(Courtesy of Mark Thomas.)
We don't know a lot about these tarantulas because so few people have ever actually gone to Chile to see how they live and brought back believable reports. (Great vacation idea, no? Take LOTS of pictures. You wouldn't need someone to carry your bags, would you?) What's presented here seems to fit with what is known about them, but a lot of it is conjecture, not fact. (Extrapolated from other tarantulas, or even other animals.) It should be taken as interim wisdom until confirmed or corrected by new data.
The scientific name for this tarantula is Grammostola rosea (Walckenaer, 1837). The "G" in "Grammostola" is always capitalized, the remainder of the word is all lower case. The second name, "rosea," is always all lower case. Both words are always either italicized or underlined if italics aren't possible. The part, "(Walckenaer, 1837)," means that this tarantula was originally described and named by a man, Baron Charles Athanase Walckenaer, in 1837. The parentheses indicate that it was originally known by a different scientific name. In fact, this species has a history of many different scientific names, causing much confusion. The name just previous to this was Phrixotrichus spatulata, for instance and was reported as such in The Tarantula Keeper's Guide, Second Edition.
If you need to know the other names this tarantula has gone by you can consult Dr. Norman Platnick's World Spider Catalog, go to the Theraphosidae page, scroll down to the genus Grammostola, then scroll a little farther down to the entry
mf rosea (Walckenaer, 1837)....................Bolivia, Chile, Argentina.
While everybody has their own favorite variations for the common name, the official American Arachnological Society's Committee on Common Names name for them is "Chilean rose." Capital "Chilean," lower case "rose." The plural is "roses," not "rosies" although we have to admit that we sometimes use the latter. There is no such thing as a "rose hair" or "rosehair." Tarantulas have setae or bristles, not hair.
For the most part, immatures, males, and females are colored much alike but with the males being somewhat more vibrant. They have no distinctly different colors or patterns to help distinguish the sexes (sexual dimorphism). Nor do they have any distinctive color patterns (e.g., checkerboards, stripes, spots, zig-zags), being all more or less the same color all over.
This species is a bit unusual among tarantulas in that it occurs naturally in at least three different color forms (sometimes also referred to as "colormorphs"). These all possess a more or less uniform dark gray undercoat. One color form is a more or less uniform, drab, dark gray (sometimes called "muddy" or "grubby") with at most only a sprinkling of lighter beige or pinkish hairs. Another possesses a uniformly dense, pretty, light pink outer coat. The last is a beautifully intense red or copper form. The adult males of this last form are spectacular!
The hobby seems to have adopted the following acronyms for the three colors.
It has been noted by several people that the pink and red color forms of the Chilean rose do not seem to blend in with the background soil, or function as camouflage. (See for instance the photo at the top of this page.) This is most curious, and this author awaits an explanation. We're not holding our breath, however.
For a while, enthusiasts thought each color form was a different species, even calling the copper colored form G. cala, the Chilean flame tarantula. However, on several occasions all of the several color forms were reported to arise from the same eggsac, strong evidence that these are all merely variants of the same species.
But, this contention has not been written up in the literature (professional or enthusiast), the three individuals that this author was aware of making this assertion were unable to confirm the fact, and when this author made a public enquiry no one was able to step forward to confirm it either.
Further, for about a decade there have been repeated rumors, especially from European enthusiasts, that someone had examined specimens in the pet industry and those in museums, and determined that what is now considered one species (Grammostola rosea) really was several different species. And, they were in the process of publishing a paper to that effect. But, in almost a decade no such paper has been forthcoming. Taxonomy doesn't operate on a basis of rumor and innuendo. It operates on rational arguments based on reproducible and verifiable facts. At this point, "There ain't enough meat in that hamburger! I ain't buying it!" And, until we see such a report, and it can be examined by knowledgeable arachnologists, and it is deemed believable, we're still left with the original contention: "There is only one species of several different color forms: Grammostola rosea."
