Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Not too many people have read #25 yet, but you'll need to read that first before this makes sense. Go now, my child.

In a nutshell, the shopping cart is gone and www.spidershoppe.com now redirects to a SPIDERSHOPPE subpage of my master site, ExoticFauna.com. I did this quickly yesterday so it is still in development. I have loads of spider work today as I have more houseguest arriving Thursday so I can't work on it more or spend much time on today's blog entry.

If you visit the new SpiderShoppe page you will see a list of species I am working with in the right sidebar. The center lists what species I have available and what species I have incubating. You will notice that there are no prices. Email me and based on quantity, order size, my mood and whether you've bought before I will quote price. Shipping fee will be based on zip code. But I only ship via FedEx Priority Overnight.

So, during my last "memory lane" installment (see Blog #19B) I covered my closing of my operations in Nashville, my union with Tarantulas.com and stint as General Manager of Northwest Zoological Supply and my February 2013 return to the Chicago area after the tragic, sudden death of my dear mother. I came back to the Midwest with a moving van towing the little Toyota my mom had given me when I returned from Suriname. I went from a small one bedroom apartment to a 1600 sq. foot three level townhouse that my sister and bonus dad found for me and I made a cash bid on while driving across Montana on my way back home. But my only live partners on the trip were my dearly departed Taylor, who died only days after my return from Sri Lanka this past December crushing my soul forever, and my 25-year-old dusky Pionus parrot Jesse. I had not a single spider.

Sometimes I wish I would have kept it that way, to be very honest. But now settled in a rural town an hour west of Chicago near where my sister Lisa and her boys and their wives/fiancés live, I had to find something to do. So my spare bedroom became my "SPIDERSHOPPE" and I began to import spiderlings from Lee Ardern at The Spider Shop in Wales, UK. For those of you who are unaware, there are actually three "spider shops". Mine, which has operated under that name since 2001, and two copycats ;) - Lee Ardern's Welsh thespidershop.co.uk and Jakob Skowronek's Polish Spider Shop.

I also bought wholesale from some American dealers and breeders, but my plan from the beginning was to import species I wanted for myself along with some others to sell to pay for my new projects. I relaunched SPIDERSHOPPE with a fancy shopping cart website and started advertising and vending at the Tinley Park NARBC. I knew all along that the retail business was temporary. But I wasn't going to share that information. I had to make a go at paying my bills and financing my own "keeper spiders". So, SPIDERSHOPPE was really only relaunched to get to where I am today. I have spent many hours feeding spiderlings twice a week to get to where I am finally not only breeding, but have produced FIVE AMERICAN FIRSTS since November. I went from zero spiders and an empty room to a large reproductive collection in two short years.

I realize it is a shock to some that I have stopped buying spiders for resale and am only offering my own offspring. But those "some" must not have been paying close attention. I've hinted from the beginning that I am "semi-retired", a "reluctant seller" who only "sells on his own terms". I've kept up advertising and trying to keep an income flow, but my focus has been on breeding the spiders that have matured and getting those who hadn't to maturity. Now I am seeing my efforts pay off. But I knew from the beginning that I had no intention of being a retailer of tarantulas especially in today's climate of so many pseudo dealers and weekend warriors (see Blog #10 ). There are so many jokers out there right now. I can name six dealers that I'd recommend (but I won't) and all the others are pretenders that soon will be gone. Many are complete asshats. I'm not getting into price wars and number of species listed wars and how many reviews can I solicit  - popularity contest wars (this one a fucking joke in itself, I've never solicited a review ... sounds like a future rant possibility). 33 years I've sold tarantulas and herps. Only Kelly Swift can also say that. I am not playing games. I've got other interests and am looking for work in one other industry in particular. And field trips, photography and education is where my heart is at. I will blog. I will produce a complete tarantula book. I will travel and share my adventures through articles, photos and films. But I won't chase after tarantula hobbyist sales. Quite frankly, the American tarantula hobby is not strong enough to make selling tarantulas worth the effort and the average American tarantula hobbyist does not have much to spend. I'm sure you'll see a few of the "six dealers" I'd recommend but won't name drop out in the next year or two. That's reality. And I'll be on the sidelines. I'll be breeding some cool spiders as long as it holds my attention and I have the time. But travel is my true passion so it won't be for too many years. I long for travel, cameras, guitars and guns, not spiders and crickets.

All the best, MJ

Monday, June 29, 2015


Not really.

I have done as I've been threatening to do. I have closed down the e-commerce "shopping cart" site for Michael Jacobi's SPIDERSHOPPE. I am no longer buying spiders for resale. All that I sell are spiders that I breed or receive in trade. I will be liquidating some of my sexed subadults and adults soon as well. I want "semi-retired" to become more like "retired". As I wrote earlier today, after being in the pet industry, specifically the exotic pet industry, since 1982 I am looking for a change.

Right now I am working on my primary website ExoticFauna.com to add a SpiderShoppe page as it was before. Spidershoppe.com will redirect to this page so you can use either URL. But if you have shop.exoticfauna.com (the shopping cart) bookmarked you will need to change it.

I will continue to sell what I breed, but hopefully it will mostly be in bulk to dealers with some smaller orders going to friends and existing customers. I am going to enter the world of "hobbyist breeder" with a smile on my face and only work with rare species that interest me.

I will be at Arlington NARBC at the end of August, but will have little with to sell. I'll post a list the week before. I am going to cancel my booth at Tinley Park NARBC in October.

I ask that my customers support American breeders. I'm not going to play favorites and name names. But buy USA captive bred! Buy from professional dealers who have made this their livelihood and proven themselves over time. OK, I'll name a name - Kelly Swift. He's one of the only people who fit in this category, although there are a few that have been around for 8 or 10 or more years that could be included. Don't buy from pseudo dealers that you never heard of a year or two ago. Don't buy from reptile guys who now want to sell spiders despite their horrible reviews on the Fauna Classifieds Board of Inquiry. Don't buy from the idiots who ship via the US Postal Service. Don't support people who are basically just helping Germans reach American customers. Buy American captive bred spiderlings before European imports whenever possible. Please! And keep an eye on my spidershoppe.com page to see what I am offering. I offer expert, professional service. That will never change no matter how little I sell.

All the best, Michael


I posted today's blog last night as it was complete (I usually write one day in advance and then just edit before posting on the day). But here I am at Starbucks having my coffee and breakfast like every morning and I feel like writing again. And what better subject to rant about than Faffbook.

Anyone who has been reading my Kiss My Big Hairy Spider is well aware of my contempt for all things Faffbook. I consider it a necessary evil, something required for promoting my projects in this day and age, but it doesn't diminish my disdain for it. As I've mentioned, I'm actually on my 3rd incarnation. Twice before I have "quit", but of course the all-controlling Facebook doesn't actually allow you to delete your page. All your content is owned by them. You can only make it inactive and go through the tedious task of deleting all your "friends".

Deleting "friends" ... let's start with that. I was surprised to learn recently that some of my actual friends, who I should add are very tech savvy, had no clue that you can unfollow friends so that they don't appear in your News Feed. You can even select the less severe "show fewer posts" by anyone or any page you have liked. I try to keep my News Feed very uncluttered and follow very few "friends" and very few things I've "liked".

But back to actually deleting "friends". As I type this I have 594 "friends". I don't want to hit the 600 mark. So I am going to pause this blog and go to Faffbook and start deleting "friends". Obviously, real friends and family will stay. People that I have an ongoing relationship with are also making the cut. People I've met and people I like. Of course, I may not have met them all, but at least I correspond with them on a somewhat regular basis and/or follow them and/or like their posts and/or see them liking my posts. Customers also get a pass. I have a feeling far fewer than I think will actually be deleted. Then I am going to go through those I am following and see if that number can be reduced. Presently out of my 594 "friends" only 189 are actually following me. That's not a bad thing. I know most of my family doesn't even follow me. Most of my stuff is about spiders and guns and such and they don't care. It's all good. You can follow someone's feed without actually being "friends" so I am hoping that my deletions do not affect this number. It would be too time consuming to compare one list against the other. So here I go ... Friend clean up time ... Will you make the cut? (although I am always game to offend, I mean no offense by this. I am sure I will cut some lovely ladies and gents. I know some unrecognized people are tarantula keepers who are fans of my work. But if I don't recognize your name you will become part of my downsizing and un-cluttering. I also will delete anyone using a pseudonym. If you aren't using your real name I've got no time for you. And I admit I am going to enjoy vaporizing a few cretins that somehow made my list in a moment of weakness ... Maybe this is my first step in getting off Faffbook again ... Back when I'm done ...

Back ... I now have 478 friends so I only cut about 120, less than I was hoping. My rules for accepting new requests just became ultra-strict. It was interesting to see that many cut had no profile pic and very few friends. They obviously are smart enough to spend little or no time on Faffbook. Conversely, there were plenty of people - some cut, some kept - that had 3000-4000+ friends (the maximum is 5000). Clearly, they accept every request and are constantly sending requests of their own. A few are legends (like Dick Bartlett and it is no surprise they have so many friends). Whatever. To each her or his own. Next I'll clean out my own list of people and pages I follow. It's actually not the people that create the clutter. I've liked about 1000 pages and certainly don't want more than 30 or 40 showing up in my News Feed. So this brings us to one of the evils of Faffbook. Targeting you for advertising. David Fincher is my favorite director and anyone who saw his brilliant The Social Network is completely aware of the humble beginnings of what would become Facebook. It's original purpose has nothing to do with today's mega-invasive tool to learn everything about you. Everything you like tailors the advertisements you will see. I don't mean page promotion. That's a joke in itself. It is a complete waste of money. I mean the actual corporations that see that you like "Starbucks" and "Inked Magazine" and "Orange is the New Black" and then run algorithms to figure out exactly what makes you tick and what you are likely to spend your dirty American dollars on. With 1000 pages liked by me some computer somewhere knows exactly what I like, probably better than I do myself. Mark Zuckerberg didn't become a billionaire by connecting university students to each other. Facebook has become a giant and not too different from the National Security Agency as modern day's big brothers pry into every recess of your existence.

