Video of Tarantula Moulting

I’ve tried several times unsuccessfully to video one of my tarantulas moulting. On more than one occasion I’ve timed things just right, set up a camera and got some footage, but either the lighting has been bad, or the focus was out, or the angle was wrong… So I was very pleased this morning when I came across this lovely video from YouTube user Tarantupedia of a Xenesthis sp tarantula going through the entire moulting process.

Apparently it’s 10 hours of footage compressed down to around 5 minutes. The quality is really good, and different parts of the video are sped up more than others to really good effect (it’s normal speed for the really interesting stuff, and speeds up when nothing much happens for a while – some great editing!)

At the start you’ll see the spider’s regular colouration and the baldness of the abdomen (due to shedding urticating bristles since the previous moult). Then there are some excellent close up shots of the spider loosening itself from the exuvium (old skin) and pulling itself free. Notice those bright white fangs! (they are soft in that state so the spider can’t eat for the first few days, they darken as they harden up!) It’s a pity the video doesn’t carry on a little longer and show the Tarantula after it has flipped back up to standing, as it will continue to stretch at that point for a while (it’s effectively using blood pressure to stretch out the new skin) and also to show the new colouration properly before the new skin hardens up.

Anyway, still a great video – hope you enjoy it!

Resources For Spider Lovers

Whether you’re a tarantula enthusiast hunting for new information, an arachnophobe trying to educate yourself about spiders to help conquer your fear, or simply interested in learning a little more about the wonderful world of spiders, I wanted to put together a list of resources and places to start.  This list will be a work in progress, and I’ll add to it over time as I come across new and updated information. It will be mostly online but I’ll also include some books, and I’ll link to those whenever possible.

Tarantula web sites

RFUK Invert Forums – The spiders/inverts section of Reptile Forums UK, packed with info and people to answer your questions

Arachnoboards Forums – Another great forum packed with useful info

The British Tarantula Society

The American Tarantula Society

 

Tarantula books

The Tarantula Keeper’s Handbook by Stanley and Marguerite Shultz

Tarantulas and Other Arachnids by Samuel D Marshall

The Legacy of Annie Rose by Carolyne E Swagerie – a great story of a lady who, like myself, overcame her arachnophobia through tarantulas

 

Spider/arachnid web sites

The British Arachnological Society FAQ – Not just a FAQ, but also a WIKI giving a ton of information about spiders in general (both domestic and worldwide), specific species and info on other arachnids.

The Society Of Biology – What Spider Do I Spy? – Small but helpful PDF guide to help identify the most common spider species in the UK.

The Natural History Museum ID Help – info and forums to help with spider IDs

Do Spiders Have Super Powers? – a multimedia fun facts list from the BBC

 

Spider/arachnid books

Spiders: Learning To Love Them by Lynne Kelly

The Private Life Of Spiders by Paul Hillyard

Biology Of Spiders by Rainer Foelix

Spiders : The Ultimate Predators by Stephen Dalton

Spiders of Britain and Northern Europe by Lawrence Bee

 

Arachnophobia Cured

This week marks a year since I took my first major step towards conquering my irrational fear of spiders, and the beginning of my journey into the world of the tarantula enthusiast.  I won’t go into details about my arachnophobia because I’ve blogged about it before in my post about overcoming arachnophobia, but I do want to post an update about how far I’ve come.

When we got our first tarantula (a tiny, baby, Mexican Red Knee sling) my wife had to transfer it into it’s (secure) enclosure while I stood at the other end of the room – if the lid was off the enclosure for feeding of any other reason, I couldn’t get any closer than a few steps away.

vhandlingThis picture, taken this morning, shows just how far I’ve come.  I’m not “cured”, I still consider myself to be somewhat arachnophobic, and I get a serious adrenaline rush even handling this juvenile let alone an adult tarantula, but the mere fact that I’m able to do it at all is a clear indication of the massive progress I’ve made and what a year of desensitisation can do.  If someone had told me 18 months ago that I could handle a tarantula I’d never have believed them!