A medium sized tarantula. Mature females will have a body length of up to about 7.5 centimeters (three inches) and a leg span of about fifteen centimeters (six inches). While the male's body is smaller, the leg span remains the same. Because of the numbers being exported from Chile the average size of the individuals currently found in the market is usually smaller. It is presumed that, given time and proper care, these will reach respectable sizes.
Roses come from the borders of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile to at least as far south as Santiago. The literature lists them as coming from Bolivia and Argentina, thus Dr. Platnick reports the same, but some of us have doubts about those records and would like to see confirmation.
The Atacama can be one of the harshest environments on the planet, but we're fairly certain that the areas where roses are found aren't quite so severe. They've been reported from semi-desert to scrub forest areas. At the top of this page is a photo of an RCF male taken very near Algarrobo, Chile, near the coast at about the longitude of Santiago.
Apparently their principle sources of water over much of their range in nature are from the food they eat, and curiously enough, the more or less frequent fogs that drift in from the Pacific Ocean. In 2006, the BBC produced a TV series entitled Planet Earth, and Wikipedia has an extensive description of the series. The fifth episode, Deserts, contains a short segment on the Atacama desert and the fogs that moisten a narrow strip along its coast. While this episode does not mention tarantulas in general or Chilean roses specifically, it does offer an amazing insight into part of their habitat, and the photography is superb!
Lastly on this topic, these authors have recently acquired photographs of the burrows of Chilean roses in the wild, and a short video of a Chilean rose being teased from its burrow. (Use the Back button on your browser to return here.)
(Courtesy of Mark Thomas.)
(Courtesy of Mark Thomas.)
(Courtesy of Mark Thomas.)
It is very difficult for us to make anything more than a wild guess at maximum life spans. Chilean roses have only been imported in any numbers since the early 1990s following the fall of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte in March 1990. Since then they have been bred from time to time in captivity (but see Captive Breeding), but only very recently enough to warrant the term "commonly," and only a few of the resulting offspring have now had enough time to mature and die of old age. There is a severe lack of believable data.
As an educated guess we can bracket the probable limits of their life spans at five to ten years for males, and twenty to twenty-five years for females. But their life spans probably vary as markedly as human life spans. Beyond that, all bets are off. Don't bet the grocery money!
COROLLARY: We're the fragile species! Not the Chilean rose!
DO NOT artificially raise the cage's temperature in the belief that the Chilean roses need higher temperatures. There are two problems with supplying extra heat to a tarantula's cage.
A lower temperature is almost always preferable to an artificial heat source.
NO SUNLIGHT! In fact, avoid all bright lights, but make sure that the tarantula can easily tell the difference between day and night. (See below.)
While one sees many baby Chilean roses listed on the dealer's price list as "captive bred," the truth is that most such babies are the result of wild caught females producing eggsacs once they are imported.
Beginning in August or September, many dealers preferentially set aside the largest or prettiest freshly imported females in the hopes that they will produce such an eggsac, then manually or artificially incubate the eggsacs or eggs for future sale in the industry. Other dealers merely wait for announcements from enthusiasts who have recently purchased a female, and are now blessed with an eggsac.
Even then, the babies produced from such eggsacs have never known the wild, and become quite accustomed to the hand of man very early in their development. And, they come from the factory automatically preprogrammed for the Northern Hemisphere calendar, avoiding the Hemisphere Shift entirely.
Chilean rose tarantulas are desert creatures. They neither require nor appreciate an excessively high humidity. Do not keep them on damp substrate. Do not mist or spray them or any part of their cage. Do not intentionally maintain a damp spot of substrate under their water dish. DO always supply them with a water dish with clean water and the obligatory rock or slate chip.
If your Chilean rose seems to spend an inordinate amount of time around or standing on its water dish, it's trying to tell you that the ambient humidity in your home is too dry even for it.
