Juvenile male Brazilian black tarantula (Grammostola pulchra) after his most recent molt. Click/double click image to enlarge.

Juvenile male Brazilian black tarantula (Grammostola pulchra) after his most recent molt. Click/double click image to enlarge.

The juvenile male Brazilian black tarantula (Grammostola pulchra) I purchased from Ken the Bug Guy on September 5, 2013 completed his second molt on January 15, 2014. He has been an exceptionally good eater and is quite docile. He is pictured after his first molt along with a brief description of the species at “Brazilian black tarantula (Grammostola pulchra) molt“.


Start of the the fourth Honduran curlyhair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum) “pairing”, January 15, 2014. Click/double click to enlarge.

The fourth pairing turned out to be a flop, of sorts. The male produced his fourth sperm web three days earlier. When introduced to the female’s cage he showed no interest. There was no drumming on the part of either spider this time. The female remained on the silken mat she produced after the second pairing.

When I introduced him to the area in front of her, she approached him, he touched her front legs, she raised up her cephalothorax and frontmost pair of legs, and spread apart her fangs for him to grasp. She was willing to breed, he was not. At this point, he moved slowly away and, once a bodylength or so away from her, ran up the side and out of her enclosure.

I think the pairing part is done. She is preoccupied with staying in the area of the the silken mat she has spun. Her feeding has dropped off, but I suspect that is temporary. I wanted to move her to a much larger enclosure in December, but did not do so once the male produced his sperm web. I wanted all pairings to occur in her original enclosure, which I thought would be pretty pheromone-filled, increasing the likelihood of a successful pairing.

If the male spins another sperm web I may give it another try, but I think we’re ready to move on to the next stage, so at this point we await an egg sac. It’ll be months until we can determine whether anything comes of this. Whether it does or not, it’s been fascinating to go through this process. I’ve learned a lot from the many invertebrate people who have readily shared their knowledge with me, and both spiders come out of this whole thing healthy and certainly none the worse for the experience.

Special thanks to Jen Newman, Heartland Invertebrates, who has mentored me throughout this process, and for her willingness to answer my questions promptly and in great detail during the last four weeks!


Female Mexican redleg tarantula (Brachypelma emilia). Click/double click image to enlarge.

More about this individual can be accessed at “Mexican redleg tarantula (Brachypelma emilia) determined to be female“.

Breeding pair of Honduran curlyhair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum). Click/double click to enlarge.

Breeding pair of Honduran curlyhair tarantulas (Brachypelma albopilosum). Click/double click image to enlarge.

The male Honduran curlyhair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum) produced several sperm webs January 4, 2014, so I paired the tarantulas at 9:30 PM on January 6, 2014.

Unlike the second mating, there was no drumming from either individual. They were slower to begin mating than was the case the previous two times. The female was receptive each of the three times they came together tonight. Multiple insertions each time.

I may pair them one more time if the male produces additional sperm webs.

This has been an extraordinarily easy first pair of breeding tarantulas. The first two pairings occurred on December 26, 2013 and January 1, 2014.


Male Honduran curlyhair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum) crawling into the female’s enclosure. She is laying on a silk mat she spun shortly after the first mating six days ago. The male began drumming with his pedipalps and front legs as he moved down the side of her tank. She responded by drumming extremely rapidly with her four frontmost legs for about ten seconds. Click/double click image to enlarge.


She turned to meet him as he approached her. Click/double click image to enlarge.


He tentatively stroked her front pair of legs with his front pair of legs. Unlike the previous mating, she moved toward him and began arching her cephalothorax at the pedicel as he approached. She was MUCH more eager. Click/double click image to enlarge.


As he moved closer she actually pulled him under her with her pedipalps and extended her fangs (which are HUGE), making it easier for him to grab onto each fang with the tibial hook on each foreleg. Click/double click image to enlarge.


She arched her cephalothorax further backward and  he began manipulating his pedipalps, stroking the underside of her abdomen. Click/double click image to enlarge.


He inserted one of his pedipalps into her epigastric furrow and then alternately inserted and withdrew each pedipalp several times. After several minutes he began withdrawing from her. Click/double click image to enlarge.


They moved apart and came back together to mate two more times. She reared back further and was more willing to breed with each pairing. After the third pairing I put a pair of chopsticks between the two and removed him to the safety of his own enclosure. Click/double click image to enlarge.


Now she looks sad. Or hungry. Or bored. Click/double click image to enlarge.