Since first blogging about how tarantulas have enabled me to control my fear of spiders I’ve had lots of emails and comments from people who want to beat their own fear, so hopefully this post will prove to those people that they can do it too.  I’m not suggesting everyone with a crippling fear of spiders should rush out and by a tarantula – far from it.  But the point I want to make is, no matter what your fear is, you can beat it if you want to.  Fear isn’t “real” it’s just signals in your brain.  Those signals were essential to our evolution as a species, they kept us out of danger, but with an irrational fear they are misfiring.  A house spider crawling up the bedroom wall isn’t going to kill you, but the brain of an arachnophobe acts as though it is.  With determination, persistence and patience however, and a willingness to get out of your comfort zone and face that fear head on, you can override those misfiring signals and regain control of your feelings.

Read more about how I beat my fear of spiders in my original post – overcoming arachnophobia

Note – please don’t think that I’m trying to advocate handling of tarantulas with this post.  Handling of any species comes at a risk to both the spider, and the handler and those risks should be fully understood before considering handling of any tarantula.  The only way to fully minimise the risk to both keeper and spider is simply not to do it.

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!

brachypelma_albiceps_1

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

brachypelma_albiceps_moulting1

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

brachypelma_albiceps_moulting2

Here you can clearly see the new, white fangs.  These will darken as they harden up over the next week or so:
brachypelma_albiceps_moulting3

It’s not often that you see a spider lying on one side, with all the legs facing one direction!
brachypelma_albiceps_moulting4

All curled up and stretching those legs out, having a rest from all the effort:
brachypelma_albiceps_moulting5

Finally, flipped back over the right way and looking very fluffy!
brachypelma_albiceps_moulting6

I put the full set on Flicker if you want to see some larger pictures, and a few more shots!

How To Buy A Tarantula

I’ve had a number of emails and messages recently asking about buying tarantulas, in particular where to buy a tarantula, and how to choose one. So, I thought it would be a good idea to write a post on the subject to save repeating myself over and over.

Where can I buy a tarantula?

In an ideal world, you want to buy a tarantula locally at a specialist store or from a breeder, so you can inspect the specimen, see its condition, get an idea of its temperament and have a good chat with the breeder/dealer. In the real world however, that’s often easier said than done. Unless you are very lucky, your local tarantula dealer is likely to be a pet shop or reptile specialist which also happens to stock a few tarantulas. That will usually severely limit your choice of species, and while some pet stores are good, many have very little knowledge when it comes to tarantulas and often give bad advice.

So what’s the alternative? Well, with tarantulas becoming more and more popular, there are more and more amateurs successfully breeding a wide variety of tarantula species, so you may live nearer to a breeder than you might guess. While it’s certainly worth looking through the local free ads and places like Craigslist for adverts like “Tarantulas for sale” that can be rather hit and miss. Much better to check the specialist tarantula and reptile forums online. Places like Reptile Forums UK and Arachnoboards are not only great places to meet and chat with other tarantula enthusiasts, but you’ll also find lots of people on there selling tarantulas, and offering swaps. Most forums with a classifieds section allow you to search by location, so if you’re lucky you might well find some close by!

Tarantulas for sale online

A major advantage to keeping tarantulas and other inverts over other types of pet, is that if they are packed and sent carefully, they can be safely couriered. That means it’s possible to mail order tarantulas online and have them delivered to your house the very next day!

Because you won’t be there to see the actual tarantula you’re buying if you chose the mail order route, it’s important to only use suppliers you trust. The best way to discover new and trusted suppliers is to ask on forums, and find out from other tarantula keepers where they recommend. As a good starting point though, if you’re looking for tarantulas for sale in the UK I can highly recommend The Spider Shop, and in the US Jamie’s Tarantulas has a good reputation.  If you’re buying from a private individual or an unknown source, ask lots of questions first.  Ask for photos of the actual spider you’re buying, ask what courier they use, and how it will be packed.  Ask if they will pack it with a heat pad if the weather is cold.  Ask when it last ate, and last moulted.  Finally, ask them what their terms are if the spider arrives either dead or injured.  Most reputable dealers will give a refund or replacement is a spider is “dead on arrival” so long as you notify them within 24 hours.  This not only covers you if the worst happens, but also ensures they will take care to pack and courier the tarantula carefully and safely.