This is particularly possible during winter in the temperate zones. In nature the Chilean rose would merely retreat to the bottom of its burrow, possibly even plugging the entrance to contain and protect what humidity is available. In a cage, most seldom have this option because enthusiasts most commonly do not allow for a burrow. (See the discussion of burrowing below. Use your browser's Back button to return here.)
The solution is simple. Merely cover all the open parts of its cage to restrict or prevent ventilation, effectively precisely what the tarantula would do in Chile! For most cages, plastic food wrap is sufficient. Again, do not mist. Do not dampen the substrate. Be sure to supply an adequate water dish.
If, however, your Chilean rose seems agitated or anxious by moving around a lot, seemingly seeking something, one question to ask is, "Is the humidity too high in it's cage?" If so, find out why and fix the problem.
Substrate is the "bedding" used on the bottom of a tarantula's cage to ease the harshness of a smooth, hard cage floor. Historically, many different substrates have been tried. Most were abysmal failures. A few worked moderately well but were supplanted by better ones. A very few have proven to be very good and are generally accepted by the hobby as more or less defacto standards. So far, none are perfect, however.
As of this writing, the most commonly used substrates are horticultural peat and shredded coconut husk. And, the debate rages on endlessly over which is better. Both have their advantages and their disadvantages. Both work well and the newbie is strongly advised to use only one or the other of these two until at least a full year's experience has been gained in caring for the tarantula. As you read this, your goal should be to learn how to properly care for your pet. Leave the experimenting to those who have the experience to properly assess the results.
Horticultural peat is a dark brown to black, somewhat fluffy, soil-like material. Basically, it's naturally composted moss and leaves from the bottom of special types of swamps called peat bogs.
Alternate names for it are black peat, brown peat, Canadian peat, and peat moss (although "peat moss" is also sometimes used for dried sphagnum moss). It's available in smaller packages from houseplant and garden departments in department stores, and in larger packages and bails from commercial landscaping, gardening and horticulture suppliers. A few enlightened pet shops also sell it.
When eventually tamped into a solid pad on the cage bottom, peat will occupy only about half the volume it does as it comes out of the package. Therefore, start out with at least twice as much as you might otherwise think you'll need. Add about 1 quart (1 liter) of room temperature tap water per 4 quarts (4 liters) of peat. Mix it well. Grab a handful and squeeze it as hard as you can. When you open your hand, if the peat retains the shape of the inside of your fist quite well, you're about finished. If it easily falls apart, add a little more water, mix and test again. If it's so wet that you can squeeze water out, mix in more dry peat. Don't become pathologically obsessed with the amount of moisture in the peat, there's a wide margin for error and it's all going to dry up in a few days anyway. The only reason we want it slightly damp is so we can tamp it into a firm pad on the cage floor. Tarantulas prefer a firm base, and don't like to stand on loose or fluffy substrate.
If the peat comes from the package in large or hard and unmanageable lumps, or seems to have an excess of sticks or other detritus mixed in, you should make some effort to sift it before using it. If the lumps are too hard you may have to add a little water first and let it stand for several hours before sifting it. Use an inexpensive French fry basket as a sieve.
Now pack the peat into a pad on the bottom of the tarantula's cage. Pack it quite solidly. In the end you want a pad that's about 3 centimeters (an inch or slightly more) thick. The moisture will evaporate from peat in a few days. This is good. Roses are desert creatures and almost any moisture outside of the water dish isn't appreciated. (See the discussion of hanging from the cage walls below. Use your browser's Back button to return here.)
Install a water dish with the obligatory rock or slate chip and add one Chilean rose tarantula. Don't try to feed it for several days or a week to give it a chance to get used to its new home before it's stampeded by a herd of wild crickets.
If you ever manage to dump shredded coconut husk into household drains, be very certain to flush it with huge amounts of water for a long time to make sure it clears the system. Otherwise you may have to hire a plumber to unstop or even replace the drain pipes in your home!
