Friday, April 8, 2016


I posted in the comments of yesterday's "Happy Birthday" blog stating that those of you who are eager beavers and read my blogs as soon as they post are getting rough drafts. It a strange dichotomy. I painstakingly edit and rewrite my articles. I complete re-work articles submitted to the BTS for publication in the Journal or Newsletter. I mercilessly weigh every word and look for any that can be removed. I run through spell-check set to UK English (for the BTS). I scrutinize, analyze and circumsise. Then I get a fresh set of eyes on it, usually those of Stuart Longhorn and Guy Tansley.

However, this blog is just my free-form speed typing, and I can type pretty damn rapidly. I usually hit the spell-check, but it mostly highlights technical and arachno words that just aren't in this Blogger's dictionary. After pecking out my blog entry I click publish. Then I re-read and find errors. Then an hour later I remember something I wanted to add, or clarify, or delete. Then I notice other minor errors and I end up editing each blog entry another several times.

The point: I usually post early in the morning when the sun is still sleeping and I am on my first cup of coffee. The smart reader will wait until afternoon, or perhaps the following day, to read my blog. It evolves over its first few hours online. I know I should spend time editing it, but this isn't a Journal article. It's just my conversation (albeit one-sided, for the most part) with you. It has warts. That may add character, but those like Mr. Patterson and Mr. Campbell, who I know catch up weekly, get to read finished products. The handful of people that view the post within minutes of posting are getting only the initial draft.


One thing I edited into yesterday's entry was further comment about one unnamed dealer (you're smart, you'll figure it out). I'm fresh out of fucks and out of business so I really am not bothered, but I just wanted to educate y'all about the disturbing trend where American importer dealers are really making money for their German exporters and are struggling themselves because the American tarantula hobby is shit - at least from a commercial standpoint. One ill-advised practice is buying what you can't afford and having to quickly pay off an order after the fact. I prepaid every import I every transacted. I am a cash sort of guy. I don't believe in credit. I can afford what I want. But struggling dealers will try to put up half and pay half upon arrival. That means they must quickly make some sales and get money to send to Germany. YES, YOU ARE SUPPORTING GERMAN DEALERS not "buying American". So, especially in the case of the dealer I hinted at, who knows even less about business than he does about tarantulas, he has developed a secret list of friends and loyal customers. He offers species dirt cheap, shitting on market values, to his exclusive group of secret handshake buyers so he can get the funds to pay back an exporter who told me point blank in person at the BTS Exhibition last year that he can only stay in business if he has this American distributing his spiders for him. So our American friend is just a tool. Double entendre perhaps? Allegedly? Everything is alleged ;)


Since I mentioned the BTS Exhibition, I may as well go on about how excited I am for the May 22, 2016 event. I no longer buy anything and have allowed my import permit to lapse. So, why am I so damn excited. Because it is my 10th trip to the UK and I will be spending a week before the Exhibition in my home-away-from-home Bristol with my brother-from-another-mother Mark Pennell and his lovely wife Kim and my special "niece" Brandon! Plus the complete crew of Pennell family and friends that have become my second family. Only about 35 days until I catch yet another flight to Dublin and then on to Bristol. One week later the Pennell's and I will drive 90 minutes northeast to the Midlands where the event will be held this year for the first time at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre. We will have 2200 square meters with about 190 tables of arachnids, phasmids, mantids, beetles, books, art, supplies, etc. etc. etc. I care nothing about the live goods, but will look for books and art. I also am the official competition judge and photographer this year. That is another duty that Chairman Peter Kirk has passed on to me. My dear mates Rayzor and Ange Hale are the hosts and organizers of the Exhibition, which this year will celebrate its 31st year. It's a fabulous weekend, despite the fact that everyone is so friggin' busy. The Committee is, the traders are, and even the buyers are distracted and only focused on bug buying. As I've said before, the February Lectures is the better place to socialize.


I certainly am anxious to travel again. I just don't feel right when I am at home for any stretch of time. However, my new business is getting closer to opening and - IF ALL GOES WELL - I will begin moving into my new space just before I leave for the UK. So, I will have to reduce my traveling a bit as I focus on earning a living once again. I prefer retirement and could just keep coasting along, but I need to keep busy and get out of the house.