How to pack or unpack a tarantula

If you do buy a spider by mail order, you’ll need to know how it will be shipped, and how to unpack it. If done correctly, the tarantula should be perfectly safe and secure for the journey, but if done badly it can easily be injured. Rather than reinvent the wheel and go into detail on packing here, check out this excellent article on RFUK about how not to post a tarantula, which also shows you how it should be done!

Even though you’re not planning on packing and posting a T yourself, seeing how it should be done will allow you to understand how to reverse the process and unpack the tarantula carefully when it arrives.

Unpacking your first tarantula can be a nerve wracking experience, especially if you’re at all arachnophobic. The key is planning, and staying calm. First, make sure the enclosure you’ll be transferring your new tarantula into is set up and ready to go. Get your tarantula toolkit ready (long handled soft paintbrush for “nudging”, long handled tweezers for unwrapping the tissue, empty cricket tub or similar to use as a scoop if needed). Choose an uncluttered, safe area to do your unpacking – somewhere that doesn’t have many hiding places should your new tarantula decide to make a run for it! Finally, make sure there are no distractions (put the dog/cat/small child in another room for now!)

First open the outer packaging, do this carefully just in case there has been a packing problem and the inner packaging has somehow come undone (this can’t happen if it was packed well, but better to be careful just in case). Once you get to the inner packaging (usually a tub, or something like a 35mm film pot for slings) place that into the new enclosure, and carefully do the final unwrapping there, using the tongs if necessary.

unpacking-a-tarantula

Once you can see the spider, very gently nudge it using the paintbrush so that it walks out of the packaging and into its new home. Remove the packaging, close the lid, and enjoy your new pet!

Note: New world tarantulas with urticating hairs are likely to shed some hairs during transit, so be careful to dispose of the inner packaging carefully and wash your hands afterwards!

Your new tarantula is likely to be a little stressed from the journey, and will take a few days to get used to its new home. Avoid disturbing it for a few days to allow it to acclimatise, that means no feeding and certainly no handling. Just make sure it has access to water as it may be a little dehydrated from the journey, and then offer it a meal after a few days of settling in.

Urticating Hairs

“Urticating hairs” is actually a bit of a misnomer – urticating bristles is more correct, since “hairs” grow from follicles and are only found on mammals.  The hair-like bristles found on tarantulas are only superficially similar to hair, they don’t grow from follicles, and in fact they differ greatly in terms of structure, shape, and purpose.

Tarantulas have bristles all over their bodies, and different types are used for different purposes.  Some are used for sensing vibration, some tarantulas have stridulating bristles used to create sounds (the loud “hissing” sound created by some species is created in this way) but the type of most concern to tarantula keepers are those used for defence – the urticating hairs found on the opisthosoma (abdomen) of many new world species.

The term urticating comes from urtica, the Latin word for “nettle”.  These barbed bristles can be kicked or flicked off the abdomen by the tarantula’s rear legs, causing a cloud of these tiny hairs which cause irritation, discomfort and pain when they embed themselves in the skin or eyes of a would-be predator.

bsmithi-bald-spotThe bristles don’t appear at birth, but each time the tarantula moults, new ones are added.  They are loosely attached so that they easily break off when “kicked”, and are covered in barbs.  A number of different types are known, and these have different arrangements of barbs which cause varying degrees of irritation on the skin or mucous membrane (such as inside the nose or throat).  As they are kicked off, the tarantula may develop a “bald patch” on its abdomen, but this will be renewed at the next moult (see picture of a B. Smithi with a clearly defined bald patch)

Anyone working with new world tarantulas possessing urticating bristles must take precautions and care when working with these animals or their enclosures.  Some tarantulas shed bristles as territorial markings, so even if the tarantula is not present, there may well be loose bristles on the substrate or webbing which can still cause problems.

