Prologue. Sarah sent me a fairly long
email with corrections to my tarantula page(s). Since she went to so
much trouble, I'm printing her words here pretty much verbatim. I'll
add some pictures later. In the meantime in the interest of alacrity,
here's her info.
Sarah Hinchliffe, Springfield, VA, February 14, 2010
Hello! I came across your website and saw your pages on tarantulas. I know
you've had some emails previously regarding tarantulas, I just wanted to
clarify a few things as I've been in the arachnid hobby for years and wanted
to help you guys out.
No Blowing Zone.
It's definitely not a good idea to blow on tarantulas :) Any puff of air
will cause the tarantula to assume it's a predator and just like the
Pterinochilus murinus ("Starburst Baboon" or proper common name, Usumbara
Baboon) on the first page, they become defensive. Also, with New World
tarantulas (or tarantulas from the Western Hemisphere), they have the
ability to kick their urticating setae ("hairs"). When these hairs from hell
become airborne they can become stuck in sensitive skin and mucous membranes
- and even your eyes - so it's not a good idea to blow on tarantulas. It
just irritates them and you could suffer serious consequences from what
seemed to be an innocent puff of air.
Best Substrates. Most tarantulas require adequate substrate and a burrow to be happy. Wood
chips will KILL your tarantula because they are sharp and unforgiving. They
will rupture a tarantula's abdomen if they fall on it, or cause tears on the
underside of the abdomen due to the tarantula crawling over the wood chips,
leading to a rupture and eventually death. Many oils in the wood chips are
toxic to tarantulas and it will kill them. Any kind of aromatic wood,
(cedar, juniper, fir, etc.) has toxic oils. Cedar is especially toxic to
tarantulas. Wood chips are good for certain rodents and reptiles, but not
good for invertebrates. Peat moss is much cheaper - you can go to your local
Lowe's or Home Depot and find a huge block of Canadian peat moss for a
little over $4, and it lasts forever. Second, a clay pot (no broken ones,
just as dangerous as wood chips) on its side and partially filled with
substrate will make a good burrow for terrestrials. Your Asian (Old World)
tarantulas like Haplopelma will like deep substrate so they can make their
own burrow. The humidity is also crucial for their health. They are very
aggressive if they are not happy. Most of the time my three Haplopelma
bolt into their burrows as if their hairs' on fire if I barely move their
tanks. Tarantulas normally seek shelter if they're afraid. If they have
no shelter, their last resort to protect themselves is to fight off an
attacker. Tarantulas do not like rocks in their terrarium - plain peat moss,
and if you absolutely have to, a piece of cork on a very slight angle
Water Bowls. Tarantulas do not need anything in their water bowls except a piece of
smooth slate for their food items to save themselves from drowning. Wood is
not good as it holds bacteria, and sponges are even worse as crickets love
to lay their eggs in them and defecate all over them causing even more
bacteria to flourish, which can kill your tarantula.
Arboreals such as Poecilotheria regalis (Indian Ornamentals), Psalmopoeus
irminia (Venezuelan Sun-Tigers), and Avicularia genus (Pink-Toes), need a
taller terrarium and a few pieces of fake plastic plant. Terrestrials and
burrowers don't have much of a use for fake plants as they enjoy matting
them down into the substrate with their own web.
Climbers. ALL tarantulas can climb - they don't use their web to climb; instead, they
have special pads on their feet. These hairs, called scopulae, feel almost
sticky to the touch and allow the tarantula to grip slick surfaces.
Tarantulas also have tarsal claws (two on each leg, and two on each pedipalp)
that look somewhat similar to cat claws that they use to help them grip
better on bark and leaves.
Webs. If a tarantula builds a web, it's meaning can vary. It could be a mature
male spinning a sperm web, it could mean the tarantula is going to make an
egg sac, it could mean the tarantula is happy, and it also could mean that
the tarantula is ready to molt. Many tarantulas build webs because that is
what they do; Avicularia are notorious for building web just because that is
in their nature to do so. They live so high above the ground, they have
enormous web structures. Pterinochilus tarantulas are arboreal in nature -
meaning they build their webs ABOVE ground, in the tall African grass. In
captivity, 90% of them build webs on the substrate, or burrow under the
substrate and form their own little tunnels.
Allergies. Also, you CAN have an allergic reaction to tarantulas. Many people who are
allergic to bees and wasps probably should not be keeping tarantulas, since
scientists have come to the conclusion that tarantula venom is similar in
chemical makeup to bee and wasp venom. There's a fine line between
"venomous" and "poisonous". Reptiles, arachnids and insects who need to
inject their venom are venomous. Those who secrete their toxic defenses from
external glands are poisonous.
Sexing. As far as sexing goes, not all male tarantulas develop the tibial hooks on
the front of their legs. That is not the only way to tell their gender, by
the way. Ventral sexing (or looking at the underside of the tarantula and
knowing what to look for) is a good way. Checking the exuvium's - or shed molt
- is even better. Third, males have embolus bulbs on the end of their
pedipalps (those "short legs" just to the sides of the chelicerae, or their
fangs) they look like little round boxing gloves. They are very distinct from
the normal, flat pedipalps on females and immature males who have not made
it to their ultimate (sexually mature) molt. Other less than accurate ways
are checking the dorsal side of the tarantula; males have thinner, more
oblong shaped abdomens while females are normally a lot rounder and plumper.