Shredded coconut husk is available under a variety of trade names from most pet shops in the form of small, dried, compressed bricks, and from many landscaping, gardening and horticulture centers in the form of much larger bricks and bails of dried, compressed pellets. It is also sometimes called "coir," variously pronounced "kwar" or "choir" in the hobby.
Processing the shredded coconut husk is often a bit problematical the first time you use it. Do not let this discourage you. As you process it, compressed, shredded coconut husk will increase in volume by a factor of six to eight times its original, compressed volume. If you are using a compressed brick you can cut off a piece of appropriate size with a small handsaw. If you're using the pellets, merely select a mass of pellets of adequate volume. It is better to process a little more than you'll need than to process too little. Be generous. Any unused, expanded shredded coconut husk can be dried out and stored until the next time you clean cages.
The next step is to soak the lump or pellets of shredded coconut husk in room temperature or slightly warmer tap water. Use three to four times the coconut husk's volume in water and allow it to soak several hours in any convenient container - a bucket for instance.
If you use a lot of water it will expand and loosen relatively quickly, but you'll then have to wring out the excess water before using it. To do this use a sturdy pillow case or other cloth bag. (Warning: because of the staining of the fabric and a possible lingering odor, you will never be able to use the pillow case for anything else again!) Using whatever means is available, strain or lift portions of shredded coconut husk into the bag. A little practice will help you determine the optimal amount. Then, twist the mouth of the bag closed and carefully continue twisting the remainder of the bag so as to wring out the excess water. The first time you do this plan on a big mess, perhaps working outdoors or in a garage. After you master the technique a bathtub will suffice, but see the warning in the sidebar.
If you use less water, perhaps half as much, you may not have to wring out the excess, but the soaking time will be extended to overnight or the better part of a day. And, there may be lumps of the shredded coconut husk that didn't soak through. These may be sifted out with a French fry basket or merely sorted out by hand. Either resoak them or if you don't need them, put them back in the package and save them for next time.
There is seldom any other need to sift shredded coconut husk. Once the shredded coconut husk has been expanded, and possibly any lumps worked out, it may be put into the cage, tamped as densely as practical, and the cage set up as with peat.
Some enthusiasts report that shredded coconut husk does not dry out effectively. The top layer dries out, but the bottom layers may remain damp for extended periods of time. This always raises the possibility of vermin, fungal and bacterial outbreaks. And, forcing your Chilean rose, a desert tarantula, to live on damp substrate is a lot like making you sleep in a wet bed.
The solution to the problem is to merely remove most of the shredded coconut husk and spread it over a wide surface to allow it to dry. Cut open a large, plastic garbage bag and spread it on the basement or garage floor, or on an unused sidewalk in the sun. Spread the shredded coconut husk across it in a thin layer. Do not allow the family cat access to the shredded coconut husk while it is drying lest it be used as a cat pan. Do not attempt to dry shredded coconut husk where other people will be walking lest it be tracked all over the house or the neighborhood. Once it is completely dry it can be returned to the tarantula's cage. In future, prepare the shredded coconut husk in advance of cage cleaning, giving it time to dry.
There are at least two possible reasons for this. First, you must realize that in nature the tarantula's world is almost always vertical. Burrowing species most commonly live in a vertically oriented burrow and the arboreal species live in trees. Flat and horizontal is an alien environment to them. But, when we get them as pets, we immediately place them in a cage with a flat and horizontal floor like hamsters, and wonder why they aren't happy. But, they're resilient creatures with a built-in ability to adapt, and they soon come to terms with OUR little idiosyncrasies.
The other reason might be because it doesn't like the substrate. Either it isn't familiar with the substrate you're using and doesn't know what to do about it, or it doesn't like the moisture. Normally, it'll get over its little snit in a week or so (or when the substrate finally dries out) and return to earth for food and water. If it still hates the substrate it may cover it with a thick layer of silk.
If, after a couple weeks, it's still hanging from the cage walls you should probably change to one of the other substrates. Even then, it may take a few additional days to get over its little hissy fit. Be patient with your tarantula.