I do think I'll be making a quick Texas camping trip in two weeks. I originally had another 3 week road trip to Arizona planned, but cancelled that to focus on other responsibilities. However, a couple hotel rooms are paid for and can't be refunded so I think I am going to go chase a few spiders and do some photography. I have a brand new one-man tent and a new sleeping bag designed for side-sleepers like me that I am looking forward to trying out. I think I'll hit the State Park near Laredo and the same on Lake Amistad near Del Rio. Hopefully I can scare up some A. anax and A. moderatum and maybe some herps.

For those keeping score, it continues to rain, sleet, snow here and I'd love to get south. As I type this (on the 8th of April), I am watching some snow fall.

All the best, MJ

Thursday, April 7, 2016


The spider in the photograph below is one year old today. This image was captured only moments ago. The depicted yearling tarantula is one of only three remaining holdbacks of the offspring of the Harpactira pulchripes sac I successfully hatched. It was the first American breeding, and was the crown jewel of a half dozen or so American firsts I produced in a short stretch. Today seems like a good time to tell the complete saga of how these then highly coveted "golden blue-legged baboon spiders" made it to America. I was the first to import the species into the US and the first to breed it. Therefore, I feel like I am the only one to tell its American story. It was a passionate pet project of mine that didn't live up to expectations despite the great success. I invested a great deal of money and my was able to produce them and drop the US price from $350 to about $200. But they did not sell as briskly as one would have thought. American hobbyists - overall - are cash poor. Perhaps they should spend less time on Faffbook and work more. And now it seems like at least one dealer is hastily reducing its value. His business model has become: I'll sell cheap to my friends as soon as import lands so I can pay back my German exporter who is the only one making money off of American spider sales. But that's a whole 'nother rant ... Still, that was inevitable as even Thrigmopoeus psychedelicus, or whatever the current flavor of the month now, will quickly follow suit. Fact is, no bug is worth many dollars. It's an illusion that dealers (including myself during my former career) create. Some are just more larcenous than others, and others just clueless. Bugs are just bugs, but everyone chases the next wonder, especially if it's blue. There's no money in bugs. The high rollers are in the reptile world. They've created the illusion that this long-named paint job makes this ball python more than just a friggin' $25 snake. Kudos to them. Tell ya what, the next time I hatch H. pulchripes (I'm still working with 3 females and have the three yearlings for a hopeful male), I'll make sure they are affordable to all.

This yearling Harpactira pulchripes reached 2nd instar on April 7, 2015. It was the first hatched in the U.S.

It seemed like the South African species popped out of nowhere. It was virtually unknown before "someone" allegedly "collected" [read: smuggled] it from its dry earth home in eastern South Africa  to a "European" spider room. Then there was a hatching. I was able to import one single spiderling Harpactira pulchripes from that small, and in rabid demand, eggsac. It was the gem among a big import order I placed with Lee Ardern of The Spider Shop, Wales, UK. I paid £140 for the lone spiderling. With the exchange rate at the time and all the costs of the shipment spread out across the value of the 500 or so spiders imported, my cost was $249.19. This first spiderling to live in America arrived on June 16, 2013. He eventually matured male. Sadly, it was long before I had mature females. 250 bucks wasn't bad for the only one in the U.S., especially as it will still be a long time before American dealers had them and they would ask for $350-400.

Of interest are some of the other species received along with my first lone H. pulchripes. The other highlights in the box were Avicularia hirschii (which I would go on to produce a sac of but never hatch), Avic and Tap Colombia (both of which I would be the first to produce), and the first "Omothymus sp. hatihati" in the U.S. plus some Ornithoctoninae sp. Laos and Pterinopelma sazamai.

My next three H. pulchripes were also imported from Lee. They found their way to my spider room on September 10, 2013. They were a bit bigger and the demand had begun to grow. Few were available at it would still be some time before these would be offered in the states. This time his price was £165 and he only had three available to me. I snapped them up and my final adjusted cost was $300.96 each.