I mentioned earlier another evil of the monstrous Facebook. It has your content. Every photograph you post is now archived. This may be an oversimplification and I have no intention of riling myself up by researching the legalese of what their usage rights are. Just know that every single post you make is examined by "big brother". The NSA investigates every word on a list of potential dangers. Every picture is stored and archived for eternity. Here is a quote from Facebook when a professional photographer wrote asking for clarification of photo licensing: "We appreciate your concern. Our license or sublicense does not affect ownership or copyright privileges for material on the site. Facebook uses user content in connection with various features and services on the site (for example, displaying it in profile pages, photo pages, news feeds and other messages to users' friends, etc.). Additionally, though it may not happen often, there are cases when law officers and judges issue subpoenas or other legal orders requiring us to provide certain information about specific users for use in court." So they do claim that they are not taking ownership or copyright away from you, but this is just another reason I - cautiously - use a prominent watermark.

I've read one article in The Guardian where the author claimed that "If you think that it's only Facebook fiddling with the parameters of morality in today's cyberworld, then you might be interested to know that Google is evil too. For those who know Google's motto, "Don't be evil", and have taken it at face value, this could come as something of a surprise. But for those of you who, like me, have a Gmail account and feel ethically torn about it but way too lazy to delete, it might not be such a shocker."

Here is another interesting article in The Guardian on Facebook if you are interested in reading more.

But the above comment about Google may be surprising to you. I have had a Gmail account since it existed and I have been trying to gradually switch to my iCloud email for some time. It wasn't even with regards to the way Gmail reads your letters. It's just that I hate it and its apps. I hate the two-step verification. Even if you check the box to never ask again on this computer it will. So you better make sure you have your cell phone handy when you are asked to log into Gmail, or Google+, or YouTube or any of the conglomerate's other products.

"Gmail has been accused of "automatically scanning" the private contents of emails to and from your e-buddies for a while now, and using the information to tailor the advertisements it places in the corners of your screen. From 11 November, it will be widening its remit and taking "names, photos and reviews" from connected sites like YouTube to use in marketing. In other words, don't be surprised if your face and words start appearing in the online adverts that presently irritate you on a daily basis." Click here for source and more.

But I have digressed. I just wanted to fairly show that Facebook isn't the only thing on the Internet that is invasive. And Libertarians like me are staunchly against anything interfering with our privacy and personal rights.

But how do I leave Facebook behind. I announce this blog. I like to share my photos. But I will be weaning myself off of it more and more. One reason I have kept it going is to promote my SPIDERSHOPPE business, but that is being phased out more and more each day. My shopping cart will be closed as soon as the annual fee has been exhausted (update: see #25). I will be reducing my spider collection to only breed my favorites, which I will sell wholesale. As I've threatened again and again, my retail sales will eventually cease except for some good existing customers and personal friends. I will keep a small list on my primary website, but the e-commerce shopping cart will be closed very soon. I just need to do some work on exoticfauna.com in preparation for that move. As far as vending at shows, I really only do the Tinley Park NARBC. The only reason I am doing this August's Arlington NARBC is because I got a free booth in return for my lecture on Poecilotheria. To be honest, the only reason I am continuing at Tinley Park is that I feel obligated if I wish to continue holding my ArachnoGathering in association with NARBC each March. However, it is very expensive for the booth, electricity, van rental, hotel rental, etc. and I may just have to look into other options for ArachnoGathering. First I'll ask Brian Potter if he'd allow me to hold it even if I stopped vending. So many decisions ... But my "semi-retired" status needs to become "retired". I am looking into employment in other industries that I have great interest in. I need to get out of the house more. And I'm done with the pet industry and tired of selling tarantulas on a retail level.

PS - If you have my email in your address book as exoticfauna@gmail.com please change it to m.a.jacobi@icloud.com if you are a "real friend" (we've met or we correspond often) and spidershoppe@icloud.com if you are an acquaintance or customer or arachnophile that I don't really know well. I will be obliterating Gmail/Google+ within the week. I will keep YouTube ... I guess I have to unless I switch to Vimeo or something. The real irony is that this Blog (Blogger.com/Blogspot) is also a Google product. What the fuck can ya do?

The lesser of two evils is still evil.

Excuse my meandering... Enjoy your Monday, MJ

Sunday, June 28, 2015



The page view numbers are waning, but I'm still writing. Please share this blog and help me reach a larger audience.

It's interesting to view the stats (page views) for my blog. The most ranty, controversial entries definitely have received the most reads, but then I announced each one of those on the Arachnoboards Faffbook page. I'm not permitted to do that anymore as it breaks the rules. That's what I love about my blog - there are no flippin' rules. But lately the page views have dropped and I am sure some people have tired of me. That's cool. I'm writing this for me and any single person who learns a single thing. I've never tried to be popular. I'm not for everyone. I'm an acquired taste that some people will never stomach.

One very well known dealer has been reading my blog and he messaged me and said he wishes he could get away with saying the things I do. What he meant is that he agrees with some of what I've written, but is dependent on spider sales and, thus, can't risk pissing anybody off himself. I completely understand. Maybe that is why I waited until now to really start calling out the asshats and speaking my mind. I've always been outspoken, but I certainly did rein it in a bit to maintain my image for the spider buying public. Now I am "semi-retired" and sell on my own terms. I am not trying to make a living selling spiders. Over thirty years in the exotic pet industry was enough. Now I am just a breeder who wishes to educate and share my experiences in the wild with the arachnophiles around the world. Lost customers are not my concern.

I am aware that I have a public image to maintain even if I am not focused on spider sales any longer. As an educator, lecturer and author, I do have a certain hard-earned respect that I do not wish to tarnish. I hope people are broad-minded enough to not let profanity or brutal honesty diminish that. This Blog is intended for mature audiences. Also, as North American Coordinator of the British Tarantula Society, I realize I also don't want to alienate potential members or have my personality shine a bad light on them. The Brits are a much more polite people, and I write this more for the American audience that is more rude-tolerant. But I have aimed to offend, so I realize that readership is going to have its ups and downs and I have promised to pull no punches so I hope everyone realizes that the only opinion offered here is my own and only I take responsibility for every word I type.

Steve in Texas sent me a very nice email thanking me for my projects - my book, my YouTube films and this blog especially. That is all I need to keep me going. He ended his letter with a question about photoperiod (light cycle) and I will answer that here along with a few other "bits 'n bobs". That's one of my favorite British phrases, one that my mate Mark uses often. So I added these "bits" of introductions and I'll toss in a few more random "tidbits" (as we would call them) or "bobs" at the end.

Thanks to all who read this. If you are using tablets or smartphones I highly recommend Feedly as a way to stay on top of this Blog. I've installed it and now I'm not just writing. I'm reading too as I have begun to follow a few firearms and photography blogs. But, really, thanks for the support. Please leave comments (please use your name or sign your name) and feel free to also email me at spidershoppe@icloud.com. Cheers.


Let me begin my stating that this is three blog entries in a row that were reader submitted topics. Please keep them coming at spidershoppe@icloud.com.

The basic definition of photoperiod is day length or the period of time each day during which an organism receives illumination. Many people use the term "light cycle" to describe how many hours of light and how many hours of darkness an organism is exposed to.

From a tarantula (or other arachnid) keeper's perspective the question may be as simple as "how much light does my spider need". They may not be referring to the changing photoperiod across the seasons, but rather just whether their tarantulas should have ambient light and, if so, for how many hours each day. Let's call this the keeper's perspective.

A more in depth look at photoperiod would focus on photoperiodism. The definition of photoperiodism is is the physiological reaction of organisms to the length of day or night. This the tarantula's perspective. But it might also be called the breeder's perspective. Environmental cues such as changes in photoperiod, barometric pressure, humidity and temperature affect breeding. They are stimuli that impact an organism's life cycle. But, although light may be very important for breeding diurnal lizards or such, it is not important for breeding tarantulas.

But let's start with the keeper's perspective and use my observations of tarantulas in nature. I've studied and photographed tarantulas from the scrub and desert of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to the rain forests of Costa Rica, Suriname, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. I've observed obligate burrowers in vertical burrows with terminal chambers, and I've also observed arboreal tarantulas in tube socks and tree holes. My decades of observation during captive husbandry and propagation also inform my opinions, but captivity is an unnatural phenomenon and the natural habitat and habits of these spiders is what we are striving to simulate.

How much light does an obligate burrower receive? More specifically, how much daylight? Many terrestrial species live under rocks or other cover and those that are obligate burrowers can be several feet beneath the ground. I've dug out Aphonopelma in Texas that were a couple feet beneath the surface and their burrow started vertically but then angled toward a terminal chamber. During the day the burrow mouth is covered by a sheet of silk. This keeps out pests like ants and such, but it also shields them from the light. I expect in many cases they receive only minimal diffuse light from the sun, and, of course, some moon light when they are at the burrow mouth waiting in ambush at night. However, mostly their lives are ones of darkness. Similarly, I have found Avicularia in tube socks with thick silken walls beneath the overhangs of roofs or inside the bark of trees. Arboreal tarantulas may receive a bit more sunlight, but not much. I have found Poecilotheria in dense rainforest where the canopy made light on the ground very dim even on bright sunny days. The Poecilotheria were in holes and slots in tree trunks and, again, only received the bare minimum of diffuse light. Their holes were dark. Tarantulas like dark.