As captive bred and raised Chilean roses become more common we are discovering that they DO NOT undergo a Hemisphere Shift. They apparently automagically synchronize their annual cycle with the local seasons as they emerge from the eggsac.
When you acquire a Chilean rose tarantula one of your first questions should be, "Is it captive bred and raised, or wild caught?" Generally, the larger, presumably mature individuals are wild caught, while those half grown or smaller are cage raised.
If your Chilean rose is captive bred and raised the section The Much Dreaded Hemisphere Shift may be of interest to you, but you should not follow the recommendations. Instead, treat the tarantula as any other arid or desert species whether baby, spiderling, or adult. (See Growing Your Own.)
However, be advised that even captive bred and raised Chilean roses sometimes go on extended, unexplained fasts, and may miss expected molts for several seasons. This unpredictability is one of their more fascinating features.
Chilean roses pose a special problem. If they weren't so hardy they'd make lousy pets. The problem is this: They evolved in the southern hemisphere and their seasons are reversed to ours. (Here I'm assuming that you live in the northern hemisphere as the majority of tarantula keepers do.) And, they seem to have a particularly hard time adjusting to northern hemisphere timetables. This adjustment we call the "Hemisphere Shift."
Think of it this way. In Chile they experience seasonal fluctuations in temperature, water/humidity availability, day length, and food availability. They use one, some or all of these to entrain their annual cycles, to synchronize their lives with the rest of Mother Nature. Their species evolved in this absolutely predictable waltz of variations. Each individual tarantula has grown up in these conditions.
Then some scoundrel unceremoniously abducts them out their lair and ships them to the other side of the planet where all the seasons are "out of wack."
And we keep the tarantulas in a completely alien, cavernous place called a "house" with weird lights, strange sounds or vibrations, and bizarre smells of all sorts. And, they're even touched and handled by these huge, clumsy, hot-to-the-touch, alien type, god things with bad breath and body odor. And, jumping and jittering all over the place. These god-things never seem to sit still! And the cages! Don't get your tarantulas started about the cages!
What's next? Anal probes?
The heat is thermostatically controlled. There no longer is a hot season and a cold season. There goes any temperature clues to let them readjust to the new time table.
And, when we get up we turn the lights on every morning at 6:30 or 7:00 AM and the house is well lit until we turn the lights off at 10:30 or 11:00 PM. And this never changes regardless of what season of the year it is. We've just removed day length as a clue.
Worse yet, in nature they're preprogrammed to eat as much food as available in preparation for the coming sparse season. (And, there's ALWAYS a coming sparse season. Or worse!) During the sparse season they may go hungry for several months before food becomes plentiful again, another seasonal clue. Further, from time to time there may be a year of drought. In these years the "fat" season never arrives. Any creatures that are to survive must be able to endure a very long season of outright famine, a year or more in length.
In captivity we give them all the food they'll eat and, out of instinct, they eat everything that we throw at them. We overfeed them thinking that they're starved and they don't stop eating until they're obese. Even then the food STILL keeps coming. There is no string of light meals followed by a few months of fasting. This destroys any food availability clues completely.
Lastly, in Chile, even in the desert portions, there are dry seasons and damp seasons. It may not rain often, but from time to time fog banks roll in from the Pacific Ocean and generally moisten everything for a few hours to several days. And, this tends to happen seasonally. The rose's cage in your home is always kept bone dry as a means of vermin control, but you always keep a dish of water in the cage. Oops! There goes just about the last clue.
The result is that this species more than almost any other becomes quite confused about what season of the year it is. Because we've removed all their clues they don't know when to start eating again once they get too fat and stop. Neither do they know when it should be time to molt. They may go two years or more without eating or molting, before they finally pick up the few very subtle clues available to synchronize with the local seasons. The record currently stands at something like 3 years!