In general, urticating hairs are a minor problem so long as precautions are taken.  For most people, a few hairs on their skin will only cause a minor irritation; some itching which may continue for a few hours.  A more serious problem however is if a person suffers an allergic reaction to the bristles, or if they get into the eyes.  Unfortunately there is no way to know for sure if you’ll be allergic if you’ve not come into contact with them before, so take extra care the first time dealing with any new world species known to kick hairs.

If urticating bristles get into the eyes they can cause a lot of pain, and real damage.  In serious cases they can embed themselves into the cornea causing severe pain and long term problems which will require medical attention, so eye protections is advised.

What if I get urticating hairs on my skin?

urticating-reactionIf you do get hairs on your skin, wash the area thoroughly with plenty of running water.  Monitor the area and try not to scratch.  A solution of 2–2.5% hydrocortisone cream applied to the affected area may help relieve the symptoms, and antihistamine tablets such as those taken by hayfever sufferers have been reported to alleviate the symptoms by some keepers.  For most people, the irritation will subside over a few hours, but if it appears to be worsening or lingering, or if it’s accompanied by swelling or severe redness then seek medical advice (see picture, an allergic reaction to urticating bristles on the skin.  Image sourced from Wikipedia)

What if I get urticating bristles in my eyes?

This is potentially more serious.  Start by washing the eye out with lots of fresh running water, then I would suggest seeking medical advice.  With luck none of the hairs will have embedded into your eye and though sore, it should clear up relatively quickly.  If they have embedded though your doctor will be able to advice on treatment (typically a treatment of topical steroids).

How to avoid problems

The best form of treatment is prevention, right?  First of all, know whether the tarantula you’re dealing with has urticating hairs by researching the species.  Most of the new world Ts that are commonly kept by beginners do have urticating bristles, so unless you’re absolutely sure, assume they do!

Keep an eye on your tarantula’s body language.  You can often tell when a tarantula doesn’t want to be disturbed, and you can often clearly see when they kick hairs.  My B. smithi will often kick hairs as soon as the lid comes off her enclosure, and when that happens the best bet is to keep your distance.  Don’t try and handle or move a T which is flicking, don’t lean over the enclosure or get your face too near, and don’t breath in right over your T or the enclosure (remember, even if the tarantula isn’t present there may well be loose bristles in the enclosure!)

I would highly advise wearing glasses or some sort of eye protection when working with new world tarantulas, particularly those you’ve not worked with before, or which are known to be “flicky”.  Take care when doing cage maintenance, and consider wearing gloves when changing substrate etc.

Don’t rub your eyes or touch your face while working with Ts, and wash your hands straight away afterwards.  You don’t want to transfer loose bristles from your fingers to your eyes!  And finally, be aware that old exuvium (moulted skin) can still possess urticating hairs, so treat them with care in the same way you would a live tarantula!


Sources and further reading

Treating urticating hair reactions – Article on Arachnophiliac.info

Got a pet tarantula? Then wear eye protection – Article on Phys.org

Photo of urticating hairs from T. blondi in a human eye – Rick C. West

Overcoming Arachnophobia… with Tarantulas!

My name is Billy, and I’m an arachnophobe!

However, I decided to conquer my lifelong fear of spiders, and I did so in a way that will probably surprise anyone else who is similarly afflicted – I started keeping tarantulas!

I’m living, breathing proof that arachnophobia can be overcome, and I believe that anyone who wants to can face, fight, and beat (or at least control) their fear of spiders. Before I get into that though, let me tell you how it all started.

I’ve been frightened of spiders for as long as I can remember. As a child, if I found a spider in my bedroom I would shout for my parents to come and remove it. After removing it (in an upturned glass and a piece of card) I would then be paranoid that there might be another one, and search the room high and low until I was satisfied it was clear!

