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

Spiders in the News



Spring has sprung early this year, so we're beginning to see Sydney Sue outside his hide. He's been exceedingly reclusive since October when he molted before going into "hibernation." Tarantulas technically don't hibernate—after all, they're poikilothermic (cold-blooded). During the winter months, however, they crawl deep into their burrow, curl their legs around their body and use the heat of the Earth to stay warm. Even in the suburbs of Houston, Sydney Sue's wild instincts dictated this behavior. But now he's out and about and will probably molt in a month or two. Here he is sitting on his front porch enjoying the fresh spring air:





While "hibernating," Sydney Sue lost his aggressive appetite. This is normal behavior for an over-wintering spider. He's typically a giant pig and eats everything we give him. We had been feeding him every two weeks but switched to every three weeks to ensure he wasn't being "bugged" by the tasty crickets. This is how he greets a tasty cricket when he's hungry:


While Sydney Sue's world has been uneventful, the same can't be said about the world of tarantulas. Three major stories about our favorite arachnids have hit the news wire in just the first quarter of the year. Will 2017 be the year of the tarantula? I've got my fingers crossed!

Taxonomic Revision of Avicularia

Back in 1787, a scientist named Johan Christian Fabricius was walking around the Caribbean island of Martinique looking for science-y things. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a never-before-seen spider crawling up a tree. It was an amazing, multi-colored critter. Being the guy who "found" it first, he earned the right to give it a scientific name. He called it Mygale hirtipes.

Then, in 1837, a scientist named Charles Athanase Walckenaer was walking around Martinique looking for—you guessed it—science-y things. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a spider crawling up a tree. It was an amazing, multi-colored critter. He was pretty sure no one had yet "found" it, so he claimed the discovery and decided to call it Mygale versicolor.

  © Copyright 1861 Charles Dessalines d'Orbigny. All Rights Reserved.  

When he got home to Paris, Charles told all his scientist buddies about his find. He even showed them a picture he had drawn and exclaimed about the spider's fabulous colors. They were impressed but remembered that Old Man Fabricius had already found and named the same spider. They were bound by the Laws of Science-y Stuff to use the original name but they all preferred the one Chuck had come up with. So they decided to use it instead. Rules are made to be broken, right? Besides, Fabricius had died twenty years earlier so it wasn't like he was in any position to argue.

In 1892, Eugène Louis Simon—King of the Spider Scientists and all-around righteous gent—was doing some administrative housekeeping and made the executive decision to reorganize several species of tarantula. One of his alterations moved Mygale versicolor to the genus Avicularia. The lesser scientists weren't very keen on this ruling but they weren't going to argue with him. He was The King, after all, so the change stuck. Until 2017.

Early this year, scientists Caroline Fukushima and Rogério Bertani published a paper in which they re-reorganized several Avicularia spp. One of their changes moved Avicularia versicolor to the entirely new genus Caribena. Their work also moved Avicularia laeta to Caribena laeta, and Avicularia diversipes to the unpronounceable genus Ybyrapora.

Most of us just call them pink-toed tarantulas since they have pink toes:

  © Copyright 2009 nicole. All Rights Reserved.  

Tarantulas May Be 'Right-Handed'

The following is an excerpt from an article written by the widely known and well respected National Geographic Society:


For the first time, scientists have discovered handedness in tarantulas.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Zoology, scientists put captive male Honduran curly hair tarantulas into a T-shaped maze with two possible choices at either end.

The team put the grapefruit-size arachnids through a variety of tests. In a set of odor-based experiments, the tarantulas could smell live cockroaches—a favorite prey—at the end of both tunnels; in another, the male tarantulas could detect the smell of female tarantulas. In both cases, the males chose the right path more often.


For the record, the Honduran Curly Hair tarantula—Brachypelma albopilosum—is much smaller than a grapefruit (more like a medium-sized orange) and has no hands. It does, however, appear as if it's been meticulously coifed:

  © Copyright 2013 Manly's Mix. All Rights Reserved.  

Spiders Eat Astronomical Numbers of Insects

In an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, spiders across our planet living inside our homes eat 400 to 800 million tons of insects annually. That's right: inside our homes.

In the The Washington Post's parroting of the article, 100% of homes have spiders living within their confines. Most appear to live in bathrooms and bedrooms—68% and 75%, respectively. And there are lots of them—25 million tons to be exact. "The mass of every spider on Earth today, in other words, is equivalent to 478 Titanics."

I'm not sure which is more amazing: the number of spiders or the number of bugs.

Roaches are a favorite food of pet tarantulas. Here is a Psalmopoeus cambridgei, the Trinidad Chevron tarantula, eating a flightless dubia roach:

  © Copyright 2008 Dan Simon. All Rights Reserved.  

Well, that ends our report on reports. If Sydney Sue decides to do something, I'll let y'all know. In the mean time, bust out your crayons and download the Spiderpalooza Coloring Book put together by the folks from The Taylor Lab at The University of Florida. Happy coloring and:

Be nice to spiders!!!

Where the Wild Tarantulas Are
Cookin' Crickets for Sydney Sue

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