Alex Wild (Myrmecos)  and Ted MacRae (Beetles in the Bush) are well known entomologists who blog regarding various arthropods they encounter throughout the year. These exceptional ambassadors for the six- and eight-legged end each blogging year with a “Best of …” set of photographs that stand out personally for each of them.

Following Alex and Ted’s lead, I’m doing the same thing. I’ve selected a dozen shots that will hopefully allow others to experience some of what I experienced this year on the other side of the lens. Here we go. Thanks for reading!


Digger bee (Diadasia sp) at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, Tucson, AZ, home base of the 2013 Invertebrates in Education and Conference. Next year’s conference location has not yet been established, though it will take place in Arizona from July 22-26.


Close-up of a native pollinator, the squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa), at work inside a squash blossom in our backyard, taken as part of a three day photography challenege.
A more detailed entry can be found at “Anatomy of an intentional macrophoto shoot”.


American kestrel fledgling (Falco sparverius) photographed while biking through downtown Denver with my wife. I biked right by it and didn’t see it. I had never seen those markings as cryptic before, but they certainly are! Photo taken using my new little Canon SX 280 HS point and shoot, which takes surprisingly good macro as well as pictures at a distance.


My first honey bee (Apis mellifera) swarm! This completely unexpected image was captured during Sam Comfort’s (http://anarchyapiaries.org/) top bar hive workshop at the Second Nature Teaching Apiary in Urbana, IL. More pictures and the original entry can be found at “Highlights of top bar hive expert Sam Comfort’s workshop“.


Squash bugs (Anasa tristis) hatching on the underside of one of our butternut squash plants. There is a beauty in this species, which seems to become my mortal enemy each summer.


Canyon tree frog (Hyla arenicolor) photographed in the Sonoran Desert during the 2013 Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference. Tree frogs and deserts just never seem to go together, but I love these cryptically colored critters!


While photographing the locust borer (Megacyllene robiniae) at Kickapoo State Park, the cicada killer swooped in, grabbed it, and took off, leaving me this memorable image.


Male red phase Chilean rose tarantula (Grammostola rosea) with prey. I have to have a spider somewhere in this set of pictures!


This parody of a human birth announcement placed second in the 2013 American Tarantula Society “Celebrate the Day!” photography contest. The $300 Ken the Bug Guy gift certificate led to the addition of a new tarantula species, scorpions, and solifugids. The original entry, including accompanying narrative, can be found at “A (somewhat goofy) collaborative photo competition entry“.

Solfugid with waxworm, September 6, 2013.

Syrian black solfugid (or solifugid). The entire, detailed account of my attempt to work with species can be found at “Maintaining captive solfugids… A losing battle“?


Fall image showing the last generation of this year’s insects prior to our first frost. Lots of fermenting fruit on the ground, so the inebriated insects were REALLY slow. This apple’s diversity was typical of the open fruit on the ground. The female wasp at the 2 o’clock position, if you think of the picture as the face of a clock, was pushing the others away from the area in which she was eating. She had just pushed away the calliphorids (iridescent green flies), been moderately successful at pushing away the chrysomelid (black spotted, green beetle), had caused the sarchophagid (gray and black striped fly) to re-orient so that it was no longer approaching her head-on, and had her sights set on the smaller syrphid (the smaller of the two yellow and black-striped bee mimicking flies) at the time of the photo. The wasp was A LOT more successful at moving bees and other wasps off the apple. The flies were much more persistent.


Syrphid feeding on some of the windfall apples I crushed while bringing in apples the prior weekend.


Juvenile emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator) over its freshly shed exoskeleton. The original entry, and a number of additional pre- and post-molt photos, can be accessed at “Emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator) molt“. Double-click the image to find the mite!


Mexican redleg tarantula (Brachypelma emilia), December 29, 2013. Click/double click to enlarge.

The Mexican redleg tarantula (Brachypelma emilia) juvenile purchased from Sailfin Petshop in June, 2013 molted December 29, 2013, revealing itself to be female. A close-up of the spermathecae is shown below. She should be sexually mature after the next molt.


Mexican redleg tarantula (Brachypelma emilia) spermathecae. Click/double click image to enlarge.


Mexican redleg tarantula (Brachypelma emilia) several hours post-molt, December 29, 2013. Click/double click image to enlarge.


Mexican redleg tarantula (Brachypelma emilia) the day prior to the molt, December 28, 2013. Click/double click image to enlarge.


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