Official weblog of the world's cutest Chaco Golden Knee tarantula  

Cookin' Crickets for Sydney Sue



Summer is a slow, lazy time for Sydney Sue. It's too hot to dig holes or climb walls, so he spends his days deep inside his burrow sleeping and staying cool. The ceiling fan in his room is set on high and the shades are closed—just the way he likes it. He emerges from his burrow after dusk, stretches his legs and falls back to sleep in the entrance of his hide as the heat of the day concedes to our 4-ton air conditioner.

The only interruption in his life of leisure is feeding day. Every three weeks I give Sydney Sue a fat, tasty cricket which he hunts down and devours. There are other prey items I could feed him such as Blaptica dubia—the Dubia roach—or "superworms," which are the larvae of Darkling beetles. Both are popular amongst tarantula hobbyists who keep large collections. I prefer crickets as they are inexpensive, easy to acquire and high in protein. Besides, who wants to bring roaches INTO their house? Not me!

Like everything else in the Gartman household, I follow a meticulous process when preparing for Sydney Sue's big feast. I call it "cookin' the crickets." Today I will share with you my tried-and-true recipe.





First, we need to get our main ingredient: house crickets. I head over to the local big-box pet supply store where they sell them in two sizes: small and large. Most folks buy several dozen at a time for their turtles, bearded dragons and—interestingly enough—chickens. I always get an odd look from the store clerk when I ask for two crickets.

"Two dozen?"

"Nope. Just two. Two small ones."

"Uh… What are you feeding?"

"A tarantula."


That's usually the end of our conversation until the requisite, "have a nice day." My exchange with the cashier is virtually identical.

"Only two? What are we feeding today?"

"My tarantula."


PetSmart keeps the crickets stashed away in the fish department. They're dispensed from a large plastic box in which hundreds of them live:


To ensure there's at least one cricket alive when the dinner bell rings, I always purchase two. Why, you ask? Crickets are easily frightened, quite literally, to death and are notorious cannibals. Buying two increases the chances of having at least one survivor. If both live, Sydney gets the fattest one and the other is set free. Besides, it's not as if they're expensive:


That's right—$5.40 a year to feed Sydney Sue :)

The crickets are transported home in a plastic bag. Here they are, ready for cookin':


I need two more things before I start cookin' the crickets: a cardboard toilet paper roll and an organic apple.


I cut the cardboard roll in half. These will provide a cozy hiding place for the crickets while they're cookin'. A folded-up magazine subscription card or a piece of egg carton are suitable alternatives.


Then I cut the organic apple into slices. It's imperative the apple is organic as it will be free of pesticides and other chemicals that could be harmful to the crickets and, in turn, Sydney Sue.


Now I add the cardboard and the apple slices to the bag and seal it with a binder clip:


Crickets are cookin'!!!

They immediately start eating the organic apple:


At the pet store, the crickets are fed an orange-flavored gel. Having access to fresh apples is cricket nirvana!

Crickets are sneaky little fellas and, on occasion, will attempt to escape by chewing through the plastic bag. I must admit I learned this lesson the hard way. To prevent any break-outs, I put the bag inside a plastic container with a sealable lid:


Ta-da! All we need to do now is wait 24 to 48 hours for the crickets to finish cookin'. A day or two of gorging themselves on apple allows the crickets to pass any sub-par food out of their digestive system and replace it with nutritious fruit. The crickets will stay in a cool, dark space until feeding time. This will allow them time to relax and eat as much apple as they can fit inside their little cricket bodies.


The plastic container has a second purpose: to lock in as much of the apple's smell as possible. Rotting apple is potent stuff! By the next morning, Sydney Sue usually detects the aroma and knows it's almost time to eat. Here he is—during daylight hours—sitting in the entrance to his hide ready for his cricket. You gotta wait 'til they're done cookin', Sydney!


When feeding time arrives, I pull off the top from the plastic container and remove the apple slices and cardboard from the bag. The smell of the apple is overwhelming! I then use a pair of long tweezers to extract the juiciest of the tasty crickets and drop it into Sydney Sue's house. Within seconds, he's pouncing on the unsuspecting cricket.

In this video, a Grammostola pulchripes—a Chaco Golden Knee tarantula just like Sydney Sue—demonstrates its ninja-like cricket capturing skills:

  © Copyright 2014 Arachno Phobia. All Rights Reserved.  

The purpose of "cookin' the crickets" is two-fold. The key objective is to provide nutritious food and hydration to the cricket which will then be passed on to Sydney Sue when he eats it. This is known as "gut loading." Since tarantulas seldom drink from their water dish, the cricket acts as their main source of hydration. They instead use their water bowl as a toy, flipping it upside down or burying it in their hide. For example:

  © Copyright 2016 Greg Rice. All Rights Reserved.  

It's also a great time to observe the crickets and see if they are sick, parasitic or carrying toxins such as pesticides. Crickets are raised in giant farms and are generally safe for consumption the moment they are purchased. I prefer to err on the side of caution in much the same way I use organic apples instead of the "regular" kind. Gotta keep our little buddy safe!

It's been 301 days since Sydney Sue last molted. It doesn't look like he's in a hurry to get any larger—which is just fine with Diane! If he does, y'all will be the first to know. Stay cool, drink plenty of fluids and remember:

Be nice to spiders!!!


Bonus video!

When was the last time someone read you a bedtime story? If it's been a while, curl up with your woobie and enjoy Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham as read by Sticki Nicki:

  © Copyright 2015 Bedtime Storiez 4 U. All Rights Reserved.  
Spiders in the News
The Legend of the Christmas Spider

Spiders need love, too.
IUCN and CITES classify 37 species of tarantula as threatened or critically endangered.
Help support tarantula conservation today.