Have I ever seen wild tarantulas out in the daylight? Yes, but as far as I can recall it was only a few Avicularia in Suriname. There were a few instances where I found juveniles at the mouth of their silken tube during the day. They were definitely exposed to the light. Mature wandering males are also occasionally seen by daylight. However, tarantulas are nocturnal and secretive organisms that more often shun the light. However, that doesn't mean that they cannot sense the photoperiod or that it plays no role in their seasonal rhythms.

So what do I recommend? Lighting your terrariums is unnecessary except for the health of live plants. I do have many natural terrariums with live plants and they require light. It is then my job to provide sufficient and proper retreats so that the inhabitant tarantulas can secrete themselves in darkness. Other keepers prefer to use only artificial foliage as lighting a tarantula enclosure does seem counter-intuitive. The ambient light in your room should be sufficient to establish night or day. Of course, at the equator light and dark are equal and your tarantula room's light cycle will be dependent on the latitude at which you live. No matter. Most keepers have a diverse collection of species and they also live at different latitudes in nature. But we aren't talking about nature. You have an artificial situation with, presumably, mostly captive bred tarantulas adjusted to your light cycle. Allow some light to enter the room and all is good. Keep your tarantulas out of direct light unless you require lighting for live plants. Even if you are breeding manipulation of photoperiod isn't important. The environmental cues or triggers that have great affect are dry and wet seasons (especially for tropical species) and seasonal temperature differences (especially for scrub or temperate species). Worry about simulating a warm and wet season that changes to a cool and dry season and back, or pre- or post-mating conditioning with temperatures falling and rising. The light cycle is insignificant against these cues.

My own spider room is on the upper level of my three level home outside of Chicago. Therefore, my first battle is with heat for the sunny and hot months and cold during the frigid winters. The windows of my spider room first had a sun shading film applied to them. This is similar to tinting a car's windows. Then I covered the window opening with 1/2" foam insulation followed by 1" foam insulation. All light (and heat and cold) is kept out. I control temperature by my central air conditioning and a small space heater in the spider room. I run a cool mist humidifier as needed. The light comes from the natural terrariums. I have shelves with four foot strip lights with fluorescent grow bulbs for them. They are on timers to be illuminated 10 hours a day. The rest of the spiders receive diffuse/ambient light from these strips and those on the opposite side of the room receive only dim light. Spiderlings in vials are kept in large flat storage containers and have their ambient light further restricted. Light just isn't vital for raising tarantulas. If light enters the room from outside you're set. If your room does not allow sunlight in I'd suggest a single lamp on a timer to provide light 10-12 hours a day. But your spiders will likely be in the darkness. They don't like light. The fun part is going in the room at night with a headlamp with a red bulb and watching them when they're active.

In summary, I wouldn't advise keeping your tarantulas in a pitch black closet, but I don't know that that would be detrimental either. Any room that allows even minimal ambient light is fine. If you have a dark room such as in the basement where windows don't allow light just have a single floor lamp on a timer so there is an artificial "day time". If you normally only have time to service your tarantulas at night you could even reverse it so the "day time" is during your night. Myself, I like to be in there when it's dark. My headlamp allows a choice of LED light or red light. If I am working I'll have the LED lights on so I can see, but if I want to observe their behavior I'll poke around with only the red light on, enjoying my voyeuristic probe into the lives of my spiders.


1. I mentioned in the previous blog entry the time waster and self-proclaimed authority on everything eight-legged who has 2000 posts in a year or two of Arachnoboards forum membership. By contrast I joined AB on March 17, 2003 - over 12 years ago - and have 775 posts. That is an average of 0.17 posts per day or a post every 5-6 days. (Note: Classifieds ad posts do not count towards this total). At least 90% of my posts were between my join date and 2006 or 2007 when I moved from Nashville to Seattle. 2003-2006 were what I'd consider the glory years of Arachnoboards where people were interested in being educated, polite and we all made some great cyber friends. That period even resulted in a couple of marriages. But now all I post are occasional advertisements and announcements of updates to my Tarantula Bibliography. All I post on the AB Faffbook page is photographs. As North American Coordinator of the British Tarantula Society and Admin of their FB group, FB page and website, I prefer to spend more of my time in the Internet minefield on BTS pages. I have nothing, whatsoever, to do with the ATS. I lectured for them at their conference last summer and that was my last hurrah.

2. THE BTS - I encourage you to become a member of the world's oldest ongoing tarantula society and receive its fine full color Journal three times a year. I appreciate that the costs for an American receiving the print journal by mail are high (about $53) per year, but you may also consider a digital only membership where you get to download the same color Journal as a PDF for about $23/year. You will also be supporting a great organization that is celebrating its 30th birthday and contributes money to research projects and conservation. It also is at the forefront of tarantula education worldwide. The BTS is a truly international organization and a group that every tarantula and other arachnid enthusiast should consider supporting. The membership year runs June 1 to May 31 so now is the perfect time to become a BTS member and be part of the world's elite arachnocumtural organization. Click here to join.

3. Other places you'll find me - Hopefully you all are aware that my primary website is at exoticfauna.com. From there you can reach my other websites like The Tarantula Bibliography and Michael Jacobi's SPIDERSHOPPE, plus my SmugMug photo galleries and even this blog. You can also access much of what was published in ARACHNOCULTURE. I reluctantly use Faffbook, but minimize its use as much as possible. It truly is a necessary evil. I have to use it to stay in touch and promote my projects, but I have utter contempt for it as well. I am a big fan of Instagram and Twitter and my "handle" on both is @ExoticFauna, which is also the name of my YouTube channel where among other videos you will find my 95-minute instructional film "Tarantulas in the Terrarium". There are videos from my Suriname field trip as well, and eventually I'll include clips from Sri Lanka. If you're interested in my one hour video chronicling my 2006 Costa Rica field trip you'll have to pay three quid (about $5) to download it from Andrew Smith's lovetarantulas.com. I get half the proceeds so you'll be helping the author of KMBHS as well. Thanks ;) I encourage you to check out what is available at Love Tarantulas. There's the care video made by the late Bryant Capiz, a digital revision of British tarantula breeding pioneer Ron Baxter's book, the great American arachnology book The Tarantula by William Baerg and two of Andrew's long out of print books and Keegan's Scorpions of Medical Importance plus Andrew's own documentaries, lectures and more. I highly recommend setting aside $20 or so in your budget and going on a downloading spree. What a bargain for the content you can acquire!

Thanks again for reading. Y'all are the best, MJ


Today's blog topic was reader suggested, but it is a subject that seems to keep popping up. Speaking at both of my ArachnoGatherings in 2014 and 2015, former ATS president Christian Elowsky referred to "power feeding" and also made reference that when myself, Frank Somma, Eric Reynolds and Bill Korinek were the "expert panel" for a Q&A session at ArachnoCon 2006, we mentioned that "overfeeding" was one of the biggest problems in tarantulaculture. I'm not sure why this has become a raison d'être or hot topic for Mr. Elowsky, but we're talking apples and oranges, chalk and cheese here. I don't know if Christian reads this blog. He's the esotericman. He's hard to get a handle on. I don't hear from him much anymore.

So, we will have to first look at some definitions because "power feeding" and "overfeeding" are not the same thing. Obesity is unhealthy in all organisms, but frequent feedings do not necessarily lead to obesity. But before we delve into the definitions and I state my opinions let's look at what made my friend and reader Jaimie suggest this topic so I can warm up with a bit of a rant.

She messaged me that she had got into an argument (I assume on Faffbook or Arachnoboards) with persons who claimed that "one should only feed a tiny sling once a month". She said that "they" considered her care improper for "subjecting (her) slings to twice a week feedings because their abdomens were going to burst". As Jaimie correctly noted, the real problem here is that you have self-proclaimed, self-appointed experts spouting gibberish and often will have new keepers follow their terrible advice. This will be a recurring theme here at KMBHS and it was covered in depth early on with blog #3 - INFORMATION IS NOT KNOWLEDGE. That's why I avoid the Arachnobored* like the plague. That's why I don't engage people on Faffbook. Anyone with a sliver of information turns it into expert opinion and vomits it on the Internet at the slightest provocation. (*Please note that my use of the term "Arachnobored" is not a slam on Arachnoboards. I was one of the early members and it was a fantastic resource and place to interact with fellow tarantula enthusiasts back in the day. The owners Scott & Debby are dear friends and I helped them put on their ArachnoCons. But, as with anything, the larger it gets the higher the idiot quotient becomes and it isn't their fault that much of what is posted on Arachnoboards is nonsense. The "Arachnobored" are the people who have 2000 posts in 1-2 years. They sit behind their keyboard thinking people give a shit what they have to say. They're typically newbies with too much time on their hands and they play the "telephone game" I mentioned in #3. Unfortunately, those who actually have the most to say usually have the least time to say it. I can tell you that the real experts spend their time feeding and breeding spiders or perhaps squeezing in a blog with morning coffee before spending 10 hours feeding spiders. The Arachnobored have nothing but time and ill-informed opinions. They are the ignorant that will post that a tiny sling should only be fed once a month with an air of authority and find victims for their bullshit and create greater ignorance in the hobby. The Arachnobored shit all over Faffbook and their stench does not dissipate.)

