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

A Season of Change



Spring 2015 has been a busy couple of months for Sydney. She's molted, moved in to a new home and built an awesome burrow. And since she's a true Texas girl, we decided to give her a proper middle name. We now call her Sydney Sue.

On March 24th, Sydney Sue moved in to a new "condo." She outgrew her old house when she molted on March 8th. She now has double the space and a small water bowl. Unfortunately, she was less than enthusiastic about the move.

We have since learned that tarantulas have no appreciation for "new." They are content with their old, tried-and-true stuff and will pout like a toddler when forced outside their comfort zone. To express her unhappiness, Sydney Sue climbed up the side of her new enclosure and didn't come down for six days! I was so concerned she was hurting herself that Diane called tarantula expert Steven Stamps to see what we should do. His advice: "Be patient. She'll come down when she gets hungry." As if on cue, Sydney Sue crawled back down to earth the next morning ready for a tasty cricket.

Here she is post-hissy fit in la casa nueva:


Sydney Sue got significantly larger after she molted. Her adult coloring also started to appear. She's now dark brown with distinct gold rings around her "knees." You can even see the famous Chaco gold stripes on her legs. And who can miss that fat, fuzzy butt? BOOYAH!!!

It took a month before Sydney Sue claimed the new space as "home." Once she made the decision she was staying, she decorated the ground and walls with strands of silk. She even marked her territory by "kicking hairs" into the silk.

Here she is in her home enjoying a tasty cricket:


In the tarantula keeping hobby, Chacos are well known for being "good eaters." They rarely pass up an opportunity to enjoy a tasty cricket—or anything else that they can fit in their little mouths. Obesity is quite common with Chacos whose owners feed them too frequently. To keep Sydney Sue fit and healthy, we feed her once a week.

On May 3rd, I dropped an apple-fed cricket into Sydney Sue's home. But she didn't perform the expected snatch-and-munch maneuver. Instead, she waited almost an hour before finally eating the oblivious bug. At one point, the cricket walked underneath her mouth! It was very odd, but we didn't give it too much thought. Then, on the morning of May 12, Sydney Sue gave us a big surprise: she molted!!!

We hadn't realized Sydney Sue was in "pre-molt." This is the phase of the molting process where tarantulas begin a fast to ensure a prey item does not injure the new shell growing inside of them. Pre-molt can last as little as a week to as long as several months.

Another sign of pre-molt is the darkening of the tarantula's opisthosoma (which is fancy talk for abdomen). Sydney Sue's shell is already dark, not to mention covered in bright pink bristles. It's almost impossible to see anything through all that hair!

Here are close-up photos of Sydney Sue's old skin:


When a tarantula molts, she flops onto her back and "wiggles" out of her old skin. In the pictures above, the top image shows Sydney Sue's old skin in the upside-down molting position. You can see her shiny black fangs and her mouth, which looks like it's lined with red lipstick. On the end of her abdomen are two of her four spinnerets.

The lower photo shows the inside of her molt. Based upon a ridiculous amount of scientific mumbo-jumbo, we can see that she has a curved epigastric furrow. The furrow is where a male tarantula inserts his sexual organs and deposits his sperm. Sydney Sue is a confirmed female!

We've also confirmed she loves to dig. With a new exoskeleton and the warmth of El Niño blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, Sydney Sue has begun construction on her first burrow. The Big Dig started on June 1st and is updated and improved every night. Being an environmentally conscious spider, she even incorporated her water bowl into the design.

Here she is taking a nap after a long night's work:


The burrow isn't just a home—it's also a playground. Sydney Sue spends the afternoons diving into one side of the burrow and wiggling through the tight little tunnel underneath the water bowl. Then she bolts up the other side, landing on the top of the burrow to catch her breath. After several seconds she jumps back into the burrow for another round.

Sydney Sue's playful personality has also led to the invention of a new game called "Touch My Paw." The rules are simple: when she sticks her legs out of the large ventilation holes along the side of her enclosure, we try to touch them before she pulls them back in. She's fast, so it requires a great deal of concentration to win. The competition intensifies as the game progresses. It starts with only a toe sticking out the vent and leads to an entire leg being put into the Game Zone. The game ends when Sydney Sue decides to dive back into her burrow.

We're already preparing for Sydney Sue's next molt. I've drilled vent holes in a large plastic box from a craft store and Diane picked out a hot pink water dish from the local pet store. A search is currently under way for a piece of cork bark that Sydney can use as a hiding place (or a playground). We hope the next move is less stressful than the last :)

In case you missed it before, fuzzy spider butt:

Meet Sydney the Tarantula
Sydney Sue stars in Diggin' a Hole

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