This paranoia followed me into adulthood, but rather than call for my parents I’d call for my wife. Even if she was asleep in bed, if I found a spider I’d have to wake her up and get her to dispose of it.  I’m always the first person to spot a spider, and speaking to other sufferers I find that’s a common trait – our fear heightens our senses and we’re able to detect the smallest spider in our peripheral vision, long before anyone else notices.

Now I’m not normally a fearful sort of chap, nor am I normally in the least bit squeamish about animals, or “creepy crawlies”. I’ve been keeping all sorts of other exotic animals for many years, including other invertebrates. Over the years I’ve kept all manner of snakes, lizards, and insects, plus potentially “dangerous” mammals including coatis, large breed dogs and more. I’ve always been happy to handle crickets, and locusts, and millipedes, and beetles… but for some reason, something about spiders has always affected me.

September has always been troublesome. At the end of the summer, when the temperatures start to drop, it is breeding season for spiders. That’s when mature males go wandering in search of a mate, and that’s when “giant” house spiders (here in the UK it’s the mature males of the genus Tegenaria which cause arachnophobes the most problems!) seem to be everywhere. At this time of year it’s not uncommon for these “giant spiders” to be found in the bath, on the wall in the bedroom, or even running across the living room floor when watching TV on quite a regular basis, sometimes more than once a day. It really can seem that they are “out to get you” and any fellow arachnophobes reading this will know exactly what I mean!

 

Common House Spider (Tegenaria domestica) - The bane of every aranophobes life!

Common House Spider (Tegenaria domestica) – The bane of every arachnophobes life!

 

How bad was my arachnophobia?

“It’s just a little spider”, “It can’t hurt you” and “It’s more afraid of you, than you are of it” are the three phrases you get used to hearing time and time again as an arachnophobe. The first two are generally true (here in the UK there are no native spiders with a medically significant bite) but the third most definitely is not!

Before facing my arachnophobia, even a picture of a large spider was enough to give me a strong physical response. My heart rate would increase, I’d feel my muscles tense and a sense of “panic” and heightened alertness. My palms would sweat, and for some time afterwards I’d have spiders on my mind. I’d be wary of dark cupboard, or small spaces. I’d even flinch if the dog walked past and brushed his tail against my leg!

Before facing my arachnophobia, even a picture of a large spider was enough to give me a strong physical response.

It didn’t even take a photo to illicit such a response – if someone left a glass upside down I would get the same response – I’d instantly assume it had been used to catch and remove a spider from the house, and I’d tense up and feel a slight panic!

Of course the most significant response was from real spiders. On many occasions over the years I’ve shouted to call my wife (or my parents when I was a child) to urgently come and catch a spider. I’d panic that if it wasn’t caught quickly, fearful that it would “escape” and hide somewhere out of reach, so I’d “stand guard” while she came with a glass to remove it. If it was on the floor, I’d invariably climb up on the sofa or the bed, so it couldn’t “run at me”! When it was caught in a glass with a piece of card over the top, I’d be transfixed on it, and it wouldn’t leave my sight until it was safely outside (in case it escaped from the glass!) and I’d insist the windows be closed in case it came back in!

If all this sounds a bit silly and over the top, you’d be right, but you’d also not be arachnophobic. If you are, then all of this will probably sound very familiar. And I know there are people much worse than I ever was. A few years ago I looked into attending a hypnotherapy course at Bristol Zoo, and apparently, on one occasion, they had someone on the course who would scream every time anyone said the word spider!

Fighting the fear

As a reptile enthusiast, I’ve regularly come into fairly close proximity with tarantulas over the years. Most zoos have tarantulas in the reptile house (which is always the part of the zoo I tend to spend the most time in!) and pet stores which sell reptiles invariably also sell Ts. In fact, one local reptile specialist always concerned me since you had to walk past the tarantulas in order to get to the snakes and lizards. For the last few years they have kept all their T enclosures behind large locked glass doors, but in the past they were merely kept in plastic faunariums on shelves, which always looked so easy to knock off… needless to say I was always rather tense in that shop, and happy to leave despite wanting to see the reptiles!