Also, males are leggier than females, having thinner and longer legs. Your
best way to sex your tarantula is to check the molt. Nothing is as reliable.
if you see a small flap on the inside of the molt's abdomen in between the
first two booklungs, it's female. The flap is the uterus. If there is no
flap, it's male. Tarantulas shed everything when they molt, including their
esophagus and pumping stomach.
GOOD CHOICES FOR BEGINNERS:
Grammostola rosea - or Chilean Rose tarantula. Very docile and very hardy.
Brachypelma albopilosum - Curly Hair tarantula. Gorgeous tan color and looks
to be having a perpetually bad hair day every day.
Avicularia avicularia - Pink-Toe tarantula. Although these are jumpers and
are fast runners, most are very easy-going and look like little metallic
black fuzzies with pink toes.
Now, ANY Grammostola, Brachy or Avic are good for beginners. Why? They don't
usually kick hairs, and Avicularia cannot kick hairs in a CLOUD. They have
to physically rub their little bums on you to "hair" you. As far as the
ungood choices you've recommended...
"Cobalt Blue" is Haplopelma lividum. An Asian burrower, they NEED a deep
burrow and somewhat moist substrate to be happy. Wood chips, as mentioned
above, don't make them happy. They cannot feel secure in their environment
without a decent burrow.
"Ornamental Chevron" is Psalmopous cambridgei. They are just like their
cousins, the P. irminia, or "Venezuelan Sun-Tiger" tarantulas, except I
personally believe they're just a lighter color form. They are fast and it's
easy to set them off. Their venom is not that potent as the Indian and
African arboreals such as Stromatopelma, Poecilotheria and Heteroscodra, but
bites still hurt nonetheless.
"Indian Ornamental" is Poecilotheria regalis. This venom potency falls into
the red catagory, which means it's very strong. P. regalis is the ONLY "Pokie"
that has a cream stripe on the ventral side of the abdomen. They are very
fast and are not usually aggressive. I handle mine frequently without
incident. As with it's equally venomous cousin from Africa, Heteroscodra,
this genus demands an experienced keeper with a respect for their venom and
"Skeleton-Leg" is Ephebopus murinus. They're considered to be high-strung
and they love to burrow. They're not as potent as the above tarantulas, but
they still demand respect because of their bad attitudes and their sudden
ability to spazz and go nuts all over their enclosure.
The definition of "Baboon" tarantula varies. Pterinochilus murinus is a
"baboon" tarantula. And although it isn't that venomous, it's bright orange
and usually not happy. Heteroscodra maculata is a "baboon" tarantula, and
it's a white and black mottled arboreal with some of the strongest tarantula
venom. Most of your "baboon" tarantulas are found in Africa. So, basically,
"baboon" is just a widely varied slang for tarantulas of the African
Banana tarantulas aren't really tarantulas but a smaller spider not in the Theraphosidae (tarantula) family. Their venom has a punch, and because of
their size, people who are not well-versed in arachnid identification assume
Onto the second page...
The second photo down is listed as "Mexican Red Rump" - actually, it's not..
it's an Avicularia bicegoi, or "Brick-Red Pink-Toe". This is a rare and hard
to find animal, not usually found in pet stores. This tarantula is usually a
purple color as a mature female, although as odd as it seems I have seen
reddish-orange females. The males are usually orange hued with a fire-red
The fourth photo down from that shows a tarantula with tiger striping on the
abdomen, a copper-colored carapace ("head", if you will) and black legs.
That's not a Mexican red-rump, either. Mexican red-rumps are Brachypelma
vagans. They are all black with a red bum. The tarantula pictured here is
Cyclosternum fasciatum, or Costa Rican Tiger-Rump. I have five of them and
they are very pretty!
The one you have listed as a "Purple Pink-Toe" is not even a pink-toe. This
is a terrestrial, most likely of the Brachypelma, or even possibly Lasiodora
The "Salmon Pink Bird Eater" you have listed below that one is a
rosea! True salmon pink bird eaters are Lasiodora parahybana.
And a tarantula identification for you here, the last tarantula photo on the
page is a Ephebopus cyanognathus, or "Blue Fang" tarantula. It is in the
same family as E. murinus, or the skeleton leg. This one however is much
prettier with the metallic blue chelicerae.
The first unidentified tarantula on your third tarantula page looks very
Lasiodora to me.The one below it looks to be a Theraphosa blondi, a
Goliath bird eater, not a Thai black. Thailand black tarantulas are ALL
black and have an abdomen the same shape as the H. lividum, or cobalt blue
tarantulas. The scientific name for the Thailand black tarantulas is
The "Tawny Red Baboon" is a Haplopelma albostriatum, called the Thai zebra
tarantula - you can tell by the gold markings on the legs. Hysterocrates
gigas is a tawny red baboon. They look like the C. crawshayi, or King
Baboon, but they are darker brownish red.
Also, one more spider identification for you - the Costa Rican Sun-Tiger you
have listed is the Psalmopoeus irminia, the "Venezuelan" Sun-Tiger. This is
why I don't like using common names, they confuse people :)
Well, that's all I found that I could help with :) you might enjoy checking
out arachnoboards.com, which is an arachnid enthusiast forum that I frequent
- or letting your tarantula specialist check out the website - that way,
you'll be able to identify the rarer, hard-to-find species that come into
your shop, and you'll be able to figure out what kind of habitat that best
suits the tarantulas' individual needs. There are a lot of knowledgeable
people on the forums!
Have a good one,
Sarah Hinchliffe, Springfield, Virginia