If this happens to your rose you should try to supply the missing clues. Keep it in a warm place in summer and a cool place in winter. In their native Chile summer temperatures commonly go above 100° F (38° C), and winter temperatures often drop below freezing towards early morning. (These extremes are greatly tempered, however, by the tarantula's burrow.) While it might not be a good idea to allow them too high a summer temperature (keep it below 95° F or 35° C), consistent winter temperatures can drop into the 60s F (mid to high teens C) with little worry.
Try to keep it in a room where artificial lighting isn't used very much so it can see a normal change in day length. Keep your Chilean rose in a seldom used guest room with the drapes or curtains pulled back, for instance. Just be absolutely certain that it will never be exposed to direct sunlight. But, being kept in a sunlight lit room is okay as long as the temperature doesn't get too extreme.
Everybody overfeeds their Chilean rose. BAD IDEA! As you first bring it home, do not feed it at all for at least a week, maybe two weeks. It makes no sense whatsoever to stampede it with a bunch of rowdy crickets while it's still quasi-hysterical from the shipping and handling it endured to get into your care. When you do begin to feed it, only give it one (1) large cricket or the equivalent a week. Or, if more convenient, give it only four or five (4 or 5) crickets a month.
If it stops eating for an extended period of time, don't worry. As a test to tell when it wants to start eating again, offer it only one (1) cricket every month in the evening. If it doesn't eat it by the next morning, remove the cricket and try again next month. You can give the cricket to one of your other tarantulas. (You don't have any other tarantulas? WELL! We're going to have to see what we can do about THAT!) Don't panic. Well fed Chilean roses can go easily for up to two years without starving to death once they go on one of these little fasts. And, they often go on a fast, particularly in winter. Be patient and understanding. Consider it a life lesson.
When it does begin to eat again, it's business as usual. Only give it one (1) large cricket or the equivalent a week. Or, if more convenient, give it only four or five (4 or 5) crickets a month.
Handling is one of those subjects that incites riots among tarantula keepers. Should you or shouldn't you? When should you? When shouldn't you? Which ones can be handled? Which can't? What's the best way to handle them? What methods should be avoided? And it goes on and on and on...
The subject is far too complex to cover here. Read the entries on this subject in The Tarantula Keeper's Guide, now in its third edition, for an in-depth discussion of handling and the "dos" and the "don'ts."
About 1 out of every 1,000 roses bites and the bite causes swelling and intense pain for several hours to a day. Nobody has yet lost life or limb over such a bite, however. If your rose begins to rear back and raises its front legs in a threatening posture as you try to pick her up, maybe you should label it a look-but-don't-touch pet or take it back to the pet shop for another one. The other 999 out of 1,000 will make perfect hand pets if you follow the basic rules.
(Courtesy of Mark Thomas.)
Double-click the image to see a short video. (The video may not work on all computers or operating systems. Sorry. Our programming skills are rudimentary at best.) (Courtesy of Mark Thomas.)
For a long time enthusiasts were puzzled by roses' apparent unwillingness to burrow in a cage. It was thought that they might be vagabonds in nature, seldom if ever actually living in a formal burrow. However, recently Dr. G. B. Edwards (Curator: Arachnida & Myriapoda Florida State Collection of Arthropods, FDACS, Division of Plant Industry), while on a trip to Santiago Chile, examined Chilean rose tarantulas in large numbers living in burrows some 45 centimeters (18 inches) deep. Now we know: Their apparent reluctance to dig a burrow in captivity is apparently an artifact of that captivity, not a "natural" life style. (And, thanks to "JakyKong" of Kent, Washington for helping sort out a difficult sentence in this paragraph.)
These authors have recently acquired photographs of the of Chilean roses in the wild, and a short video of a Chilean rose being teased from its burrow.
The general experience in the hobby is that they don't require a burrow and the majority never use one. When given the chance we've seen them use a coconut shell as a place to hide, but all of ours have firmly rejected burrows when they have been offered. This is supported by the experience of many other keepers. Installing a coconut shell or a plastic aquarium plant that drapes over to produce a darkened cave-like space might be appreciated, however. It may decide that's a good place to hide. Otherwise, don't worry about it.
