Tuesday, May 31, 2016

#124 - BTS EXHIBITION 2016

My customary jet lag is finally shaken and I thought I'd file a report on the 31st annual BTS Exhibition while I have my first cup of coffee of the day.

31 years. It may be hard to believe, but the BTS is the world's oldest ongoing tarantula society and by far the best and most successful. The annual exhibition has been organized by Ray and Angela Hale for the past 25 years, and they do an absolutely brilliant job of making it better each year. The Hales are the backbone of the BTS. Ange has been responsible for our Head Office for quite some time, and Rayzor now sits as Vice Chairman of our great society.

Great photo by sukisuki.co.uk of Ray and Ange Hale. Such a lovely couple. Can't believe they have been married for 33 years. He must have married Ange when she was 7. They are responsible for the best arachnid exhibition in the world.
This was my 10th trip to the UK. My first was for the 2006 Exhibition, where I was actually a vendor. Yes, that's right. I didn't bring spiders, of course. Europe has always been the world power in arachnoculture with America not much more than a far distant imposter. But in 2005 I had launched my ARACHNOCULTURE magazine, and my stand at the 2006 event marketed subscriptions and back issues along with some American tarantula books (e.g., Marshall and Schultz). My own Tarantulas (Animal Planet Pet Care Library) wasn't published until 2011.

For as long as I have been aware of it, the BTS Exhibition has always been held in England's Midlands. This gives a central location for UK residents. In 2014, the Exhibition made a huge leap. It had grown continually over the years and traders from all over Europe were now showcasing their wares. Previous events were primarily held at schools. My first in 2006 was in a school gymnasium that had been used for years. However, with the 2014 Exhibition we hired Ricoh Arena, a first class venue and put on what was the best Exhibition yet. It is located in Coventry, which is in the Midlands, just south of Birmingham. There were some hiccups including using a second floor exhibit hall that necessitated using a freight elevator (or as they say, "lift"). I was in charge of running the traders up and down in the lift and I worked it so hard it finally broke. We ended up having to help late-arriving exhibitors up the stairs with their stuff. In 2015, we rented the larger exhibit hall on the ground floor of the Ricoh and put on what we thought was the show to end all shows. We didn't think we'd ever move elsewhere. However, the Arena had new owners and they attempted to extort us to resign for this year. They were politely told to fuck off.

So, Ray and Ange did what they've always done. They've busted their asses to make the BTS Exhibition the finest arachnid/invertebrate show. That's not my own hyperbole. People always talk about Hamm and Marbach in Germany, but every single European trader including the Germans tell us straight up that the BTS Exhibition is the best in the world. When we started at the Ricoh the Hales partnered up with Pandora Events who would help with the hotel bookings and such. Working with Pandora, Ray and Ange located the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre in Leamington Spa. Not as fancy and modern as the Ricoh, but even larger at 2200 square meters of exhibition space, the WEC proved to be the ideal venue. Attendees and traders alike preferred it to the Ricoh. The staff were brilliant and every single thing about the day from the parking to the food to the lighting to the access was superior to the Ricoh Arena. Our host hotel was the Holiday Inn Leamington Spa and it was a modern establishment that lived up to my upscale American standards. The 31st annual event was, by far, the most successful event for arachnoculturists and invertebrate dealers ever held. Until next year, that is... (The 32nd BTS Exhibition will be held at the same location on May 20, 2017).

This year I was entrusted with new duties. When Peter Kirk resigned as Journal Editor and the BTS Committee honored me with seceding Pete (and Richard Gallon before him), Peter also asked me to take on judging the Exhibition's competition and photographing the winning spiders, scorpions, photography, and both adult and children's artwork. So, in addition to 10 days worth of clothing, gifts for the Pennells and all the other stuff I had to haul overseas, I brought my 30 pound camera bag. Foolish, again. I should have just brought my macro rig. I used it to photograph the winning spiders and scorpion, but every other shot I took during the whole trip was taken with my iPhone 6S Plus. Anyway, I'll leave you with some of my favorite photos. I posted many of my own on my @exoticfauna Instagram. Many of the below were "borrowed" from other people (with photo credit given). If you haven't checked out my Instagram feed yet please do. There also have been some great images posted to the BTS Facebook Group.

The upcoming second issue of the BTS Newsletter will be a special issue devoted to the Competition. So those of you who are members will see both the winners and their entries. The Best in Show spider, which was a gorgeous Lasiodorides striatus owned by Britain Kitten, will also be featured on the annual membership card and bookmark.

This is a personal favorite. Mária of Macilaci Spiders, Hungary is lovely and always happy. She is such a great supporter of the BTS and her display is very professional with an incredible variety of tarantulas at exceptional prices. She (aka Maci) and her husband László (Laci) work with Mária's brother László (Dudu) who is seen here in the background doing a great photobomb. Laci took the picture. I'm sporting the new BTS international logo t-shirt. I surprised the family later at the hotel when I purchased a ticket to join the BTS envoy that is visiting Budapest in October. This will be the third year that Macilaci Spiders works in conjunction with TerraPlaza Budapest to bring BTS lecturers to Budapest. I won't be speaking this year, but I'm excited to see the beautiful city and spend time with my BTS friends.
My "niece" Brandon, daughter of my dearest friends Mark and Kim Pennell. She's holding one of the incredible plush spiders that were being offered by sukisuki.co.uk who took the photo of the Hales seen above.

