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It Ain't Easy Being a Tarantula



The transition from summer to fall marks the beginning of mating season for Aphonopelma spp., North America's native tarantulas. Mature males from Arkansas to California will abandon their burrows in search of willing mates. The competition for a female's attention is so intense the males won't even stop to eat or drink. Instead, they will roam the wilderness day and night mating as many times as possible. By the season's first frost, the exhausted males will have reached the end of their life and slowly succumb to old age.

And so it is.

Here we see a mature male Aphonopelma eutylenum, the California Ebony tarantula, being investigated by Maggie, a Canis familiaris, in the Sierra Foothills near Yosemite National Park:




  © Copyright 2011 Sue Langley. All Rights Reserved.  

The seasonal segue also brings with it the favorite holiday of our eight-legged friends: Halloween! In celebration of all things creepy and crawly—and to show that spiders aren't blood-sucking demons—Sydney Sue agreed to pose for a few photos. His gold stripes are INCREDIBLE!


Yes—his fuzzy butt is as soft as it looks.

In early September, Sydney Sue started spending a great deal of time inside his cork bark hide. We had recently changed his feeding schedule (he was getting pudgy) and figured he was just sulking. Never stand between a theraphosidae and his tasty crickets!

It turns out he wasn't pouting. Unbeknownst to us, he was in pre-molt! During the night of October 3rd, he sealed off the entrances to his hide with strands of web, then made a silk mat to lay on. When I did my routine check on him the next morning, he had rolled over on his back and was starting to wiggle out of his shell. By the afternoon of October 4th, Sydney Sue had freed himself of his old skin and was taking a well-deserved nap.

In this photo, we can see the silk strands cordoning off the front entrance to his hide. A leg from his exuvia is sticking up in the background. Somewhere in the middle is a very tired Sydney Sue:


Sydney Sue is still in post-molt recovery. We have only seen him a few times outside his hide—and boy is he big! He's not quite confident in his new legs, though. When he walks, he wobbles like a new-born foal. It's rather cute, although Sydney Sue may beg to differ.

Here are photos of his latest exuvia:


This is his fourth molt since we brought him home in December 2014. In this photo we can see how much he's grown in the past two years. The exuvia from his second molt is not shown—it was sent to Dr. Sherberger to determine Sydney Sue's gender:


Have a Happy Halloween! Be safe, eat lots of candy and remember:

Be nice to spiders!

MTV Cribs: Sydney Sue edition
Where the Wild Tarantulas Are

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