Lauren GrayWild Fyre Co. | Kansas City, MO
I’m an animal lover… and by that I mean I love all kinds! Growing up, I was blessed with the opportunity of keeping “odd” animals and learning how to properly care for exotics. As I got older and finally settled into one place, the itch for exotics came back! One of my favorite additions is my Avicularia avicularia, a species of tarantula, named Rowena Jermaine.
I know, EW SPIDERS! As a former arachnophobe, I totally understand. I think the best way to get over a fear is to learn, observe, and immerse! There are so many species of tarantulas around the world, with personalities unique to each species, and each spider itself.
I purchased Rowena Jermaine, or RJ, at a local reptile expo as my first tarantula. Avicularia avicularia, or Pinktoe tarantula by the common name, is a species of New World tarantula commonly found in Brazil, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean. As adults, the pinktoe is characterized by their dark black bodies, usually tinted with dark greens and blues, and bright pink toes. As slings, or baby spiders, and juveniles, the pinktoe’s coloration is reversed with a pink body and darker toes.
This species is considered arboreal, which means they live higher up in the trees and require a taller enclosure when kept in captivity. Contrary to popular belief, pinktoes thrive in a dry environment with plenty of air flow, as they can be easily stressed with stagnant air. Think about the air flow they receive up in the trees! This species tends to be hardy and easy to care for as a beginner keeper.
Although it may seem like this bugger would run out and attack you, he is honestly more scared of me opening his tank than anything! Avicularia species are generally notorious for being out on display often, but would rather retreat and hide than show their defensive techniques. RJ has plenty of areas in his tank to hide behind and feel safe, so he has never felt the need to act defensive towards me.
I know you’re probably asking, “But what if it bites me?” Tarantulas do have fangs and venom, but most New World tarantula’s venom is considered mild and not medically significant. Although every immune response is different, pain and blood at the bite site is a common reaction. If you tend to have severe reactions to bees and ants, you may end up with similar reactions to tarantula bites. As a disclaimer, Old World tarantulas (found near Asia and Australia), have more medically significant venom and can cause severe reactions that may last days to weeks, but not necessarily enough to cause death.
Tarantulas also possess urticating hairs as a defense mechanism. There are seven different types of urticating hairs found on tarantulas, varying by size, barb type, and projectile type, and not all species carry the same types. For example, the pinktoe has Type II hairs, which rub off of the body through direct contact. Some species contain Type III hairs, which can be “kicked” off of the spider and onto the enemy. These hairs can be extremely irritating to the skin, and can be enough for some keepers to not handle their T’s.
One of my favorite things to do is watch RJ build webs and take down prey. He is so gentle! I do not personally handle my collection, but many keepers do. Keeping tarantulas is such an enrichment in my household, and I can’t wait for our collection to grow larger than five!
I will leave you with another fun fact about Avicularia defense mechanisms- they are considered “poop cannons” because they will shoot projectile poop at you if they feel threatened! Don’t forget your raincoats!