The goodies that shared that box included Heterometrus swammerdami, both Pachistopelma rufonigrum and P. bromelicola (both I would go on to be the first American breeder of), more "hatihati", Haplocosmia himalayana, Xenesthis immanis, Monocentropus balfouri and some of the first Dolicothele (then Oligoxystre) diamantinensis plus about twenty other species.

I now had four slings and fed them well. A short time later I heard that a few others had trickled into the U.S. I knew I would be the first to breed them if I could only get some females. However, as these four grew (just ask Chad or Jason on how fast my Ts grow!), they were all confirmed male. If I was a tinfoil hat conspiracy nut, I'd think that the fucking Germans could sex them right out of the sac. I had to buy a female!

In March 2014, I acquired two females and a mature male. That would be the short story. The long one is quite involved and I will divulge it here. Until now, only a handful of confidants are privy to the tale I'm about to tell. But I won't tease you along. Your first question will probably be how much I paid for these two females and the male. The truth is that I don't recall. The amount was obscene. Previous to these two girls the most I had ever paid for a spider was $500 for an adult female Poecilotheria metallica when they were relatively new to the hobby. That's a story in itself so allow me to digress a bit here ... The reader's digest version is that one of my most annoying customers at the retail shop I had in Nashville (The Living Terrarium & Spider Shoppe) bought all kinds of expensive bugs from me. Then he had to have an adult female P. metallica and Kelly Swift sold him one. For $1000! This young customer changed his mind every five minutes and had more money than sense by a longshot. Not too long after coughing up a cool grand to Swifty I was able to talk him out of it for $500. He ate the other five bills just because that week he happened to be in a Xenesthis or monitor lizard mood.

OK, back to the über-expensive Harpactira pulchripes females ... on the record sheet that I tracked every single spider that went through SPIDERSHOPPE I have their price recorded as "mega". Don't believe me? Check out this screen cap:

For the sake of discussion let's just say that the three spiders were three thousand dollars. That's an even figure in the vicinity at least. There were also the costs of importing and shipping and, as you are about to read, the path to me was a convoluted corkscrew of possum shit.

I eventually did receive the spiders alive on March 13, 2014, as you can see from the screen cap. It was the day of the first ArachnoGathering. And the spiders were at Tinley with us.

To be honest, my memory isn't what it used to be, but I'll try to recount the events. I became obsessed with locating female H. pulchripes, but realized full well that it was a search that was likely to be unsuccessful. Who would want to give up females of what was then the hot new spider? My persistence eventually paid off. On Terraristik Anzeigen I caught wind of a group that might be available and negotiations also took place via Facebook. The seller was a German. That was no surprise. I make no accusations. I allege nothing. But almost every single "new species" pops up in Germany first. You do the math.

However, I will tell you the facts. I have nothing against Germans and have some good friends among German arachnoculturists. However, the country has had more than its share of sellers of animals of questionable origin. Let's just say that. Those that might have access to surprising species often use assumed names on social media. That was the case with my seller. I began to know him by a completely fictitious name that he used on Facebook (Tim Köhler). I did not learn his real name until it came time for me to wire him a significant sum of money. In addition to the very high cost of my 1.2 Harpactira pulchripes, I was also obtaining a pair of Theraphosinae sp. Panama from him for Jason Newland.

Before I sent the money, "Tim" was in contact with me frequently. We went back and forth via Facebook Messenger. The first thing that struck me with how his ability to write English went back and forth from terrible to good. This isn't the first time I've encountered this phenomenon among animal peddlers. He could understand what he wanted to hear, but not what he didn't. He could write what he wanted from you, but not write a response to your own questions. I began to consider backing out of the deal, but I was completely obsessed with the species and I had to acquire females regardless of cost or hassle. I started looking at plane tickets to Germany to pick them up by hand. The big Hamm reptile show was coming up and, at some point, Tim (turned out that is his first name, but Köhler, which means "cool" is a pseudonym), said he would be at the show. I started thinking my safest bet was to travel to Germany, but Tim wanted the money first. The only thing that kept me from backing out of the deal is that I was chatting with Russ Gurley and found out that he had done business with him as well. It was then that I learned that Russ had a few of the species himself.

