for a bit.

When it came out, it began building a roof, tearing open the den, and moving substrate all over the place, radically changing the layout. Between each section of creation, it will just stop for a period of time before continuing on with the next steps.

Any time someone says “automaton” when speaking about whether or not a tarantula has any intelligence, I just laugh.

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P. cambridgei building a roof for the newly widened jungle room

 

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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.

The Best (and Most Ridiculous!) Tarantula Myths

Excellent post dispelling a bunch of hooey. Fun read. 🙂

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:

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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”.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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 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.