This shot has become an annual tradition. These are the four badasses of the BTS Committee and why nobody gives us any lip. We try our best to look hard, but we're all sweethearts. Last year I ruined the pic with a smile and this year it was Ray. Left to right: Me, Lee Cole, Mark Pennell, Ray Hale. Here's a contest for you ... Put in the comments your guess for ranking us oldest to youngest. Bet nobody gets it...

Me best mate. This year Mark made a "selfie frame" for people to take a pic of themselves at the Exhibition. Here we are before the ride northeast to the Midlands. Mark is acting himself and I'm giving him the look of someone used to it. I'm repping one of my favorite bands, while he is repping Peter Kirk's side business, Precision Piercing.
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Speaking of mates, here are three more of my favorite Brits. This is the field team. On the outside are the bearded Andrew Smith and the clean shaven Paul Carpenter. I first traveled with them in 2006 to Costa Rica. Andrew and I had become fast friends a few years earlier when he lectured two years for the ATS (once in Carlsbad, once in Phoenix). In the middle is Guy Tansley who traveled with Andy and Paul to other places before the four of us had our field trip to Suriname in 2012. Guy, Paul and myself went to Sri Lanka in 2014 without Andy. Guy is another of my favorite people and, sadly, he didn't make it to the February lectures this year. So, this was the first time the four of us had all been together since the February 2014 BTS Lectures.

This final image was taken early on during vendor set up. It cuts off much of the room. For many pix of the event check out the BTS Facebook Group. Macilaci Spiders and SukiSuki have particularly good photo collections.


Thursday, May 26, 2016


I've mentioned in earlier entries that when I assumed the Editorship of the prestigious Journal of the British Tarantula Society I decided to create a sister publication. The new BTS Newsletter was launched to provide members more "bang for their buck", as well as to become home for some features that I deemed unsuitable for the Journal.

Today I posted a link in the BTS Facebook Group that allows the general public to download the premier issue of the Newsletter for FREE. I wanted it to reach a greater audience and, hopefully, entice more people who haven't become BTS members to join. Our membership year runs June 1 to May 31 and all memberships are due for renewal. My post also serves to remind people to renew.

Now I realize many of my blog readership is American. Perhaps you've never joined the BTS because you've considered it a foreign organization. I assure you that the BTS is global in its reach and is truly an international society. I also think all of you have learned by now that our American Tarantula Society has never become even a fraction of what the great BTS is. The ATS has always been a disappointment and likely always will be. The annual conference has always been its one success. To be clear, I am not discouraging supporting them. With more support perhaps the new regime will finally make it a society worth being a member of. But for 31 years the BTS has been that and much more. I highly recommend at least a digital-only membership so you get the SIX Newsletters and THREE 50-page full color Journals per annum. If you can afford it, choosing the print option (about $53/year) allows you to hold the beautiful publication that I now have the honor of editing and designing.

Anyway, without further ado and advertisement, here is the link to download BTS Newsletter 1:


Please SHARE this blog entry or at least the above link everywhere and anywhere. Let's spread the word about this FREE issue of the debut Newsletter to as many people as possible. Cheers, MJ

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


The reason this blog is called Kiss My Big Hairy Spider is both arachnocultural and because I am often irreverent and I speak my mind. I am a "pull no punches" sort of guy and I tend to hit very hard. This is what makes my ironic friend Chad call me "unlikable". I say what I want with a "fuck them all with no fucking regrets"attitude, which I hope at least some of you will recognize as Metallica lyrics. One of my posts even stated that if I haven't offended you yet, eventually I will. You'd think with my attitude I would be completely unapologetic. Not so.

I am a "nice guy" and do care about hurting people's feelings. I also am always willing to admit when I'm wrong. This apology is directed to German tarantula dealer Michael Scheller. Not that I think he reads my blog, but I know something I wrote got back to him. In a recent blog I wrote something about him being a bit of a prick. That was out of line and unjust. The truth is I've only met him once and barely know him as a person. I had no right to be so callous. Word got back to me at the BTS Exhibition that he had been "hurt" by what I wrote. He didn't attend this year so I didn't have the opportunity to speak to him personally. Now this concept - being hurt by words - could be a topic for a whole politically-charged rant. I am sick and tired of "politically correct" and people being offended and hurt by words. I won't go there. I will instead simply say, "I'm sorry".

Es tut mir leid für das, was ich über Sie geschrieben

Two things led to my conflict with Michael, which then resulted in my off-hand and out of line remark. One was language. Michael's English is admittedly much better than my German, although I can somewhat read it. But the more important thing that caused our dispute that led to what I wrote is something that plagues the Internet. Actually, it's not just the Internet, but written word in general. Conversation is something for voices and faces to do, not typing fingers. Tone is lost. Intended meaning is clouded. Misinterpretation is commonplace. These facts are only exacerbated when one or more "communicating" are not using their native tongue.