After much deliberation I sent this anonymous German four grand or so. I had asked everyone I knew about him and everyone agreed that he was a complete flake and a shady character, but that it was very unlikely I would be ripped off. I actually didn't worry so much about the latter. I had made my purchase high profile enough that the European community would be aware of any rip off and he would be done, plus I had no qualms about catching a plane to Deutschland to stand my boot upon his temple.

With the money sent and received, I began to hear very little from Tim. He was constantly in contact when he wanted my money, but disappeared for long stretches after he had it. I became very anxious and very angry. We had cooked up a plan where Russ would pick up the spiders at the Hamm show. He was going there and could then drop them off with Reptile Industries' European distributor. They were running a service for American buyers at the German reptile show where they would export your purchases back to the Reptile Industries compound in Florida and then ship them via FedEx to the buyer. So many things to go wrong ...

Eventually I got in touch with both Tim and Russ (Russ is also notoriously difficult to reach via either phone or email!) and they agreed to text each other while at the show. But then I heard nothing from them for an excruciatingly frustrating amount of time. I was wound like a top. I sent so many unanswered messages to both of them. I was cussing myself out for being so reckless. I wanted to head to O'Hare and get my ass to Germany.

Somehow, some way, I eventually got word from Russ that he had the spiders. I almost had a cardiac event. He said that this douchebag (Tim Ranl is his real name) texted him, but refused to go out of his way to meet Russ somewhere at the venue. He ended up unceremoniously just leaving them at some friends booth where, thankfully, Russ was able to retrieve them.

In the meantime, I had been doing some paperwork and correspondence with Reptile Industries in Florida, which is owned by Mark and Kim Bell, two reptile world legends who have an amazing facility. I first met them when they were much greener and were mostly selling colubrid snakes that Mark was breeding. They were living in Michigan and actually exhibited at our podunk local show when it was still Lee Watson's Reptile Swap. I was going to IHS symposia thirty years ago that the Bell's would attend. Nowadays, Kim runs the business and Mark enjoys his herds of tortoises and other critters. It's become huge. It seems Kim has gone out of her way to create a largely female office staff and I did not enjoy working with them at all. I was beginning to wonder if one competent person would ever be involved in this transaction, which, let's remember, was five spiders and a fistful of hundos. Even dealing with RI became a hassle.

I heard nothing more from Tim, Russ or even the girls at RI for some time. Eventually, I contacted RI to ask when they were going to ship my spiders. They said they were all fine and in their office. They said they "looked skinny" so a couple had been offered crickets and ate. They had planned to ship in a couple of days. I heard nothing more so I called and said, "will you be shipping soon?" They said they had the day before. I said, 'WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!!!". No word on shipping, no email with tracking number, no nothing. I said do you have a tracking number. They did. But it proved that they had shipped by spiders to FUCKING ARIZONA! I lost my mind. Some poor girl had to listen to me berate her about the cost of these spiders and the brutal experience the entire process of obtaining them had already been. It turns out they sent them to some gecko guy in AZ. Don't know how they could make that big of a mistake. They never even apologized. I learned after the fact that RI ceased doing the Hamm imports because my error was the final straw in their frustration with facilitating the export and import. They blamed their European distributor for everything. One big problem was all I instructed Ranl was to put my name and species on containers as RI had instructed me. Instead, the moron put Gurley's name and you could barely read it and no species. RI got confused. And, once again, never apologized. They did, however, get the gecko guy in AZ on the phone. He had received the spiders and, no doubt, was shocked when he opened his box. Reptile Industries asked for his return shipment and said they would provide the shipping label and send a FedEx driver to pick it up. The gecko guy said he had no heat packs and, get this, didn't have enough money to buy hand warmers at Home Depot or something. I was furious. RI said they would send him heat packs. It may have been mild in AZ and Florida, but it wouldn't be in between.

