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How to Wrangle a Tarantula



Much like a cowboy must muck out his horse's stall, a tarantula keeper is required to clean his spider's burrow. From a technical perspective it's an easy task: find the dirt and remove it. But tarantulas are very protective of their domain and will stop at nothing to prevent a smelly, hairless ape from disturbing their manicured filth. Cleaning is enough of a chore—being harassed by a tiny beast while doing so is far too stressful. This leaves the keeper with only one choice: evict the spider from the premises.





The level of difficulty for removing a tarantula from his abode is largely based on the spider's genetics. Sydney Sue is a Grammostola pulchripes, a species known for being a "gentle giant." Not all species of tarantula are as mild-mannered as the humble Grammostola. Pterinochilus murinus is the most notoriously grumpy tarantula within the tarantula keeping hobby. On web forums they are simply called "O.B.T.," an acronym for Orange Bitey Thing. In the photo below, his legs aren't outstretched because he wants a hug. That's a warning he's about to strike. I surely wouldn't want to get bit by those fangs!




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My tarantula relocation toolkit consists of three items: a small paintbrush, a plastic container and its corresponding lid. The container's utility is reasonably obvious. The spider goes in and the lid prevents him from crawling out. The paintbrush, however, is an ol' tarantula handler's trick passed down through the ages. To understand how it works, let's take a close-up look at a tarantula's paw.




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Spiders are covered in millions of tiny bristles called setae. Setae are not hair. They are akin to a cat's whiskers. What makes them special is that each one is connected to a nerve. Because they are innervated they are extremely sensitive to movement and touch. Some are even able to detect smells. That's why tarantulas gently fan their front legs through the air when they walk. They're sniffing the air.





Since setae are so sensitive we don't want to touch them with anything hard like a stick or a finger. Instead, we use the bristles of a paintbrush. The bristles are soft and only apply a tiny amount of pressure to the setae. This prevents damaging the setae or spooking the tarantula.

Okay, enough with the jibber-jabber. Let's wrangle a tarantula!





Easy peasy, right?

As you could see, Sydney Sue didn't like me touching his plant which is why he threw a little hissy fit. Once he got over himself, he was easily steered into the container.

After cleaning his house, it was time to return him to his enclave. He sure has gotten big!





Ta da! Of course, Sydney Sue had to inspect every square millimeter of his burrow to vet my cleaning. He knows Diane spent a great deal of time setting up his flora, so he plowed through the grass and laid down some sticky silk to mark his territory. Afterwards, he snuggled up next to his favorite air plant and took a nap.




It was quite an adventure capturing this on film. Trying to corral Sydney Sue while keeping a firm grip on my iPhone was no easy task. I had considered taping the phone to my forehead but a few trial runs were unsuccessful. Next time I'll mount a GoPro to Sydney Sue.

Have a fantastic Labor Day, stay hydrated and remember:

Be nice to spiders :)





Yes—Spiders DO Poop

We have had Sydney Sue for almost eight years! In that time I've seen him molt, eat crickets, drink water and give himself a bath. What I've never seen him do is poop. What does it look like when a spider poops? Enquiring minds NEED to know!

Wonder no more, my friends:

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