OK, didn't want you to think I've forgotten how to call a fucktard a fucktard. Rant out. Let's take a deep breath, ignore the Arachnobored (as they should be), and dive into some definitions and realities. 

Again, I want to draw a comparison with herpetoculture. As you should know by now, I've kept and bred both reptiles and tarantulas throughout my life and many tarantula keepers also keep reptiles. I will often mention both hobbies. In snakes or other reptiles, "power feeding" has a negative connotation. It should as it leads to unhealthy snakes with shorter lifespans. But we're back to apples and oranges, chalk and cheese. Vertebrates and invertebrates are very different beasties. Arachnids have expandable opisthosomas for a reason and they don't have a skeleton or complex organs. Frequent feeding when young is, in my opinion, harmless. If you dabble in the reptile hobby you have perhaps heard "power feeding" disparaged - and with good reason. The general rule of thumb with snakes is to feed and then wait until the snake defecates before feeding again. With young snakes some keepers will offer two meals and then wait for the defecation. This is good reptile husbandry. But it doesn't apply to tarantula raising. One problem with "power feeding" a vertebrate is that it's skeleton and organs should develop at a natural rate. An abundance of food may rush along the process and have detrimental effects including shortened lifespan. It is no surprise that many of the longest-lived snakes are males. Breeders may "power feed" females to get them to reproductive size and get them large so they produce the maximum offspring, but it is well known by snake breeders that small and slender male snakes tend to make the best breeders. These snakes are given maintenance meals and aren't "pumped up" to large size. And they live longer. Sometimes, much longer.

But let's get back to our big hairy spiders. What is "power feeding"? What is "excessive feeding"? I can tell you that they are NOT THE SAME. Like Jaimie, I strive to feed my slings twice a week. Because of the sheer number I have that is not always possible and it may be every 7-10 days. But if I am on perfect schedule it is every four or five days. Anywhere between every 3-10 days is good. Less frequently is not advisable. As I've preached elsewhere, tarantulas should be getting some (most) of their moisture from their prey and if you're feeding once a month for a "tiny sling" it is not being properly hydrated. It may have humidity and this passes through its book lung system, and it may be drinking misted droplets out of necessity, but it is not being fed often enough. You really can't feed a spiderling tarantula too often as long as you do cease offering food once its abdomen has become extended. Generally, the spider will cease feeding on its own and go into a molt. But there are some types that will keep eating (e.g., Brachypelma) past a desirable point. If I notice a spiderling has a big full abdomen I don't feed it. Simple if you're attentive. Easy if you have a friggin' clue. But I assure you that it's abdomen is not going to flippin' burst!** It also is important to mention that feeding frequency is tied to temperature. My tarantula room is 75-80ºF. This is ideal for many species, cooler climate spiders (e.g., P. subfusca) are kept closer to the ground or moved to my cooler bedroom as necessary to avoid excessive temperatures. Many novice tarantula keepers are using room temperature, which, of course, varies from home to home. But if we use something common like 67ºF then that spider will have its metabolism slowed down and will feed less frequently. If you are keeping your tarantulas in a reptile room where temperature exceeds 82ºF (a practice I DO NOT RECOMMEND for any species) frequent feeding is appropriate.

(**It is a good practice, especially with larger tarantulas to starve them a bit and keep them very lean prior to shipping. Tarantulas with very large abdomens, especially Brachys and Aphonopelma and such, are notorious for having their abdomens "burst" in transit due to pressure changes during air travel and being too delicate to properly pack. This isn't what I am talking about with regards to "power feeding", but thought I'd interject something off topic so you can learn something important about shipping - a topic that will make an appearance in an upcoming blog.)

Excessive feeding or overfeeding is another animal altogether. Older tarantulas that have settled into a molt cycle rhythm (most adults eventually get to the point where they molt annually) can certainly be overfed. This is dangerous for a number of reasons. First, as I mentioned at the beginning, obesity is unhealthy in all organisms. But don't make ridiculous comparisons and think that a Brachypelma with a huge, out of proportion, "obese" abdomen is the same as an obese mammal. Humans gain 7 extra miles of blood vessels (i.e., capillaries) for every pound of fat and this makes your heart work much harder. I can tell you that I am currently at my heaviest ever and I shudder to think how hard my almost 51 year old ticker is working. Diet is underway... I think what our "expert panel" I mentioned in the first paragraph was referring to (I don't have Christian's memory... blame it on the 70s and 80s) was that these overfed, obese tarantula make poor breeders and potential American captive propagation is therefore negatively impacted. But I am sure we were also commenting on "pet" tarantulas and the dangers they face. One is the danger from a fall. Hopefully most of you realize how fragile tarantulas are and why many of us are vehemently against handling. But even left alone an obese tarantula is at increased risk to a fall. Captivity makes tarantulas do crazy things and we've all seen or heard about the terrestrial (often the "rose hair") climbing up the sides of its aquarium and even hanging upside down from the screen lid. Now we have a REAL danger of a burst opisthosoma. A fall may not be pretty.

My adult tarantulas do not have giant abdomens. Lean and healthy is desirable. I feed most weekly (about to breed or just produced) or bi-weekly (majority - maintenance meals) depending on whether they are soon to breed. Once a female has been mated I will offer food almost every day in small meals. For example, if I usually give 4 or 5 adult crickets I will only offer two each day until she refuses the meal. Sexed males that I don't have an immediate need for are fed every three weeks. That is the least often I feed any spider. So my tarantula spiderlings and Sparassidae (huntsman spiders) and Ctenidae (wandering spiders) are fed twice a week when possible, but at least once a week. Juvenile tarantulas are fed about once a week. And adults I mentioned above. After a female has produced a sac and it has either hatched in the terrarium or been pulled I will feed her every day if she'll eat to get her recovered from her long fast and weight loss due to egg-laying and sac production. Mature males I try to feed often when they first mature because eventually they might cease feeding. I want to give them some energy and keep them alive as long as possible. Once done with mating they are fed about once every two weeks (if they'll eat).

So let's return to our clueless and argumentative knuckleheads who believe that "tiny slings" should be fed once a month. I'm not sure how the word "tiny" was used, but I can tell you that a very small tarantula spiderling, one that is feeding on pinheads or even fruit flies, is not going to fare well with a monthly feeding. These are the guys that I try to feed every few days. One reason is that I want to grow them quick at first so they'll take the much easier to provide one week cricket. I produce my own pinheads and fruit flies, but they're a pain and I'd much rather get them to one-week old crickets and then their growth spurt will begin.

In fairness, I should state that clueless newbies who spout off bits of what they've seen other newbies post and spread misinformation are not exclusive to arachnoculture. In my other hobbies - firearms, photography, guitar - you'll find the same asinine know-it-all know-nothings who willingly post complete bollocks with an authoritative tone. That's one of the purposes of this blog. Factual information and education from experience and knowledge. You'll find bits of the same on Arachnoboards or Faffbook, but you have to wade through vile festering muck to try to find the needle in the haystack gems of info posted by the truly knowledgeable and experienced. There are still people who think Schultz's book is the bible after all. That is a disservice to the hobby. I implore you to look at the name of the post author before you read any post. There are people out there that have wisdom to share. But good luck finding them amongst all the misinformed, ignorant, and clinically dense.

In closing, I should state that the comments contained herein are based on extensive experience and knowledge. I am no scientist and I haven't run tests on control groups of tarantula siblings fed with different frequencies. I know such studies have been done and if you have greater interest you might want to Google them. There also is a Search box on my Tarantula Bibliography. I also want to state that I never feed tarantulas vertebrates. A big roach is just as good a meal as a mouse or lizard. I understand that prey variety is always a good thing, but mix crickets, roaches and super worms, etc. will cover that. There is no reason to feed a mouse or lizard. Why am I against it? Because it leaves a gory mess. It will usually take about 24 hours or more for the spider to ingest it and phorid flies (and other nasties) will be attracted to the putrid bolus during that time. This is a bad thing! Phorid flies are a scourge of the tarantula hobby. You will also be left with a stinky mess and when I've used fuzzy or weanling mice for Theraphosa or Pelinobius in the past I've sometimes had to do a complete rebuild of the enclosure to get rid of the stench.

All the best, Michael

Saturday, June 27, 2015


In fairness and honesty I must disclose my very recent "potential" hybridization - the one and only of my career ...

When Jason Newland went to Peru last spring he began to sell many of his spiders. This was the trip prior to the one he just returned from that lasted almost 7 months. I bought a number of spiders and he gave me one unusual spider. It was sold to him as P. cambridgei, but after he raised her to adulthood he realized that it looked like it was part cambridgei and part P. irminia. To his credit, he never bred her for that reason and gave it to me at no charge as he just wanted it to have a good home.