So now, after being shipped from Germany to wherever to Florida to Arizona, the spiders would be shipped back to Florida for repacking and then sent on to me outside of Chicago. What an ordeal. It turns out that RI would re-ship them on the Thursday before the NARBC Tinley Park, which was the day before my first ArachnoGathering and set-up for the show. I had planned to leave my house with my truckload of booth at 9:30 a.m., but now would have to wait on the FedEx driver. I had rented a big cargo van and filled it with spiders and displays, plus all the stuff for ArachnoGathering and my luggage. I sat in my cold Huntley driveway with the van running waiting for the FedEx guy. It was March in Chicago and, even with all of the problems so far, all I was worried about that morning was that the spiders weren't freezing on the FedEx delivery truck. Once he arrived, I quickly opened the box while sitting behind the driver's seat. To my horror, the spiders were terribly packed. This idiot Tim had delivered them to Hamm on that clay desert lizard substrate in big, cheap plastic deli containers. Of course, Reptile Industries is used to shipping wild-caught rose hairs in the same deli cups they were imported in. They don't know any better. Much to my surprise all the spiders were alive and unharmed. They couldn't have been packed worse. I was pissed at everyone involved, but overjoyed to see a mature male and two females, one of which was larger than I had any idea the species I could get.

Many of the people who attended Tinley at the first ArachnoGathering got to take a peak at my prize spiders. The smaller of the two females from Ranl is the mother of the spider that began this long blog entry. One of the second group I imported - the three larger spiderlings - was the father of my H. pulchripes sac (if memory serves). The details would be in the linked posts below.

That is the tale of how the first "golden blue-legged baboon spiders" made it to America and the story of the ordeal of obtaining adults in order to successfully breed them. There is an Arachnoboards photo thread I created with my pix from various stages of the process. There also is a Breeding Report that details my first American breeding. If you have the time, these two AB threads are good companions to this lengthy tale. I hope you've enjoyed.


Monday, April 4, 2016


Here are the comments I've received:

April 3, 2016 at 6:58 PM

Suggestion time
Some true talk
Suggestion time
Some insect talk
Suggestion time
Tat talk
Suggestion time
Insitu in USA....
HEH HEH.....just bustin Mikes chops

(John) Apple

April 3, 2016 at 9:15 PM

Here's your orange.

(Chad Campbell)


"Some true talk"

I expect John wants me to talk about araneomorph spiders. I just did! Did you see the article on Heteropoda sp. I co-authored with Tom Patterson in the Journal of the British Tarantula Society 31(1)? I know you did. I saw your comment. That wasn't enough?!?

For those of you who don't know my bro Apple like I do, he's a simple guy. With full-color complete arm tattoo sleeves, long grey billy goat beard and heavy arachnid-themed silver jewelry I'm sure he scares the neighbors. I know I do. But we all know that he is just an alien robot masquerading as a human and programmed to spout everything about native "true" spiders.

Q: "Hey John, do you need another beer or want to order some food"

A: "I could eat. Do you know that Araneus trifolium make it sausage pizza has white bands on the legs and I'll have a Tiger after this hit, but the brightest orange shamrock spiders can be called pumpkin spiders. Chicago pizza is awesome."

This is how our conversations go. John has his own language. You could ask him about ISIS and he will reply with some obscure araneomorph that only lives under yellow pine boards in limestone cellars near meth labs.

@phormingochilus Chad "Advan" mountain man Campbell is, on the other hand, a man of few words – and many beers. "Here's your orange". A conversation starter if there ever was one. He's not like an apple.

Back to John ... "insect talk" ... mosquitos and flies suck. I harm no other creatures, but will smack them dead with pleasure. Done. Seriously, I love all creepy crawlies, but am no entomologist. My favorite insects are very difficult to photograph, especially if you have a short temper and little patience like me. Fuck taking photos of butterflies. I gave up on that in Suriname in 2012. Dragonflies and damselflies... easier but I don't have the patience to sit in wait. The dobsonflies I found outside our bungalows in Costa Rica this past December were pretty damn cool. When I travel with Paul Carpenter and Guy Tansley, they know all the bugs and identify them for me. But I'll stick to spiders and herps...

"Tat talk" - you and I have loads. What else is there to say. Actually as they're complete sleeves they are many that have become one. I figure I'm at about 70-80 hours of ink. Looking forward to another 5 or 6 from Mark in England in 40 days and a couple from Brandon as well. I think that's all my readers really want to hear about tattooing. Let's move on ...

