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Sydney Sue's Forever Home

THURSDAY, APRIL 15, 2021   |   POSTED BY MICAH GARTMAN

 
     
   
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There really isn't a delicate way to say this, so I'll just blurt it out:

Sydney Sue is… big.

No, not "I really like cake" big. I'm talking about "I am a very large spider" big. We knew when we brought him home that he would grow into a gentle giant. It just seems to have happened sooner than we had imagined.

To be fair, Sydney Sue being big really isn't a problem. He's the most sweet and gentle woodland creature you'll ever meet—a lap spider, if you will. What's at issue is the size of his current house. It's just too small for a lad of Sydney Sue's proportions. He needs ample space to stretch out and be comfortable without being restricted by the confines of his burrow. After several conversations and many months of research, we decided that it's time to move Sydney Sue one last time into a bigger burrow.

A MUCH BIGGER burrow :)

 

 

 

     
   
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Our design concept for the new burrow was pretty simple. We wanted to replicate the natural flora and terrain of the Gran Chaco, Sydney Sue's native home in Argentina. We found inspiration from master terrarium and vivarium craftspeople around the globe. Here are a few of the creations that captured our attention:

 

 

 

     
   
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A captive tarantula's domain is housed inside an enclosure. Essentially, it's a box that contains the burrow. But it also performs other functions: it defines the tarantula's territory, generates air flow, controls humidity and allows easy access to the interior for cleaning. It must also be able to withstand the curiosity of a strong spider while preventing injuries and escape attempts.

We ordered (and returned) several enclosures. Sadly, most were either too small or too poorly built. We eventually found the crème de la crème of enclosures at Jamie's Tarantulas. It's a custom-made acrylic enclosure with laser-drilled ventilation holes and lockable clasps. We opted for the large size—10 inches by 10 inches by 20 inches. It's HUGE. But Sydney Sue still has plenty of growing to do, so this enclosure will provide him with more than enough space to take naps and eat tasty crickets.

 

 

 

     
   
  © Copyright 2018 Jamie's Tarantulas. All Rights Reserved.  
     
 

With the enclosure on order, we now faced our greatest challenge: how do we get burrow supplies in the middle of a pandemic? I Google'd for hours, navigating through thousands of links and endless Alibaba pages and eBay auctions. And just as I was about to concede defeat, I discovered the mecca for all things crafty.

That's right: Etsy!

I ordered every darned thing I could find! Cork bark? Got it. Little fake plant things? Give me one of each. Manzanita wood? I'm not sure what it is, but I'll take two. I even found the coolest thing of all: a giant piece of petrified wood!

 

 

 

     
   
     
 

With all the parts in hand, we built a cardboard mock-up of the enclosure and began playing around with various layouts. It didn't take long before a random collection of pieces started to look like the Gran Chaco! A section of Manzanita wood became Sydney Sue's new burrow and the petrified wood (with a granite foundation) became a lounge area. A piece of drift wood propped up against the burrow created a nice climb-ey thing. I think we have ourselves a winning burrow design!

 

 

 

     
   
  Click on the photo for a larger version.  
     
   
  Click on the photo for a larger version.  
     
 

When we moved Sydney Sue into his current home back in 2016, he pouted for a week before accepting his new surroundings. Knowing that he may not be very happy after being moved again, we fed him a tasty cricket a week before moving day. That way, we were confident he'd have a full belly during the transition. The U.S. is still in the midst of a pandemic-induced cricket crisis but farmers are working hard to get them to us as quickly as possible. We're still importing ours from Louisiana.

 
     
   
     
 

On Saturday, April 10th, I started construction on the new burrow. I did all the work in Sydney Sue's room so he could get accustomed to the smells of the fresh dirt and burrow accoutrement. He came out of his burrow several times to inspect my progress. He's a nosey little dude.

Since we knew where all the pieces needed to go, I made quick work of setting everything into place. I had to make some on-the-fly modifications to account for the dirt beneath the burrow but some spare pieces of petrified wood made for a sturdy foundation.

 
     
   
     
 

By the end of the day, all of the major burrow components were in position and ready for Diane's landscaping expertise. Here is Sydney Sue's old enclosure next to the new one.

 
     
   
     
 

We left the new burrow in Sydney Sue's room to give him plenty of time to acclimate to the new sights and smells. But on Monday, something very interesting happened. When Diane went into his room to see how he was doing, Sydney Sue walked out of his burrow, crawled up on the wall next to the new burrow and stuck his paws out of the vents. Was he trying to tell us he was ready to move?

Diane added the final touches to the burrow that evening, planting several air plants and a sprig of grass. The final result is amazing!!!

 
     
   
  Click on the photo for a larger version.  
     
   
  Click on the photo for a larger version.  
     
 

On Tuesday, April 13th, it was finally time to move Sydney Sue to his new home. Using a soft bristled paint brush, I gently coaxed him out of his old burrow for the last time. I wrangled him into a plastic cup then let him out on the carpet for a quick photo. Like I said, he's a big boy!

 
     
   
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It took a few moments to steer Sydney Sue back into the cup—he wanted to go on a walk down the hallway. But I was able to scoop him back up and lower him into his new burrow. As soon as I moved my hand to let him out of the cup, he shot out like a rocket and started running around the enclosure! He was totally stoked!!! He spent the whole day and all night stretching out in his burrow and crawling on his petrified wood. He even spent time sitting on the plants. He'd never seen a plant before!

 
     
   
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He's exhausted himself with all the exploring he's been doing. And he's constantly stretching his legs—he finally has room to spread out! He's been sleeping in the same spot since yesterday, spread-eagle at the opening of his spacious new burrow. Sweet dreams, Sydney Sue.

We will report back with an update on Sydney Sue's transition into his forever home. Until then, stay safe and stay healthy. And remember:

Be nice to spiders :)

 
     
   
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Photographing the Wild Tarantula
INTRODUCTION
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