What this spider proves is what I mentioned in the main blog (#21) about unintentional hybridization. Jason acquired this cambridgei when it was young from my dear friends Bruce Effenheim and Bill Korinek of the now defunct Theraphosid Breeding Project. They were a credit to the hobby and I can assure you that they never knowingly would create hybrids. Assuming that Jason's spider - now mine - is indeed 50/50 cambridgei/irminia you have to wonder how that happened. One likely scenario is that they had a female cambridgei and the male they paired her with was from someone else who didn't realize it was in fact irminia or even knowingly misrepresented it. Another likely scenario is that they used their own male, but a labeling error or the lack of a label altogether had them mistakenly thinking that the male was cambridgei. Of course, these are just conjectures. I have no idea what really happened and, in truth, cannot positively say that the spider is a cambridgei/irminia hybrid. But if you look at this photo I think you will suspect it is, just like Jason and I. (The reason I am using Jason's photo instead of taking my own is that within the past two nights the female molted. If I photographed her now she would look even more like a hybrid as she is very dark like P. irminia. And I've just never bothered to photograph her before).

So let us presume the female in the photograph is P. cambridgei x P. irminia. The only other option is that it is a highly varied aberrant P. cambridgei, but as I am sure most of you know there really isn't that much color or pattern variance in a "clutch" of tarantulas. Jason never bred her and I had no intention of doing so either. I don't really keep "pet" spiders. All of my tarantulas are part of breeding projects or are for sale. But I couldn't sell this one and I didn't want to breed her. So a "pet" she became. What's another spider to care for when your collection numbers in the four digits??!?

So, how did I come to end up breeding her despite my best intentions? It certainly wasn't an accident. A loose male didn't sneak into her cage in the night. I had bought a large group of juvenile P. cambridgei for resale. This inexpensive spider isn't that popular (although it is a gorgeous and large display arboreal). They are just common and easy to breed and very cheap. They're a tough sell. So these juveniles grew quickly and I began to sex them so I could sell guaranteed females at a premium price. In the end, this left me with 21 mature males. Imagine that! 21 mature males and ZERO mature females. As much as I love the species, I have no interest in breeding spiders that have so little value and don't have females. The same amount of space could be devoted to an income-producing species. That's just the cold, hard truth. I earn my living breeding spiders. Left with all these mature males, which would mostly die of old age in my collection I decided to feed some to her. I gave her six in all. I knew that there was a good possibility that at least one would successfully mate with her. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't. Then I could say that I have never hybridized (knowingly) in almost three decades of tarantula breeding. However, once she produced a sac I made the easy decision that I would either freeze the sac so no young were produced or let it run its course and keep all the babies and raise them to see if they appeared 75% cambridgei and 25% irminia, which is the worst they would be if the mother was 50/50 since I knew the males were 100% cambridgei. I still am not positive that the female is a hybrid. But the photo makes me confident she is. The sac only produced about 25 live young and many dead embryos. I've had cambridgei produce 100-150 or more so this is further evidence that hybridization might have occurred. Reproduction was not at its full potential. So, I've been raising the young to see what they'll look like in adulthood. None will be sold. I had a spider friends party last weekend and I gave some of them away to people that I trust would NEVER SELL and, more importantly, NEVER BREED. They promised to keep as pets. I have only about a dozen left myself and they will be pets - NEVER SOLD, NEVER BRED. Sexed males will be euthanized. It's a cruel world. Sexed females will be raised to see if they "look like" hybrids or not, just out of my own curiosity. Then they will live out their lives as pets.



One topic that has been suggested I tackle is "cross-breeding" or hybridization. I was reluctant at first as I have no egregious examples of intentional hybridization and many of our hobby "species" have historically been unintentionally hybridized due to similarity and ignorance. I wasn't sure I had enough material for a full on rant and condemnation of the practice.

Don't get me wrong. I am completely agains hybridization. It is one of the reasons I am no longer involved in herpetoculture where people create freaks like the "carpondro" (carpet python x green tree (or "chondro") python) and cross genus aberrations like ratsnake/kingsnake combinations.

As for in-breeding, this is a subject that is equally controversial and even more common in herpetoculture. Line breeding for 200 flavors of sluggish little ball pythons means doing some incestuous breeding by mating siblings and child to parent. Cue the "Dueling Banjos". Out crossing is performed by the better breeders to strengthen the genetic lines, but the morph crazy world of snake breeding is full of cross-breeding and in-breeding. Most albino pythons in the hobby were the result of breeding an albino to a normal to produce "hets", babies that are heterozygous for amelanism ("albino"), which are then bred back to a parent to produce visible albinos. This is the shortcut, but it also is a necessity when there is only one albino of that species in the hobby.

But this Blog isn't called "Kiss My Big Scaly Snake", so let's focus on these two issues in arachnoculture and what damage they do.


So exactly how does someone "unintentionally" or accidentally create tarantula hybrids. One example would be hobby forms that are already dubious. One of the best known of these clusterfucks is the Brachypelma vagans, B. sabulosum, B. epicuraneum group. Another Brachy example is the B. vagans and B. albopilosum hybrids. One American even proudly posted on his website that he did this deplorable deed in 2008. Rumor has it that he then mated the siblings with each other. Most hybrids are never marketed as hybrids, of course, so you may think what you have is "pure" and breed. Perhaps you even get a loan of a truly "pure" male. The resulting offspring are still not 100%. Some "accidental" hybrids occur when males look very similar and poor record keeping or labeling, or a dishonest seller or loaner provides you with the wrong species. This is easy with some tarantulas, for example the many Poecilotheria males that look similar to the inexperienced eye, or the case of P. cambridgei and P. irminia, which Ray Gabriel detailed in a recent Journal of the British Tarantula Society (Gabriel, R. & S. Jordan. 2013. Hybridisation of P. cambridgei & P. irminiaJournal of the British Tarantula Society 28(2): 82-84.)

It is unfortunate that some tarantulas are now known as possibly being "impure" and many responsible hobbyists are now avoiding these spiders. Of course, there are plenty of tarantula keepers who have no intention of breeding and these hairy spiders of questionable origin will still make interesting terrarium pets. But down the road these may be passed on to someone with the inclination to breed and lineages become diluted. Even remaining within the same species we run the risk of "clouding the heritage". For example, the majority of the Brachypelma albopilosum in the hobby are nothing like the gorgeous, hirsute spiders my team found in Costa Rica in 2006. They range north throughout Central America and many have been imported from Nicaragua. The same is the case with Aphonopelma seemanni across the same general range. In spiders we do not have subspecies. If these were, say, snakes they might be given subspecific names (races). But we only identify to the species level and if you mate a dull brown and cream Nicaraguan A. seemanni with a gorgeous dark brown, almost black, and vivid white striped A. seemanni from Costa Rica, perhaps a descendant of those that Al McKee was breeding twenty-some years ago and you may not have actual "hybrids", but you definitely have spiders that are less desirable than either. Therein lies the problem, most hobbyists have no way to know the origin of the spiders they get.

And, thus, much of the "cross-breeding" problem is unintentional. The intentional crosses are what we have to worry about. People who intentionally breed vagans with albopilosum such as linked above are the problem. Many Poecilotheria crosses have been produced in Europe over the years. P. regalis has been crossed with P. fasciata, P. striata and P. ornata. P. regalis is from India and in each of these cases it was hybridized with a Sri Lankan species! P. smithi has been hybridized with P. vittata. At least these two are from the same country as are the P. ornata and P. fasciata hybrids that were also made. Not that this fact makes the deliberate crossing of the species any less irresponsible. P. smithi is the most endangered species of Poecilotheria and now we have to question how much of the smithi stock we have in arachnoculture has been clouded by hybridization with vittata.

The species concept is a very complex zoological paradigm that would take a book, not a blog entry. When an old guy like me was studying zoology there were already debates and interpretations and philosophical skirmishes. But now, with modern DNA sequencing and all sorts of methodologies that far surpass the brain cells I have left, I cannot tackle it here for you. But the traditional or biological definition of species is members of populations that actually or potentially interbreed in nature. If there is, for example, a geographic barrier that does not allow two populations to interbreed speciation occurs over time. One good example is in Brachypelma. People have questioned the validity of B. baumgarteni, but my dear friend Andrew Smith has studied the Pacific Coast Brachypelma in the field along with Dr. Stuart Longhorn and reports that B. baumgarteni is separated by a river. It may be early on it its speciation and thus still somewhat similar to its neighbor. See Eddy Hijmensen's fine site for more info. You can also download Andrew Smith's lecture "In Search of Mexico's Brachypelma Red Leg Tarantulas" for about $3.50. I highly recommend doing so.

I don't have much more to say on cross-breeding. The examples I used are some of the best known and, thankfully, I don't feel it is a widespread problem. The intentional hybrids are troublesome and problematic. It is one scourge that taints our hobby. But it isn't a huge problem as we are fortunate that most breeders are more responsible. The unintentional hybrids are actually more worrisome. That is because the asshats who do it intentionally are in the minority. But neophyte breeders who don't realize that what they have isn't "pure" mean no harm, but may produce dubious offspring unwittingly. All of a sudden our hobby has been flooded with all these Genus sp. 'Locality' and it makes it even more difficult. One genus where this has become prevalent is Pamphobeteus. It's just a marketing scheme. A European travels to South America and (allegedly) smuggles out some Pamphobeteus. It may be a described species, but everyone wants to be the first to have something and it becomes Pamphobeteus sp. 'Santo Domingo' or Pamphobeteus sp. 'Costa' or whatever. As many of you know, I don't deal with big, itchy, New World terrestrials. I favor arboreals. I breed Iridopelma sp. 'Recife', but this is I. hirsutum! It just sounds cooler if you put a locality, which in this case is just a major port city along the coast of Brazil. Any slight difference in color is geographic variation, and since 'Recife' (the first "r" in Portuguese is pronounced like an "h" - this is heh-SEE-fay) is a huge city I doubt many of these spiders were actually collected in the city limits.