Magazines and web sites are often the same – many times I’d open my latest copy of Pet Reptile only to be confronted with a big picture of a Mexican Red Knee, or a Goliath Birdeater staring back at me!

This was a mixed blessing really, as it started my desensitisation process. I would often force myself to have a good look, even though it made my heart race.

When I was at university, a student in the flat opposite ours had a Chilean Rose (Grammostola rosea). I was always extremely cautious going into that flat (students are well known for their “practical jokes” after all) but it turned out he was nearly as scared of it as I was, and luckily never handled it, at least as long as I lived there.

But it wasn’t until moving into our first house with my wife in 2007 that I gave the idea of keeping a tarantula a second thought. Cress would mention it from time to time, often as we walked past the tarantulas in a reptile shop on our way to buy frozen rats, or crickets for my reptiles. For the longest time I dismissed these comments as jovial, and insisted it would never happen. Over time though, I began to wonder about the possibility of one day overcoming my fear and being able to keep one. They were fascinating after all, even though they scared me.

Over time a plan began to hatch. I really wanted to get over and cure, or at least reduce, my fear of spiders. Cress kept bringing the subject up, and I had one thing in my favour – I wasn’t too scared of very small spiders. A baby tarantula (spiderling, often abbreviated to just sling) is very small indeed. I began to wonder that if we got a sling, and I got used to it, then as it grew my fear might slowly diminish. After all, if I could tolerate a spider 1cm across, and it grew very slowly I’d not notice as it slowly get bigger and bigger.

I bought a book on tarantulas and read it cover to cover, feeling rather tense with each page turn since some of the pictures looked totally “horrific” to me at the time. We both researched online, learning about different species, how to house them, feed them, and most importantly how to prevent them from escaping!

Eventually we made a decision… we would get a baby (sling) Mexican Red Knee tarantula (Brachypelma smithi). It was a species that ticked most of the boxes (slow growing, slow moving, not generally considered aggressive, mild venom just in case… and most importantly for me, not too hideous looking!) We agreed this with a couple of firm conditions from me:

1. The tarantula would be my wife’s responsibility, she would feed it, clean the enclosure etc and I would never have to open the lid.
2. It would be kept in a secure enclosure with a securely locked lid!

slingWe searched and eventually found a dealer with a suitably sized specimen, and made the purchase. As you can imagine, I was extremely nervous when it was brought into the house. We put the dogs out the back, placed her new enclosure into a very large plastic box on the dining room table, and Cress proceeded to transfer the sling from her travel tub into her new enclosure, while I stood at the other end of the room shouting “helpful” guidance at her ;)

That was it, that was the first step to both curing my arachnophobia, and my first step on a journey to a lifelong fascination with tarantulas!  Over the coming weeks and months I watched that tarantula go about its life, safely inside its plastic cage.  I watched it eat, and burrow, and clean itself, and moult, and over time I began to become desensitised.  At the same time, I read a number of books about tarantulas and spiders in general, and spent a lot of time on websites and forums learning, asking questions, and slowly but surely breaking my fear.

Fast forward and we now have a growing collection of tarantulas, and I’ve grown to be quite happy with them in the house. My arachnophobia is still with me, but much reduced. I can now open a lid and drop a cricket in, or top up a water bowl, or even nudge a tarantula into a temporary tub for cage maintenance… and I can even do that when I’m the only one at home if necessary! In fact, last year I bought my wife a Honduran Curly Hair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum) as a surprise Christmas present.  I had the spider couriered to me, unpacked it, and transferred it into a new enclosure I’d set up, all by myself without my wife knowing.  I then “hid” that enclosure in my office for more than 2 weeks before Christmas – something I’d have never even considered just a couple of years ago!