When I was still actively dealing in tarantulas and importing from Lee Ardern at The Spider Shop in Wales I contacted Michael about the possibility of him exporting to me. His response was that he had an exclusive arrangement for the U.S. with Ken "the bug guy". The rest of our conversation is privileged. We promised each other we would keep our Facebook Messenger chat private. I will honor that promise to Michael, but I will reveal some of what I typed that day, at least a little bit in general terms. I informed Michael that when talking with an alcohol-fueled Ken at last year's ATS Conference he admitted that times were tough. I'm not going to betray Ken's confidence here, as despite our differences, I like the man and I think he likes me. So I'll leave it at that. Now retired and no longer a competitor of his, there is no reason I should threaten him. But I will say that the gist of what got Michael angry with me is that I stated some facts - truths from my own experience - about Ken that were negative. I only stated emotionless hard facts about the faults of Ken's business practises, and continually reminded Michael that it was not personal and I liked Ken. Unfortunately, due to both tone and sentiment being lost in the written word, and the fact that Michael wasn't using his native tongue, things were misconstrued. Michael couldn't reconcile my being somewhat friendly with a person with my criticizing that same person. I did not attack Ken as a man. I just commented on how he runs his business and his lack of experience with it and the hobby. I made it quite clear (but again, this was likely lost in translation and not interacting face to face) that my opinions were not personal, but based on my vast experience and 30+ years in the business as compared to a guy who originally worked with computers. Michael and I clashed. I am sure some of it had to do with my strong American personality. What some have called arrogance. What some have said makes me "unlikable".

My friends like me. That's all that matters. Michael and Ken work in a business that I've left behind. End of story.

So, the bold italicized German words written above state "I am sorry for what I wrote". And I am. I don't know the man. Therefore, I was out of line. I apologize.

Ich entschuldige mich, Michael Jacobi

Sunday, May 8, 2016



I've been busy with my new business. I've been busy writing music. I've been busy shooting. I've been busy working out. I've been busy watching the NHL playoffs.

I have NOT been busy with anything that really relates to BIG HAIRY SPIDERS except for working on the next issue of the BTS Journal. That leaves me with little to offer in the way of ranting, educating, rambling and storytelling.

I'm sure many of you are sick of my mentions of the BTS. I understand. It's a "foreign thing". Many of you haven't bothered to become members of the best and world's longest ongoing tarantula society. Those of you who have know what's what. But really my BIG HAIRY SPIDER activity is primarily associated with my BTS duties. And Friday I leave again for the UK - this time for the 31st BTS Exhibition. I'll post pix from the weekend here and on my @exoticfauna Instagram.

Yesterday I wrote one of the few German dealers I actually like. Olaf Hopp is a really nice guy and he has disassociated himself from Michael Scheller who, in my experience, is a bit of a prick. Olaf's English is better too. For those of you who may not know, Olaf used to be Michael's assistant of sorts, but they've had a falling out and now Olaf has surpassed Michael IMO, at least as far as tarantula dealers go. Both Germans survive mostly because they take advantage of the American market. Olaf supplies Paul Becker and Scheller supplies Ken MacNeill. These two Americans support German sales instead of focusing on strengthening the American marketplace. Neither are much in the way of breeders. I'm surprised both (or either!) are still active, especially "the bug guy" who should have tossed it in some time ago. That's one sad commentary on American tarantulaculture and its commerce.

This year we have booked more traders than ever before so there will be new faces and I expect plenty to marvel at if not buy. The phasmids always catch my eye. However, not only does the USDA frown on such magnificent creatures, but I also don't really desire periodic bramble collecting.

Anyway, Olaf and I exchanged our greetings and arranged to get together in the British Midlands and he sent me a list of what he currently has available. It was odd to review a somewhat lengthy and diverse list and have ZERO interest in anything on it. The only thing I really am still working with are two African species and a couple of Pokies. I could use some young of those species for future breeding males, but Olaf was offering none of the above. He does have one juvie female H. pulchripes that I may have to pick up. But shopping isn't really something I do any longer. I could buy a bunch of young M. balfouri for future males for the five females I still have, but wouldn't it be much more pleasant to just sell the five females? Less is more. Down to 30 spiders now. 25 would be even better.

So, it's Sunday, Funday and it's a beautiful day. I'll watch some soccer and hockey. Workout. Clean the house. Next Sunday, Funday I'll be chillaxing in Bristol, England and emptying Tiger bottles with my mate Mark.

I know some people are looking forward to an ATS conference in Tucson this July. It seems the ATS will continue only to perpetuate their only success - the con. I have no intention of registering and officially attending, but perhaps will make a surprise visit as Arizona is definitely calling my name. Again.

Have fun. I'll do a little reporting from the BTS Exhibition on the weekend of the 21-22. MJ