Avicularia versicolor – Martinique pinktoe Tarantula Caresheet

species-avicularia-versicolor

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Scientific Name: Avicularia versicolor (Walckenaer 1837)

Common Name(s): Martinique pinktoe (Martinique pink-toed tarantula), Martinique red tree spider, Antilles pinktoe

Range: Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean

Habitat: Trees and shrubs

Experience Level: Beginner/intermediate

Type: Arboreal, climber

Size: Leg span up to around 12cm (5″)

Growth rate: Medium

Venom: Mild

Urticating hairs: Yes*

Temperament: A generally docile species, though they tend to be more nervous and skittish than some of the other Avicularia (pinktoe) species. They do occasionally bite (though the venom is considered mild) and they can and do jump.

Description

The beautiful Antilles/Martinique pinktoe is a beautiful and unique species of new world arboreal tarantula, popular with enthusiasts due to their beautiful and unique coloration (especially as spiderlings), relative ease of care, and good temperament.

range-a-versicolorYou only need to lay your eyes on one of these beautiful spiders up close to instantly see the appeal.  A medium sized spider, as juveniles they have a beautiful metallic blue colouring. As they mature, the colours change and the spider ends up with a metallic green/blue carapace and purple/red hairs on the abdomen and legs. The long, colourful hairs on the legs and abdomen give the spider an almost “cuddly” look to it, and even people who are generally adverse or fearful towards spiders often remark at this species’ beauty. Males are usually more brightly coloured than females, tend to be smaller and more slightly built with longer legs in comparison to their body size.

Being arboreal (tree dwelling) species, members of the Avicularia genus (Avics for short) tend to be smaller than many of their ground dwelling and burrowing cousins, are excellent climbers and are able to jump. They build elaborate funnel type webs in trees and shrubs where they spend most of their time.

Keeping A. Versicolor in Captivity

The Antilles pink poe is suitable for the intermediate tarantula keeper, or the confident beginner.  As an arboreal they have different requirements to most of the tarantulas typically regarded as “beginners species” such as the Mexican red knee or Chilean rose. A tall enclosure allowing them to climb and build their funnel web, with good ventilation is essential. Ground space is of little value since these spiders will rarely descend to the bottom of their enclose. Suitable foliage should be provided for the spider to climb and anchor its webbing to is essential. While real plants can be used with some success, artificial plants are generally a better bet especially for the beginner. Good ventilation is essential, and stale air will kill these tarantulas. Many sources claim that high humidity is also required, but this is often taken to far by people new to keeping Avics and can be just as dangerous as too low humidity. You should avoid maintaining high humidity at all times, preferring to allow the enclose to dry out in cycles. If high humidity is maintained at all times (especially if the ventilation is less than ideal) it can promote mould growth which which can kill these spiders.

One or two shallow water dishes, combined with good ventilation allowing the air to circulate should be be fine. Many keepers mist the enclosure, but I prefer to simply dampen part of the substrate. Then allow the enclosure to fully dry out before dampening again.

These spiders, while generally docile, are not generally suitable for handling.  They tend to be quite skittish, and they can and do jump and have been known to bite.  Like all Avicularia they do possess urticating hairs, but unlike most new world tarantulas they tend not to flick them (though they can push them into the skin if being handled).  They also have a tendency to defecate as a defence and are able to squirt their poop some distance so be warned!

avicularia_versicolor_juvenileA diet of crickets, cockroaches and locusts is ideal.  As with all tarantulas, feed prey items of a suitable size – no larger than the spider’s abdomen.  These versicolors tend to be good eaters, so if they seem uninterested in food you can be fairly sure they will soon moult.


Further reading

Stanley A. Schultz, Marguerite J. Schultz. The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide  (2009)

 

Brachypelma albiceps – Mexican Golden Red Rump Tarantula Caresheet

brachypelma albiceps

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Scientific Name: Brachypelma albiceps (Pocock 1903) (Previously B.ruhnaui)

Common Name(s): Mexican golden red rump tarantula

Range: The central highlands of Mexico, particularly Guerrero and Morelos

Habitat: Scrubland and grassland, burrowing under rocks and in abandoned rodent burrows.

Experience Level: Beginner

Type: Terrestrial, burrower

Size: Leg span up to around 13cm (5″)

Growth rate: Medium

Venom: Mild

Urticating hairs: Yes

Temperament: Depends on the individual , while some can be quite docile, some individuals can be somewhat feisty and skittish and are often a little unpredictable so best left as a “look but don’t touch” tarantula.

Description

brachypelma albiceps rangeThe reason for the common name, Mexican Golden Red Rump, is easy to understand.  This striking looking tarantula comes from Central Mexico, has deep red hairs overlaying the black on the abdomen and a light golden carapace, with black legs.