As far as in-breeding goes, I am one of those who believes that this is a minor problem. There is an often quoted "fact" that is repeated ad nauseum in arachnoculture that only six P. rufilata have ever been collected. I suppose I find this hard to believe, but if it is true then the spiders I've been breeding for many generations over the past 12-15 years are seriously in-bred. I've never noticed a single problem. It stands to reason - in my very NON-SCIENTIFIC opinion - that a primitive animal like a very primitive "spider" is genetically simple. One might presume that in-breeding in arthropods would not have the negative effects that in-breeding in vertebrates has. By the same thinking, one might presume that in-breeding in snakes (a common practice) is less detrimental than in-breeding in mammals, and that in-breeding in squirrels doesn't have the serious negative results that in-breeding in humans does. Cue the "Dueling Banjos" again. I used to live in Nashville. I believe I saw many examples of what the latter can do.

You should strive for genetic diversity despite the preceding paragraph. Given the choice I believe that out-crossing will strengthen captive bred tarantula populations. I just don't believe that breeding siblings is a heinous act like hybridization is. I've bred males back to their mothers many times - out of necessity. The last phrase is the key. If I had access to an unrelated male I certainly would have used him first. As I mentioned in the beginning, reptile breeders often create morphs by in-breeding. However, most will also out-cross by breeding to completely unrelated animals given the opportunity. These more genetically diverse offspring will then be mixed into the breeding program to produce potentially more robust and healthy young. I advocate the same in tarantulas. But a tarantula is a far more simple organism than a snake. I won't condemn in-breeding in tarantulas. But try to avoid it if possible. In-breeding certainly is a problem in higher animals. The cheetah is at serious risk because the species has reached the point where almost all those left in Africa are related., that is, almost identical genetically. As habitat destruction makes some tarantulas gone from nature for good we will be forced to maintain the strongest (most diverse) lines of each species we can. That's why I love that my most recent Tapinauchenius sp. Colombia egg sac was fathered by a male I just got from Germany. I was raising the female's sons for future breeding out of necessity. Then again, who knows how many of this spider have ever been collected and how many sacs created the founder stock that the hobby now enjoys. The male I used may have been my female's brother. You just never know... And therein lies the dilemma.

Enjoy your weekend, MJ

Thursday, June 25, 2015


This will be the 25th Blog Entry even though it is "#20B". I have no shortage of topics both for educational purposes and rants. However, I'd really like to hear more from my readers. If you don't want to use the comments link below each entry please feel free to email me at spidershoppe@icloud.com. I'd love topic suggestions. You can submit potential educational topics or things you think I might want to rant about. I am equal parts educator and angry author. ;)

I created the Kiss My Big Hairy Spider Faffbook page (up to 170 likes already) to announce each entry for two reasons: 1) so I wouldn't violate the rules of some Facebook groups regarding external links and, specifically, external links to a Blog that sometimes contains profanity or adult content and 2) because I presumed that most of you wouldn't bother with creating a Blogger/Blogspot account. Today one reader, Jeremiah Natte, posted the helpful information that there is an App for iOS, Android and Kindle that makes following Blogs easy. It's called Feedly. Check it out. I'm sure it makes it real easy to follow my blog. Of course, there also is a Blogger app.

I can tell you that the page views numbers have decreased since I stopped posting on AB's Faffbook. I need to maintain enough readership to make this worth my time so please share and come back for a read every now and again. I also notice that it is my most controversial rants that have seen the most traffic so maybe that's what people want. I am happy to rail on about all the fucktards in the hobby and why the American hobby sucks compared to that in Europe (an upcoming blog entry I am carefully working on).

I also wanted to mention that all of my projects are accessible through my master website, ExoticFauna.com. From here you can access my Tarantula Bibliography, a database of all currently recognized tarantula species with a downloadable PDF Species List that also provides bibliographic citations for articles especially those in hobby publications. You can also view much of what was printed in the 7 issues of ARACHNOCULTURE that were released from 2005-2007. Of course, my SPIDERSHOPPE also has a navigational tab as does my annual ArachnoGathering and my photo galleries at SmugMug. A new page that I just created is linked at the top of the right sidebar. It is called "Appearances" and it lists my lectures and the shows where I will be vending.

My next appearance is for the NARBC in Arlington, Texas the last weekend of August. I normally only exhibit at the Tinley Park show, which is an hour and a half from my home. This is also where my ArachnoGathering is held each March. Brian Potter and Bob Ashley have been kind enough to support my ArachnoGathering and I look forward to the third annual this coming March. Their lectures are overseen by Russ Gurley and he asked me to speak at the August NARBC outside of Dallas. I will be giving a lecture on Saturday, August 29 at 2 pm titled "Ornamental Tarantulas (Poecilotheria) in Captivity and in Nature". Click here for more information. My compensation for the lecture is a vendor booth at no charge. So, although I hadn't planned at ever selling at the Arlington show and it would be much easier for me to fly down without livestock, I have decided to bring a small inventory and drive down. After the weekend I may do some photography in southwestern Texas with Chad Campbell and Jason Newland for a few days.

This year I am not involved in a field trip with the team I usually travel the world with. Andrew has put together a new team and is off somewhere on his own and Paul and Guy are considering coming to the states in 2016 to do an American southwest field trip. So December 3 I am going to instead return to Costa Rica with my stepfather Joel. It will be part holiday with a bit of tarantula and reptile hunting thrown in. When I was last in Costa Rica in 2006 I was still using a film camera and my photos were very disappointing. I would love the opportunity to rephotograph a few species in situ.

February 2016 holds the possibility of Borneo and Malaysia. My 31,000 miles in the air February 2015 from Chicago to Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi to Tokyo to Chicago to Bristol to Chicago almost killed me. I'm not sure if I want to repeat the experience. But I absolutely loved Langkawi and the company of the Pennell extended family and may do anything it takes to return. But one thing you can count on is that March 5 I will be at the 14th BTS Lectures. Bristol, UK is my home away from home. To visit the Pennell's and Serious Ink, plus participate in the lectures again (don't know that I'll speak again this time) is something I won't miss.

Yours in spiders, ink and words, MJ


Tuesday night's Blog #18 was a list of "pet" peeves. Of that list common names and incorrectly written scientific names certainly rank high among my irritants. In the third issue of ARACHNOCULTURE magazine my "Back Page" article was titled "Dead Languages and Dumb Names". I thought I'd revisit that here with a few revisions and additions to bring it up to date and hopefully drive the points home.


Common means a lot of things.
Shared. Abundant. Generic. Frequent. Usual.
When I lived in the US south, "common" is often used to describe someone without tact or manners of any kind, like your neighbor who urinates outdoors behind his shed when he's out mowing the lawn.
Most people don't want to be common.

When it comes to naming creatures, authors have to be different.
That is, they not only have to use a unique name, but they have to follow rules.
And they can't create a name that is shared, abundant, generic, frequent or usual.
There is only one Homo sapiens. Well, actually there's about 6 billion of the buggers, but that's a whole different story.
The point is that there is only one organism that the name Homo sapiens refers to, even though you may call that organism "human", "man", "person", "cretin" or "mother".

Arachnids are also given unique names.
My favorite arachnid is called Poecilotheria subfusca.
No matter what language a person speaks and what word that person's language uses for tarantula,
Poecilotheria subfusca is understood to be a distinct theraphosid spider.
Everywhere. Anywhere.

But leave it to us Americans to throw a wrench in it all; muck it up as the Brits would say.
We're allergic to systems that make sense. Remember that metric thing?...
We use "common" names, even though there is nothing common about them.
In the rest of the world, hobbyists embrace the universal language of binomial nomenclature - the scientific name.
No, and allow me to stress this part, it's not a "Latin" name.
Many are "Latinized", but scientific names are also often derived from Greek and other languages, names of people, geographical areas and a bunch of other words.
Latin names are probably what ancient Catholic priests called one another or the boys they buggered.

So why do many hobbyists, particularly in the United States, have such an aversion to the scientific name?
My experience has shown that it comes down to wrongly believing they are complex and confusing, and an apprehension to pronouncing them.
Well, let's dispense with the latter swiftly; say the names phonetically and most everyone will know what you mean.
In other words, don't worry about it.
If you're a Canadian speaking to a Romanian you're going to pronounce everything differently.
As long as you can utter the correct scientific name in any manner, chances are you'll be understood.
Some names are "Latinized" and Latin is a dead language.
Even scholars don't agree on pronunciation.
Sound it out, listen to how others pronounce them and, when in doubt, accent the second to last syllable.
That's it.
(Well, and don't forget when writing that genus names are capitalized and species names begin with a lower case letter).

This last point is crucial. Specific epithets (species names) are all lower case. Why is this so difficult for people to learn? Poecilotheria subfusca or P. subfusca, but NEVER P. Subfusca. Since I wrote the original version of this rant we've all had smartphones glued into our hands. We focus on little else. But these phones aren't as smart as Apple and Samsung would have us believe. They don't know when you are writing a scientific name. If you type a period (i.e., dot) the keyboard will automatically switch to uppercase thinking you are starting a new sentence. You must take the two seconds to backspace, delete, and turn off the upper case before preceding. Don't be lazy. Typing on your phone is all you do. What's a few more keystrokes? Want to know a shortcut? Train yourself to leave off the period after the abbreviated genus. Just type P subfusca. That's why I often do. Clever, huh? Why is it that the majority of people you see posting on Faffbook and even dealers who type up sloppy lists still capitalize species names? What's even more aggravating is that some dealer lists have a mix of properly written and improperly capitalized species names, not to mention plenty of misspellings. Sloppy work disgusts me. Laziness is atrocious. These dealers are representing themselves to potential clientele. If they can't be bothered to spend time reviewing and editing don't bother them with your sales!