However, if your Chilean rose does begin a major earth moving project in its cage, perhaps it would appreciate deeper substrate so it can construct a burrow. The subject of burrowing tarantulas in captivity is far too large and involved to be covered here, however. Consult The Tarantula Keeper's Guide, Third Edition for a thorough discussion of the subject with instructions.
This topic is far too long and involved to be addressed here in detail. Consult The Tarantula Keeper's Guide, Third Edition for a thorough discussion of the subject with instructions. Having said that, we will describe and discuss several of the simplest and more successful methods for hatching a surprise eggsac because the phenomenon is so common.
So, somehow you acquired a Chilean rose tarantula as a pet within the last year, and now it has blessed you with an eggsac. Before anything else,
If the mother's cage is still quite clean, merely SLIGHTLY dampen between one-fourth and one-third of the substrate farthest away from the mother and her eggsac. Clean and refill the water dish with clean water. Cover all openings on the cage to prevent any significant ventilation. (Plastic food wrap usually works well on most cages.) Carefully move the cage to the warmest part of your home. This would often be on top of the refrigerator. DO NOT spill the water in the water dish.
If the cage is not very clean, if you think the eggs have been damaged, or if the eggsac has been wet, a better idea would be to use the next method for caring for the eggs, the Nefcy Incubator. (Ryan first described his incubator on an Internet forum, and it was subsequently written up in The Tarantula Keeper's Guide, Third Edition. Ryan is responsible for a number of photographs in the book as well. Our sincere thanks and a tip of the proverbial hat for the service that Ryan has done for the hobby.
Quietly check on Momma and her eggsac every three or four days. Redampen the substrate when it begins to get dry. Refill the water dish as the water evaporates. DO NOT mist or spray in the cage. DO NOT under any circumstances allow the eggsac to get wet. You may feed Momma the recommended one (1) cricket a week while she is brooding the eggsac. If she doesn't eat the cricket overnight, remove it the following day if you can do so with a minimum of disturbance to the brooding female. Otherwise, leave the cricket there. It can do little harm anyway, and Momma may eat it later.
Leave the eggsac with Momma full term. If the eggs don't die, she'll take care of them just fine.
Preferably beforehand, acquire the following:
Visit the following links for some additional information about incubators.incubator.
Use a nail to melt ventilation holes in the sides of the plastic shoe boxes as high up the walls as possible, but low enough that the covers don't block them. Use pliers, the kitchen range, and a small nail to melt small holes, but make a dozen holes in each box. If you make too many you can cover the extras with tape. If you make too few you'll have a small problem melting more while the eggs are incubating. Try very hard to not inhale the vapors from the melting plastic. Open a window for ventilation nearby if you can.
Install a double layer of paper toweling on the floor of the plastic shoe boxes. Insert the deli cups, and insert one coffee filter in each cup as shown in the photo. Replace the shoe boxes' covers and store the incubators away dry, until you need them.
As soon as you notice that Momma has an eggsac mark the date on your calendar. Then dampen the substrate as above. After a week or more (Some enthusiasts wait as long as a month.) you need to dampen ONLY THE PAPER TOWELS in your incubators. There should be ample water, but not enough to actually puddle on the box' floor. The coffee filters stay bone dry.
Then take the eggsac away from Momma. You will need a pair of forceps or tweezers to grasp the eggsac, and a large serving spoon to gently fend her off while doing so.
Momma is not going to let you steal her eggsac if she can help it, and you need to be patient, gentle, but forceful. Be careful not to hurt Momma or the eggsac. Grab the eggsac by an edge or corner, not around the middle. If you crush even one of the eggs you may precipitate a rampant bacterial infection that can eventually kill most or all of the eggs. Use the spoon upside down as a shield over the eggsac and ever so carefully tug on the eggsac to get it away from her. Try to get the bowl of the spoon between Momma's fangs and the eggsac. Once you get it way from her you can offer her a cotton ball as a proxy eggsac. Some females will accept it, others are too smart!