Like all Brachypelma species B.albiceps are CITES II listed which prevents international trade, but they do breed successfully in captivity and so are available on the pet trade, if not quite as commonly as some other Brachypelma species.  Slings tend to be fairly easy to obtain but, typically for a CITES listed tarantula, adult specimens are harder to come by and more expensive.  They are a hardy species however, easy to care for, and with both their striking coloration and tendency to be fairly active and often on display, they are highly sought after.

For general care requirements, read the beginner’s guide to keeping tarantulas page which gives a good overview of tarantula husbandry.

golden-red-rump-tarantula-brachypelma-albicepsAs a medium/large terrestrial tarantula and an opportunistic burrower, a golden red rump will need a glass or plastic enclosure with more floor space than height, with a deep dry substrate (2 – 3 inches of coconut coir, or dry potting soil), and plenty of ventilation. Provide a hiding place (such as half a flower pot, coconut shell, or a piece of cork bark), and a shallow water dish. In my experience B. albiceps don’t tend to be heavy webbers compared with some other Brachypelma species (such as b.albopilosum) and they are quite active, often out on display and often moving things around and rearranging their substrate and cage furniture, making them a fantastic species to watch. They don’t like high humidity (around 50% – 60% is ideal) so don’t mist or spray for adults, but always have a small dish of fresh water available.

A diet of crickets, cockroaches and locusts is ideal. As with all tarantulas, feed prey items of a suitable size – no larger than the spider’s abdomen.

Mexican golden red rump tarantula moulting

B.albiceps moulting (see more pics in this series here)

Premoult B.albiceps showing a large bald patch on the abdomen

Premoult B.albiceps showing a large bald patch on the abdomen

 


Further reading

Stanley A. Schultz, Marguerite J. Schultz. The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide (2009)

 

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.

Grammostola pulchripes – Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula Caresheet

Grammostola pulchripes

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Scientific Name: Grammostola pulchripes (Simon 1892)
(previously Grammostola aureostriata)

Common Name(s): Chaco Golden Knee

Range: The Chaco region of Argentina, and the Grand Chaco region west of the Paraguay river.

Habitat: Grassland and scrub

Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Type: Terrestrial, opportunistic burrower

Size: Leg span up to around 20cm (8″)

Growth rate: Slow/Medium

Venom: Mild

Urticating hairs: Yes

Temperament: A generally calm and docile species, suitable for beginners though care should be taken due to their large size.

Description

Deriving its common name from the golden stripe on each knee (its former latin name was Aureostriata, meaning “golden striped”) this beautiful species grows to an impressive size, yet tends to be calm and docile.  They are a new world terrestrial tarantula, and opportunistic burrower.   They are reported to be one of the fastest growing species in the Grammostola genus, and they also tend to be quite active, though they tend to prefer using an existing hide rather than digging a burrow.  Combined with their striking looks, their generally calm nature and impressive size, and the fact that they tend not to be shy of staying out on display makes them a desirable species both for the beginner tarantula keeper, and for more experienced keepers looking to add a new impressive spider to their collection.

G. pulchripes is often misidentified as Eupalaestrus campestratus (the Pink Zebra Tarantula) which live in the same region.  Chacos coming from Argentina are less hairy than specimens from the Paraguay population, and it’s thought that there may be a third population in Uraguay.

Keeping G. Pulchripes in Captivity

Chaco Golden Knee copyright Flickr user Óscar MéndezG. Pulchripes, as already mentioned, makes an excellent choice as a first tarantula species.  They are generally low maintenance with no special care requirements, and will thrive given the standard husbandry for generally arid, terrestrial species so long as they are given an enlcosure large enough for such a big tarantula.

For general care requirements, read the basic guide to tarantula care page which gives a good overview of tarantula husbandry.

An adult Chaco Golden Knee will require a large enclosure such as a large plastic or acrylic tank, or a 10 – 15 gallon aquarium with a suitable top.  Provide a deep, fairly dry substrate (4 – 5 inches of coconut coir, or dry potting soil), plenty of ventilation, and a secure lid.  A large piece of cork bark will serve as a suitable hiding place (half a coconut shell won’t be large enough for an adult!), and a large shallow water dish should be provided at one end of the enclosure which can be overfilled to dampen the substrate slightly at one end of the tank.

A diet of large crickets, cockroaches and locusts is ideal.  But as with all tarantulas, feed prey items of a suitable size – no larger than the spider’s abdomen.

One of the attractions of G. pulchripes for some people is their tolerance to being handled.  It’s true that this species in general tend to be docile and fairly tolerant to handling, but remember that every individual tarantula is different and that this species can be fast.  While its venom is mild and this species rarely bites, the fangs on a spider this large are more than capable of doing real damage.  At the same time, a fall from even a very small height would easily kill a tarantula of this weight so handle carefully, only if you understand and accept the risks to both yourself and your tarantula.


Further reading

The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide Stanley A. Schultz, Marguerite J. Schultz. (2009)

What Spider is that?  Gabriel, R. (2005) Eupalaestrus campestratus. Journal of the British Tarantula Society 20(2): 50–54