"Insitu in USA" - you're going to have to translate that from Apple to English for me. Of course, the term "in situ" is Latin for "on site" or "in position". I most commonly use it when I share my photographs. Strictly, in situ (at least as it refers to photography) means that the live subject was photographed (or filmed) in nature exactly where it was found. However, IMO, it qualifies as in situ if it was found in nature, but photographed in a controlled setting perhaps away from collecting site before being released back where it was found.

But what does "Insitu in USA" mean? I'll give you a little tease ... this phrase may become more important to me soon. There are loads of interesting arachnids in the USA, and I don't always have to circumnavigate the globe to find the "grass is greener" exotics. Ponder on that. Let's just say that I intend to take a trip to Texas in late April and it will just be a beginning.


PS - As a call back to the recent blog entry, last night's season finale of The Walking Dead was gripping. Terror, brutality, cliffhanger.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


1. It's fucking snowing. Not really. Not by Chicago standards. Just flurries. But it's enough to piss me off. Yesterday I might have thought it a prank. Today it can fuck off.

2. Boycotts? Do they work? I doubt it as the only businesses you're likely to boycott are mega corporations with plenty of non-boycotting patrons. One of my favorite places is Starbucks, but I am starting my boycott of them. That's big for me. There's nothing I love more than Starbucks. They won't care, but my principle is that I don't patronize any place that doesn't allow my constitutional and legal right to carry a concealed handgun. I've known the Starbucks has some "company policy" to that effect, but in Illinois that means fuck all unless they post the no gun (actually, no Beretta pistol) sticker on the entrances. My Starbucks in Huntley doesn't have this regulated and designated sticker on the door. So I haven't taken an anti-Starbucks stance. Yesterday I went to one in the neighboring town and couldn't walk in. I'm done with them. I'll keep making my Black Rifle Coffee Company beans at home in the morning. I only wish Costa was in America (that's the Starbucks equivalent in the UK). Now I know this is my big hairy spider blog and not my triggercontrol blog, but the point is more on whether boycotting is pointless than on my specific reason to boycott any business. The point is that these mega corporations don't care about irrelevant me, even if I am a member of one of America's largest and strongest ranks. And instead of focusing on their product (exceptional espresso beans making 1000 different versions of a simple cup of Joe), these mega corporations want to play politics. They want to adopt a position on an issue. Make fucking coffee you knob headed twats! BTW, if you share my reason, don't go to Buffalo Wild Wings either. I'm not sure why anyone would anyway. The food is shit and the atmosphere is family chaos and overwhelming sports bar gaudiness.

3. The Dead Pool - No, I know nothing about the movie or the story. Not my genre. I'm referring to all the greats we have lost recently. Lemmy, David Bowie, Ronnie Corbett, Glenn Frey, Alan Rickman and, recently, the great Keith Emerson. That's just a short list of those who went to the dirt in 2016 (actually Lemmy was December 28, but it started all this madness). Vanity. Remember her? Prince's protege? Dead at 57. Garry Shandling? I didn't even know that one until today. Happened just over a week ago. I don't read or watch news so I pick things up in the wind. Lemmy was a big shocker because although he was 70, had cancer, and inside was probably 200, he just seemed like he would live forever. Most recently, I was more troubled by the loss of Keith Emerson. I was a huge ELP fan as a kid (and today) and eventually his death was ruled suicide. I'd mention the "fifth Beatle" George Martin but, for fuck's sake, he was 90. Nobody should be alive at 90.

Well, I hope this brings your weekend off to a cheery start. I promise the next blog entry will be all about spiders. Or at least critters. Actually I have an idea... Maybe I'll post something big. Something that you'd want to share on FriendFace, Arachnoboreds, and Twatter. Something that would bring in new readers and maybe keep KMBHS going. 'Cause I ask for comments and I get only my bro Apple. I ask for questions, suggestions, etc. and mostly I get more Apple. Someone toss me a dadgum Orange.


PS - UPDATE: the gentle snow flurries have turned to sleet/hail. Off to my loading press and then an afternoon of guitar riffle. Fuck Chicago and living close to family. I've got to return to my gypsy life.