Very carefully open it over a wide baking dish or other pan by carefully snipping it with a pair of small scissors. Make a small incision to get the opening started, then carefully open it with forceps using the same motion as opening a bag of potato chips. This works a lot better if you have two pairs of forceps.
If the eggs are loose, distribute them in approximately equal numbers between the DRY coffee filters in the deli cups. The floors of the deli cups should be less than about half covered with eggs. (Note: In a different world, if you were incubating eggs from several eggsacs or species you might write identifying information (e.g., species or Momma's name) on the floor of each coffee filter/deli cup set up in order to identify the mother and/or species, and avoid confusion later.)
If the eggs are gobbed together in a lump, there is little hope for them. You can try to hatch them, but this condition is almost always terminal. You may try to free a few still viable eggs from the mass, but they're so fragile that it will be nearly impossible.
Replace the lids on the shoe box incubators (Note: No lids go on the deli cups.) and place the incubators in a warm part of the house (e.g., on top of a refrigerator). If possible keep them at 80 F or slightly higher. At least once every day you need to very gently shift the shoe boxes around so as to roll the eggs into a new position. Once in a while you will have to replenish the water on the paper towel. Use room temperature tap water. BE CAREFUL THAT ABSOLUTELY NO WATER TOUCHES EITHER THE COFFEE FILTERS OR THE EGGS!
Remember that you dampened the substrate in Momma's cage. Under any other circumstances this would have been forbidden. But, at that point we were much more interested in not allowing the eggs to dry out and die than about a rampant mite infestation. But, now with the eggsac in an incubator, you need to clean Momma's cage and set it up all squeaky-clean again. And, dry! Momma will also be molting in about 80 to 100 days from the production of the eggsac, so this is a good time to clean house. Feed her as long as she eats, but expect her to go "off her feed" soon, too. Remember! Only one (1) large cricket a week. Or, four or five (4 or 5) a month!
The eggs will probably hatch between 70 and 90 days from the day the eggsac was produced. Mark your calendar. You have plenty of time to make preparations for the babies.
While you're waiting, if you don't already have one, acquire a copy of The Tarantula Keeper's Guide, Third Edition and read the sections beginning on page 253 ("The Babies"), and beginning on page 272 ("The Blessed Event") through about page 295. (And, it isn't going to hurt you one bit to read the rest of the book too!)
There are several other things that can make the babies' care much easier:
But, there are other strategies.
Shipping your little darlings is problematic at best, and too involved to cover here. Do a search on the various Internet forums for information instead. But, in all cases (unless you've bundled shipping costs into the final price), the person you're sending the babies to, the recipient whether private enthusiast or commercial dealer, MUST pay the postage/freight. If you don't do this, you're going to lose your shirt! If you end up sending them to a dealer, ask for specific instructions on packing and shipping, insurance, and most especially, method of payment. Do not be shy! If you send them to other enthusiasts, try to do so only during warm weather.
We strongly recommend that you read a good book on tarantulas. You can get copies of the The Tarantula Keeper's Guide, Third Edition, mentioned above, Sam Marshall's Tarantulas and Other Arachnids (both rated quite highly by the American Tarantula Society ), Dr. R. G. Breene's Quick and Easy Tarantula Care (remarkably good in spite of its small size and modest price) and several others AT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR FREE.
If you like them you can get your own copies "off the shelf" from perhaps one-third or more of the pet shops in your area. Most can get them for you by special order if they're out of stock. In addition, these books are available by special order from every bookstore (the larger stores may even have copies in stock), directly from the publisher (Barron's Educational Series), and from any of the Internet based bookstores like (listed in alphabetical order) Abe Books, Alibris, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, BooksPrice.com, and many more.
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This page was initially created on 2003-February-15.
The last revision occurred on 2013-September-12.