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Scott's Tarantulas Frequently Asked Questions


Q:  Should I place my tarantula in an area that gets direct sunlight?
A:  No, most tarantulas dislike sunlight and will hide from it. The Avicularia genus is quite susceptible to direct sunlight; even an hour directly exposed can kill them. Tarantulas donít have any way to internally control their body temperature so they physically move to another location to cool or warm themselves. If they are contained in some type of housing in direct sunlight it leaves them nowhere cooler to move to.


Q:  Can I feed my pet tarantula wild caught food?
A:  Yes, you can however I donít recommend it. Wild caught food such as insects and small reptiles can carry pathogens, pesticides, and parasites. Any of these can be passed to your pet and can potentially lead to illness or a premature death. NOTE: If you tarantula itself is wildcaught then itís not as important to follow this advice. It will have already been exposed to these potential problems and will likely have some resistance to further problems.


Q:  What types of food can I feed my tarantula?
A:  Crickets (99%), roaches (50%), mealworms (60%), superworms (50%), pinkie mice / frozen mice (30%). Mealworms and superworms will burrow under the substrate away from the tarantula if allowed, putting them in a cup or dish solves this problem. The percentages indicate how well the food item has worked with tarantulas in my experience. Some tarantulas are finicky and will only eat certain food items, if one food type doesn't work try another. All of the items listed above are referring to captive bred food only. In the wild tarantulas will eat almost anything they can overpower.


Q:  What should I do if Iím bitten by my tarantula?
A:  (1) Carefully put the tarantula back in itís habitat and secure it (You donít want to recover from the bite only to realize the tarantula is loose in the house).
(2) Use soap and water and clean the area of the bite.
(3) Apply ice to control any swelling.
(4) Drink plenty of water.
(5) See a doctor if complications or a severe reaction occur.

The following are suggestions that have worked for other people:
(1) Benadril sometimes works if the swelling gets extensive
(2) Aleve, Advil, etc. can help with discomfort.


Q:  What substrates work for tarantula housings?
A:  I personally use peat moss for all my habitats. It has proven to be easiest to maintain from a cleanup standpoint, easy to form around a burrow, the tarantulas seem to universally approve of it, and it's also inexpensive. You can also do a 50/50 mix of potting soil and peat moss or a 50/50 of potting soil and Vermiculite. Vermiculite by itself has never worked well, the tarantulas tend to climb up the sides of their enclosure to stay off it. I've also seen it stick to their feet which of course they don't like. It's rather funny watching a tarantula try to shake vermiculite off of 4 feet at once while balancing on the other 4. Whatever product you buy as a substrate make sure to read the label, you don't want any pesticide or herbicide added.


Q:  How do I tell what sex my tarantula is?
A:  First you need to know where the epigastirc furrow is. Refer to "The Tarantula Keepers Guide" for a diagram on tarantula anatomy (pg 14). If there is a bulge at the epigastric furrow you have a female. If there isn't a bulge but instead a flat area with a U or triangular shape patch of fine hair you've got a male. The Aphonopelma, Grammostola, and Brachypelma genuses are easy to sex, the rest generally get more difficult. Typically you need to look at hundreds of a given species to be able to conduct the visual test and be correct at sizes above 1" legspan. Smaller sizes can have the sex determined by looking at a fresh molt under a microscope.


Q:  What is the best informational book on tarantulas currently in print?
A:  "The Tarantula Keepers Guide" by Schultz & Schultz. It's the best $15 you can spend if you're interested in getting into the hobby. It's good for anyone from a beginners level to an advanced level. There is a link to order one at the bottom of the Products page. Usually Borders or Barnes and Noble have a copy sitting on the shelf if you have one near where you live.


Q:  My tarantula got loose/escaped inside my house. How do I locate/recapture it?
A:  For terrestrial species start looking under furniture or anything else on the floor that the tarantula could hide under with a good flashlight. For arboreal species start looking around the ceiling area and behind pictures and bookcases or anything they could hide behind on the wall areas. Either way if you don't find them immediately don't give up hope, I've had customers find their loose pet tarantulas alive and well weeks after escaping. One customer has even had a female Curlyhair on the lame for a year, she found it living by the waterheater eating passing insects.

One other technique that some people have found has worked is to leave a shallow dish of water on the middle of the floor in the room the tarantula escaped. Leave the room dark and wander back in around 2AM and turn the lights on. The tarantula might be sitting by the water dish awaiting recapture.


Q:  What type of additional heating is required for my tarantula in cold environments?
A:  If the location where your tarantula is kept gets below 60F (50F for the Aphonopelma genus) consistently then you will need to have additional heating. A small space heater will work. Good results can also be achieved using one of the flat reptile heat pads mounted to the bottom of the tarantulas habitat. Mount the pad at one end so that if the tarantula gets too warm it can move to the other end where it's cooler. Building a spider closet, heat and humidity regulated, is also an option if you have several requiring environmental control.


Q:  What works for minimizing the itching problem from urticating hair?
A:  If you find that you are sensitive to the urticating hairs your tarantula kicks off I suggest wearing a set of dishwashing gloves when working in the tarantula habitat. Over time a tarantula's tendency to kick off hair should decrease if worked with (handled) slowly over a few months. However there's always the unique individual that just has a bad attitude. For such individuals I don't suggest they be handled.

I don't suggest wearing any gloves when handling a tarantula. You can't feel where they are or if they have a good grip, the fangs will go right through the glove if the tarantula decides to bite. You don't want your pet falling any amount of distance and injuring itself.

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