Tarantula moulting pictures (B.albiceps)

More often than not, when a tarantula moults you only see the end result – a beautiful, fluffy looking tarantula, and the old crumpled exuvia.  Recently though, my sub-adult Brachypelma albiceps moulted out in the open, and I noticed her just after she flipped onto her back so I was able to photograph the entire process.  I had to shoot through the side of the enclosure so as not to disturb her, so I apologise for the less than ideal picture quality, but hopefully you’ll still find them interesting.

This first picture was actually taken about 3 days before, she was busily moving substrate around and you can clearly see how plump she was looking – definitely getting ready to shed!

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This was when I first noticed that she had laid down a mat of webbing and flipped onto her back:

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Notice that the abdomen is starting to look “deflated” and she starts to pull herself out of the old skin:

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Here you can clearly see the new, white fangs.  These will darken as they harden up over the next week or so:
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It’s not often that you see a spider lying on one side, with all the legs facing one direction!
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All curled up and stretching those legs out, having a rest from all the effort:
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Finally, flipped back over the right way and looking very fluffy!
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I put the full set on Flicker if you want to see some larger pictures, and a few more shots!

Tarantula venom as insecticide

fangsIf you follow the scientific press at all, you may well have come across this story over the last couple of weeks.  Some interesting research into the venom of some australian tarantulas has shown potential for a new form of natural insecticide.

Typically the venom of spiders (or any venomous animal for that matter) tends to to effective only if injected (by a bite or sting) which is why, in general, it’s incorrect to call spiders “poisonous” rather than venomous (poison is a toxin which is ingested, venom is one which is injected).  However, recently published research suggest that a protein found in some australian tarantula venom can also kill prey insects when they ingest it, leading to the possibility that if sprayed on crops it could be used as an effective and natural insecticide.

The findings were published by Glen King and Maggie Hardy of the Institute of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, and could prove extremely useful in the control of the cotton bollworm, which is considered an important agricultural pest which attacks crops and is currently controlled with a synthetic chemical insecticide.

The authors of the published research hope that the findings could lead to the creation of bio-insecticides, or that gene encoding of the proteins could facilitate the creation of insect-resistant crop plants.

For more info, read the article at ScientificComputing.com

 

Arachnophobic entomologists

I’ve received quite a few emails since starting this site.  Most have been extremely positive, from people with varying degrees of arachnophobia who have been inspired by my story about beating my fear of spiders and want to know more, or want help in overcoming their own fear of spiders.  Some however have been rather negative, telling me that I can’t really have been arachnophobic if I now keep tarantulas!

Well, the fact is that my arachnophobia was VERY real (and still is to a degree – I can’t say that I’m “cured” or 100% over my fear, but it’s now very controllable so I can appreciate a spider’s elegance rather than just run away screaming!)  And now I’ve read that there are professional entomologists with arachnophobia, which I think validates my own story to a degree.  It seems illogical at first that someone who chooses a career studying invertebrates could be afraid of spiders, but according to a blog post on esciencenews.com it’s not as rare as you might expect.

The blog post cites an article to be published in the next issue of American Entomologist which features a survey of 41 arachnophobic entomologists.  While most entomologists tend to have a low score (mild disgust of fear) most indicated that they react differently to spiders than to insects and other inverts.  At the same time, some who responded indicated an extreme phobia.

I wonder how many entomologists with arachnophobia manage to overcome their fear?  I’m guessing a lot more than the general public!