And what about this supposed complexity and confusion?
Which is more complex: the "giant Cameroon reddish-brown baboon spider" or Hysterocrates gigas?
Especially since Hysterocrates gigas is Hysterocrates gigas in English, French, German, and Dalek (whether it is actually that species or not, which is a whole other can of worms).
"Giant Cameroon reddish-brown baboon spider" could also be araignée brune rougeâtre géante de babouin du Cameroun, or riesige Kamerun rötliche braune Pavianspinne.
(Oddly, the online translators don't have Dalek!)
For some reason there is a thing called "Common Names of Arachnids by the American Arachnological Society Committee on Common Names of Arachnids."
As impressive as that redundant title might appear, it makes one wonder why an American group seems to be the only creator of such a list and why only the American Tarantula Society seems to print a list derived from it. I'll let you infer my disdain.
This "official" common names list gives us "Cameroon red tarantula" for Hysterocrates gigas.
Simpler yes, yet still meaningless.

What is it about Americans that requires the use of "common" names?
Are we just "common" like the uncouth neighbor mentioned at the beginning of this diatribe?
Well, some are; some aren't. Just like everywhere in the world"even in the land of Dr. Who's Daleks.
But I think it is about time American hobbyists ignored common name lists and elimated the confusion of "black bird-eater".

In conclusion, here is the concise version of this topical rant from Blog #18 so you don't have to look back:

    Taken from Blog #18 - 20 "PET" PEEVES

    2. Common Names. Speak or write an intelligent and international language. Don't be a simpleton.
    3. Scientific Names written incorrectly. I don't care how you pronounce a scientific name. As long as the person you are speaking to understands what you are referring to it's all good. And you're speaking an intelligent and international language. But don't write them like an ignoramus. Let's use Poecilotheria subfusca as our example. You can write out in full like I just did. Notice the italics that should be used if you can. You can even get fancy and write it with the species author as in Poecilotheria subfusca Pocock, 1895. Once the genus has been mentioned you can then abbreviate it as P. subfusca. But the genus always begins with an uppercase letter (i.e., capital) and the species name always is completely lower case. P. Subfusca is wrong and it drives me nucking futs. Even worse, I've seen some write as p. Subfusca. Must be some stylistic bullshit kinda like e.e. cummings using all lower case letters to write crap poetry. I see these errors every day and they are like nails scratched on a blackboard and send me into a rage. I know, my problem. I'm medicated. I'm trying. But it is flabbergasting how many knuckleheads haven't learned this simple protocol. I realize that "smart" phones switch to uppercase when you type a period. But you know that too. Take a second to make the correction or do what I do and just leave out the period for speed's sake. But don't capitalize the beginning of a species name (specific epithet).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


My first installment of "Memory Lane" was Blog #11 and covered my start in the pet industry in the early 1980s and American tarantula breeding pioneers like Allan McKee and Ralph Henning. This was the beginning of a serious tarantula hobby in the United States. It is easy for me to recall the timeline as I was an eager young tarantula and reptile keeper and breeder at the time. While managing the reptile department of Noah's Ark I spent equal time on my reptile and tarantula collections and learned a great deal from my two mentors, Scott Michaels for reptiles and Ralph Henning for tarantulas. But apprentice becomes master and my own projects leaped ahead in various incarnations of reptile and tarantula businesses.

The arachnid hobby was still in its infancy, but herpetoculture had already began to explode and my Jacobi Herpetoculture produced various colubrid snakes before progressing to pythons and boas. I left Noah's Ark to sell pet supplies and dog food for Strictly Animals in Wauconda, Illinois. The owner John Mellyn had an interesting reptile collection and became a customer of mine at Noah's Ark. It wasn't long before our friendship led to his asking me to come to work for him. John eventually began to focus more on primates and our Strictly Animals building expanded to include a huge room of macaques and other monkeys. The job was perfect for me as I could keep doing my own "Jacobi Herpetoculture" on the side and I began producing an increased number of snakes. But John shut down Strictly Animals to buy Snake Farm in Texas and move his exotic animal collection south. Left without a job I concentrated on my reptiles and spiders and started work towards opening a specialty reptile store I would call "Chicago Reptile". I began having realtors show me commercial space and started constructing display cages in my mother's basement. Then the first National Breeder's Expo in Orlando, Florida occurred in 1990. I had baby Dumeril's boas and Colombian boas to sell and it launched what has become 25 years of reptile shows all around the country. Chicago Reptile never came to be and years later Brian Potter started his own business called "Chicago Reptile House". He improved over my name and definitely improved on my success.

The following years saw me working a few "straight jobs", but my tarantula and reptile work was always ongoing. I always came back to the pet industry. The tarantulas were the one constant as my reptile projects tended to shift from colubrids to pythons to arboreal vipers to geckos and back to pythons along with geckos. The 1990s are a bit of a blur. I discovered the Internet and created the World of Atheris website, a comprehensive look at the African bush vipers. That website led to a commission by a German publisher to write a monograph on Atherini vipers. Klaus Dieter Schulz had written his own monograph on Elaphe (ratsnakes), many of which are now in other genera. Unfortunately, his Bushmaster Publications folded and the book never came to be. In recent years I took down World of Atheris because a German site had basically duplicated/copied my work and I no longer had time to keep WOA updated.

Jumping ahead to the turn of the century, on New Year weekend 1999/2000 I met my ex-wife. I was 36 and left Chicagoland for the first time. She was not into my spiders at all. She wasn't thrilled about the reptiles, but definitely was arachnophobic. I know, this should have been the "red flag" that should have saved me from 6 years of marriage and a great deal of money lost. But my collection had grown smaller and I sold everything and drove west. We started together on the Washington/Idaho border in Pullman, WA where she was completing a neuroscience Ph.D. at Washington State University. While she was doing that I did some peddling of reptiles and amphibians and got deeper into arboreal vipers. Eventually she graduated and got a post-doctoral fellowship at Vanderbilt University in 2001. That's how I got to Nashville. But I couldn't get a permit for my venomous snakes so once again everything had to be sold. Love makes you do stupid things.

My ex was extremely busy as soon as she arrived at Vanderbilt. I had plenty of time on my hands and had to get a business of my own going again. I found some inexpensive retail space to sublet and built a store called "The Living Terrarium and Spider Shoppe". I had already been selling tarantulas for 20 years, but this was the first time I had called myself "Spider Shoppe". I had used the name here and there, but now it was on the window of a store open for business. The "Living Terrarium" part of the shop was easy. I had a small front showroom and a larger back breeding room. The back became filled with Uroplatus, Rhacodactylus and Phelsuma geckos. My day gecko collection was expanding quickly as Doug Barr was in eastern Tennessee and he was focusing more on cage building. When he finally got completely out of geckos I bought everything. And I hired him to build some custom cages for my front showroom. The showroom had all sorts of reptiles and amphibians with plenty of dart frogs and loads of terrarium plants for sale.

Since the store was separate from our home I had no limitations. I immediately began rebuilding my spider collection and, thankfully, my wife became increasingly intrigued by them. It didn't matter though. The shop was mine and I quickly focused most of my effort on tarantula sales as my gecko projects continued. "The Spider Shoppe" became an online business and the tarantula hobby was beginning to see an influx of new species from Europe. Frank Somma of New York was importing from Denmark's Henrik Wessel Frank who is the original breeder of Poecilotheria. This is also when somebody named Pat Kane popped up on the scene. He began offering a variety of spiderling tarantulas as well. We didn't yet know that he was a thief. Soon it became known that he was working for Regal Reptiles and as he began to rip off people hobby wide it was soon disclosed that he was just a teenager. I can't tell you how many times I spoke to him on the phone - once or twice a week usually - and how much I bought from him before I knew that he was just some spoiled kid. He sounded much older and, to be honest, he never really ripped me off like he did others. Only at the very end did he owe me money and start selling me misidentified tarantulas. "Misidentified" is being too kind. If you wanted, for example, Brachypelma ruhnaui (now albiceps) he'd say he had them and then send you B. smithi slings. Tiny slings are hard to differentiate and he used this to his advantage.

The store was short lived. I was subletting the space from a currency exchange of sorts and the strip mall was sold and being renovated. I would have to get my own space with very expensive rent to stay. One of my store's good customers had a friend that had office space for rent and I was able to move to where I would have two 500 square foot units - one for my spiders and one for my reptiles. Plus he had a house my ex and I could also rent. I couldn't have been luckier. But this new space wasn't "retail frontage" so I stopped being open to the public and focused on the Internet and regional reptile shows. Every month my ex and I did the Kentucky Reptile Expo. I did shows throughout the southeastern U.S. But, like today, most of my sales were through my online store.