This is a HUGE improvement, and over time I expect I’ll become even more comfortable around these amazing creatures (we’ve even been discussing some of the more “advanced” species like Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens (Green Bottle Blue), some of the fast semi-arboreal Avicularia species, and even some of the beautiful but notoriously fast and venomous Poecilotheria species (affectionately known as Pokies!) as possible future additions to our collection!  I still consider myself arachnophobic.  I still tense if I see a large house spider, but now I can control it – I can get a glass, catch it, and put it outside… and then forget about it!  That’s the best part, I no longer worry about seeing a spider for the rest of the evening, or struggle to get to sleep if one was found in the bedroom!

My arachnophobia was a major factor in my introduction to the hobby of keeping Ts, and was also a major factor in my decision to start this web site. I know what it feels like to live with a fear of spiders, and I now also know that it can be beaten. I’m not suggesting that anyone with arachnophobia rush out and buy a tarantula, but I did want to let people know that with time, patience and a little “getting out of your comfort zone” that it is possible to suppress a phobia. If you have a similar story, or want to ask any questions about how I’m beating my fear please do contact me, I’d love to hear from you and I’d be happy to offer any advice I can!

Update – read my post about my progress after 1 year of keeping tarantulas – arachnophobia cured!

Choosing Your First Tarantula

If you’ve found this site then there’s a very good chance you’re thinking about getting your first tarantula. I remember very well being in that exact situation, and trying to get my head around the minefield of information out there, so I wanted to add a post here very quickly which helped the newcomer to the hobby make the RIGHT decision early on, and avoid some of the pitfalls!

Therefore, I’ve decided to share some of the best resources I found when I was looking at getting my first T in the hope that you’ll find them as useful as I did!

The basics of tarantula husbandry

The very best advice I can give a newcomer to the hobby, is to read as much as you can on the subject before buying your first tarantula. Depending on the species, age, and sex of tarantula you buy you could end up with an animal which you’ll have for the next 15 – 20 years or more! You’ll also be keeping a venomous animal, and one which has the potential to escape if you’re not careful, and one with very different care requirements to more “typical” pets such as cats, dogs, or hamsters! So please, do yourself a favour and do as much research now as you can, it really will help set you up for success.

To start you on the right path, read this Basic Tarantula Care article over at tarantulas.com It will cover a lot of the basics about housing and caring for your first tarantula!

The perfect beginner species

One of the most common questions I see from beginners on the forums is “what is the best beginner species of tarantula”. Well there really isn’t one definitive answer, and this will certainly be the topic of a future article on this site. In the meantime though, this short article from thespidershop.co.uk gives a few suitable choices:

Suitable species for your first tarantula

This certainly isn’t a definitive list (others such as Brachypemla albiceps – Mexican Golden Red Rump come to mind!) but they are all terrestrial, new world tarantulas which will be relatively easy to care for, generally slow moving and non-aggressive, and with mild venom. I would certainly recommend reading much more about any of these species which you like the sound of, but this is a good starting place!  Once you have an idea of what species you’re interested in, and have done your research on tarantula husbandry, your next task will be reading up on how to buy a tarantula.

Where to go for help

I intend to put a resources page together on this site and add to it over time, but for now here are a few of the resources I found invaluable when I was first researching tarantulas and trying to decide which species to start with:

RFUK – Being a long time reptile keeper, Reptile Forums UK was one of my first stops when I started researching tarantulas. As the name suggests, these forums are mostly about reptiles but they have an excellent spiders and inverts forum with a very knowledgeable community.

tarantula-keepers-guideThe Tarantula Keeper’s Guide – Of all the books on tarantulas I’ve read, this one is by far the most useful to the beginner keeper. It’s packed with great info, and it’s not too expensive. If you only ever buy one book on tarantulas get this one!

The British Tarantula Society – If you’re in the UK then I definitely recommend joining the BTS. For about £15 a year you get access to their journal and lots of great information. Even if you don’t join, there is lots of great free info on their website. If you’re not in the UK, they do international membership, or see if there is a tarantula society in your own country. For those of you in the US, The American Tarantula society can be found at http://atshq.org

My hope this that over time this site will become a valued resource for tarantula keepers and beginners, just like some of the resources listed above. In the meantime though, I hope you find these links as useful as I did when I first started.