There were a number of tarantula dealers I was competing with. Many were "pseudo dealers" or "weekend warrior" like I describe in Blog #10. But the serious competition was Kelly Swift's Swift Inverts, John Hoke's e-spiderworld, Southern Spider Works, Krazy 8s Invertebrates, Bill Stanton, Art Cerda and Golden Phoenix Exotica. Alex Orleans of Tarantulas.com, who I would later work for, was a supplier and buyer, but he's always kept a low profile and focused on his wholesale business. Many of us were buying from Frank Somma. I'd speak to Frank a couple times a week and Swifty and I also chatted at least every week and John Hoke would become a good friend. Competition was friendly and most everyone got along except for Art Cerda. He was an asshat and an outsider. It shouldn't be a surprise that only Swifty and I still survive. We're like roaches ;)

I'll spare you the story, but the marriage ended. I gave up the house we were renting and moved into my business space. My landlord had a shower in the basement of his adjoining shop and I lived with my reptiles and spiders for awhile. This was between the two ArachnoCons. They took place in San Antonio in 2006 and 2007 and were an Arachnoboards event. However, I did a lot of the work with Debby and became responsible for the guest speakers, the ArachnoExpo sales part and the website. In 2007 I asked Alex to speak about his recent trip to Malaysia where he saw the "Singapore Blue". At the time we were calling it "Cyriopagopus sp. Blue". We hadn't yet learned that it was Lampropelma violaceopes. I had yet to meet Alex, but as I wrote above I was buying some of his surplus spiders, primarily arboreals like Avicularia and Poecilotheria. He had taken the "spider guy" at his company with him to Malaysia and he said that he, Dan Ventura, would do the lecture instead. Alex has always preferred to just breed tarantulas and be pretty invisible in the hobby. This was also the year that we flew in Volker von Wirth and Martin Huber from Germany. We got a poker game going and Alex was a player and we hit it off. We began speaking more often after ArachnoCon and I told him that I wasn't sure if I'd stay in Nashville. The split and eventual divorce had hurt me emotionally and financially. I basically kept my animals including our dog and my clothes and she took everything else. Alex offered me a job and I jumped at the change. I had already began to sell off my geckos to keep afloat and make space for me to live in the shop. Alex said he would buy all of my arboreal tarantulas as he and I shared the passion for tree-dwellers. So I sold everything I couldn't fit in a minivan and moved to Seattle. I took over Tarantulas.com. The "Spider Shoppe" went into hiatus in 2007 and wasn't reborn until 2013.

Tarantulas.com was the original arachnid hobbyist Internet forum. However, Arachnoboards had gotten huge and the forum at Tarantulas.com wasn't something I wanted to moderate. There was a situation when some douchebag posted some nonsense about Kelly Swift, and Swifty called me all upset about it. He wanted me to delete it immediately. I had just taken over the site and that division of the much bigger business and didn't even have the power or ability to delete it! My old friend Kelly had a bit of a temper tantrum. I was overwhelmed by my move and my new responsibilities. I realized that I didn't want to moderate a forum and once I got the passwords, etc. I shut down Tarantulas.com as a forum. I eventually redesigned the site completely and that revision still stands today.

Alex had no interest in retail sales, but I told him I would handle all of that and began selling through Tarantulas.com. Today all that is left is my care information as it shut down completely when I eventually quit to return to the Chicago area after the tragic and sudden death of my mother. But from 2007-2012 I managed Northwest Zoological Supply and continued the retail sales of our tarantulas through Tarantulas.com. Our biggest customer was Petco and we also had another 100+ independent pet stores, but I made time to keep selling tarantulas even if Alex and I did run out of time to do much in the way of breeding. Then tragedy ... I lost my mom and decided to move back to be with my sister, her family and my stepfather. We were all devastated. I bought my house in Huntley while driving across Montana. As soon as I moved in I started importing and selling tarantulas. I held back everything of interest and finally by last summer my breeding projects began to take off. And that's where I'll leave you. In the next "trip down memory lane" we will tell the story of the Huntley version of "Michael Jacobi's SPIDERSHOPPE".

Thanks for reading, MJ


1. My new Kiss My Big Hairy Spider Faffbook page is only 24 hours old and already has 150 likes. This is where I will post each new blog entry so please LIKE and, more importantly, FOLLOW. I've noticed that my posts there so far show only an average of 40 reached, which I hope is because not everyone has looked at their news feed yet and not that many "LIKERS" are not also "FOLLOWERS". The whole reason I created a KMBHS Faffbook page is so that I wouldn't announce in other groups where I would be violating rules on external links to other websites or pages that contain profanity.

2. Last weekend was a blast! Not only did I have the Pennell Family from Bristol, England as house guests all week, but I had a small gathering on Friday night that turned into quite the whiskey shooting extravaganza. Jason Newland was fresh back from 7 months in Peru and brought some killer award-winning wings from Crosstown Pub in Naperville. But what excited him was finally getting the spiders I had been caring for while he was gone back, which included some new ones he had ordered while in Peru and hadn't even seen yet. Plus I sent him away with a few gifts to get his collection going again. First to arrive was another best bud. Chad Campbell hauled ass down from Minneapolis and arrived noonish. We started drinking immediately and he brought some fine beer and spirits to add to the mix. Also down from Minnesota was David Lawrence who picked up some nice spiders I had been holding for him. I really appreciate all the people who drove so far to hang with us. John Apple and Norman Lee Culp came from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Randy Jr. And Randy Sr. Martinez were in attendance as was Jaimie Little and her fiancé Scott and so were my sister Lisa and bonus dad Joel. Spider room tours were given, spiders left with guests leaving me with fewer months to feed, whiskey shots were thrown back and pizza and wings were plentiful. I'm sure Mark, Kim and Brandon were amused by the assortment of Americans.

3. My watermark remains controversial. Somehow that and my copyright notices bother some asshats. They are clueless and beyond my desire to educate. I ignore as I always refuse to have battles of wits with unarmed men (or women). Some Simon Geary twat from Leicestershire, UK posted an egg sac pic complete obliterated with my logo. Perhaps I should pummel some fucking manners into him the next time I am over in Blighty. An AB Admin removed his retarded post. What troubles me is how the Internet has created this culture where manners are gone, people steal intellectual property with cavalier disregard or ignorance and people go out of their way to be argumentative or disrespectful. There are so many douchebags who think they are clever or funny when they're not, and go out of their way to stir up shit. 

4. So many topics are coming to mind, but they're all worthy of a dedicated blog entry. I just hope I remember them all. I guess I'll push on to #19B, which is today's primary blog.

But thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment below each posting and engage me in further discussion. Your opinion counts.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Pet Peeves

  1. Puns. "Pet" Peeves was a stupid title. :)
  2. Common Names. Speak or write an intelligent and international language. Don't be a simpleton.
  3. Scientific Names written incorrectly. I don't care how you pronounce a scientific name. As long as the person you are speaking to understands what you are referring to it's all good. And you're speaking an intelligent and international language. But don't write them like an ignoramus. Let's use Poecilotheria subfusca as our example. You can write out in full like I just did. Notice the italics that should be used if you can. You can even get fancy and write it with the species author as in Poecilotheria subfusca Pocock, 1895. Once the genus has been mentioned you can then abbreviate it as P. subfusca. But the genus always begins with an uppercase letter (i.e., capital) and the species name always is completely lower case. P. Subfusca is wrong and it drives me nucking futs. Even worse, I've seen some write as p. Subfusca. Must be some stylistic bullshit kinda like e.e. cummings using all lower case letters to write crap poetry. I see these errors every day and they are like nails scratched on a blackboard and send me into a rage. I know, my problem. I'm medicated. I'm trying. But it is flabbergasting how many knuckleheads haven't learned this simple protocol. I realize that "smart" phones switch to uppercase when you type a period. But you know that too. Take a second to make the correction or do what I do and just leave out the period for speed's sake. But don't capitalize the beginning of a species name (specific epithet).
  4. Calling scientific names "Latin names". More tarantula names are derived from Greek than Latin and names are also derived from geographical places, honorifics (people's names), etc.
  5. Handling. Arachnids are not companion animals. There is no symbiosis, no mutual bond. Your interaction is irresponsible and selfish and, at worse, endangers the arachnid. They receive no pleasure. You receive no affection. Leave them the flock alone. Observe. Marvel. Enjoy. Don't touch.
  6. Pseudonyms. Use your real name. Don't be a coward or hide behind some silly persona. As admin of the BTS Faffbook I deny all join requests from people using pseudonyms. On my personal page I accept no pseudonym users as "friends". Mark Pennell and I were behind the "Campaign for Real User Names" years ago. We forced all BTS Forum members to use their names. I always wished Arachnoboards would have followed suit. Hiding behind your keyboard and typing your opinions without signing your actual name to them is cowardice. If you like some "cutesy" handle at least have the decency and manners to sign your posts with your real name. I'm not having a conversation with some "SpiderDude123456".
  7. People who ship via USPS. See Blog #9. Criminals.
  8. People who brown box. See Blog #15. Criminals.
  9. Pseudo Dealers. See Blog #10. Jokers.
  10. Photo Thieves. See Blog #7. Criminals.
  11. Lists that exceed ten.
  12. The cancellation of Hannibal after three seasons.
  13. Faffbook. Friend Face. Facebook. I'm on my third personal page. Twice before I was smart enough to stay away from Zuckerberg's cesspool of diarrhea for a period of time. Then I gave in, again. Now I have 600 "friends". How many will be at my funeral? 
  14. Religion.
  15. Cucumbers and olives.
  16. Democrats and Republicans.
  17. Lazy writers who use "ur" or "u" or "2" or other shortcuts, and poor writers that write "your" when they mean "you're" and "their" when they mean "there" and vice versa.
  18. Private messages on forums or Faffbook. Please email and write an intelligent letter. You're really not too busy to craft a letter instead of a texty, tweety blurb.
  19. Faffbook. It deserves to be listed twice. I hate that I can't cut it out of my life. Instagram is so much cooler.
  20. Writing lists.