The well-known Mexican red–knee tarantulas are actually two different species of spider that are native to the Pacific coast of Mexico. The Brachypelma hamorii and the Brachypelma smithi both have vibrant red “knees” that contrast with their dark body color, making them easy to distinguish from the other types of tarantulas. And while scientists say there are slight differentiating features between the two specieslike subtle color and shape nuancesboth are referred to as “red knees” in the pet industry and are coveted for their beauty, temperament, and long lifespan. The Mexican red–knee tarantula is a docile and slow-moving animal, and you can handle it regularly without causing it undue stress.
The substrate or bedding should be a mix of peat moss, soil, and vermiculite and at least 4 inches thick and loosely packed, to allow for burrowing and to dampen any falls. Wood, cork bark, or half of a small clay flower pot can provide good shelter or a hiding spot for the tarantula.
While supplemental heating is recommended for most North American terrarium environments, it’s also important to give your spider a non-heated area to cool off should the tank get too hot. A pinky mouse or a small lizard may be fed occasionally as a protein boost, but make sure to clean the remains from the tank immediately. Good husbandry practices should prevent this, but watch your spider closely to make sure it’s not exhibiting signs of low humidity stress.
During this phase, your spider may not eat for days or weeks, it may act lethargic and tired, and it may even roll onto its back with its legs in the air. Breeders take great care of their spiders and practice proper husbandry and also human socialization techniques, assuring a well-adjusted pet.
Are Mexican red knee tarantulas friendly?
The Mexican red-knee tarantula is a docile and slow-moving animal, and you can handle it regularly without causing it undue stress.
How venomous are Mexican red knee tarantulas?
The Mexican redknee tarantula is generally docile, easy to handle and harmless to humans. It will only bite if threatened, but its venom is not fatal. Its bite is equivalent to a bee sting.
How much do Mexican red knee tarantulas cost?
Animals this size typically sell for $120 or more, so if you’re interested in a new pet tarantula, there has never been a better time to get one!
How big do Mexican red knee tarantulas get?
5.5 inches long
– Tarantulas’ name derives from the southern Italian town of Taranto. In the Middle Ages near Taranto, it was believed that this spider’s bite would cause tarantism, a disorder that caused excitability; the only cure was to dance a frenzied dance called the tarantella.
Tarantulas must molt (shed their skin) in order to grow. Tarantulas live in the Insect Zoo , where they enjoy a diet of crickets.
The Zoo has one tarantula in its Animal Embassy collection. Animal Ambassadors from this collection are introduced to audiences in education programs on and off grounds.
The burrows camouflaged silk welcome mat transmits the vibrations of passing prey to the tarantula so that it knows when to rush out and grab its next meal. No need to fear for your own safety though, because while a Mexican redknee tarantulas venom is fatal to its small prey, its only the equivalent of a bee sting to humans.
Tarantulas have a unique claim to fame in that they were named after a high-energy Italian dance called the tarantella, in which the frenzied movements involved were thought to be the result of, or a cure for, the bite of a spider. The wasp then seals the eight-legged incubator in a burrow and when the egg hatches it has plenty of food to complete its life cycle and emerges as an adult.
It carves deep burrows into soil banks to keep it protected from predators and enables it to ambush passing prey. The burrow is typically located in or not far from vegetation. It has a single entrance with a tunnel leading to one or two chambers.
The tunnel, usually about three times the tarantulas leg span in length, leads to a chamber which is large enough for the spider to safely molt in. Further down the burrow, via a shorter tunnel is a larger chamber located where the spider will rest and eat its prey.
When the tarantula needs privacy, (when molting or laying eggs), the entrance is sealed with silk that is sometimes covered with soil and leaves. Reproduction: During courtship, the male approaches a female shelter cautiously, tapping and vibrating his legs.
Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula Behavior and Temperament
The Mexican red–knee tarantula is one of the most docile and calm tarantulas in the pet trade, making it ideal for beginner arachnid keepers. This spider rarely bites. However, like most tarantulas, it will eject urticating hairs from its abdomen and legs if it thinks it is in danger. These barbed and mildly toxic hairs act as a defense mechanism as they embed into a predator’s skin or eyes, causing discomfort and irritation. In humans, the hairs can also cause an allergic skin reaction resulting in inflammation, rash, and itching. While this is nothing to worry about, the reaction can last for several hours or days.
Housing the Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula
A 20 gallon tank is a suitable home for the Mexican red knee tarantula. As a general rule, the width of the tank should be two to three times wider than the leg span of the spider, and only as tall as the spider’s leg span if it were standing on end. The enclosure should be escape-proof, preferably with only a side opening; because tarantulas like to hang upside down at the top of the tank, this will prevent the spider from falling each time you need to service the tank.The substrate or bedding should be a mix of peat moss, soil, and vermiculite and at least 4 inches thick and loosely packed, to allow for burrowing and to dampen any falls. Wood, cork bark, or half of a small clay flower pot can provide good shelter or a hiding spot for the tarantula. Adding a few fake plants also helps mimic its natural environment.Maintaining a consistent temperature and humidity is an important element of Mexican red–knee tarantula care. The recommended terrarium temperature is around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be achieved by using a heat mat under one portion of the tank. While supplemental heating is recommended for most North American terrarium environments, it’s also important to give your spider a non-heated area to cool off should the tank get too hot.Keep the humidity level at 60 to 70 percent, which can usually be achieved through evaporation from a water bowl. However, in some dryer homes, misting the tank may be necessary. If you see your spider hovering over its water bowl but not drinking, chances are your environment is too dry. Conversely, if it’s continuously hiding out in a far corner of the terrarium, your enclosure is probably too humid.
Food and Water
Adult Mexican red–knee tarantulas dine on live crickets and other large insects like locusts and cockroaches. This means that you must also raise and feed insects alongside your spider. Grasshoppers and other large bugs can be collected from your yard for feeding, however, their diet must not include pesticide-laden plants. A pinky mouse or a small lizard may be fed occasionally as a protein boost, but make sure to clean the remains from the tank immediately. Also, remove any uneaten live insects, as their constant movement may stress your pet spider once it’s full. Mexican red–knee tarantulas usually eat once or twice a week and may take an annual break during a molt.A small shallow water dish serves two purposes in the terrarium. First, it’s a drinking source; second, the evaporation from the dish helps to maintain relative humidity in the tank. Make sure the dish is shallow and change it out daily to maintain a fresh and clean supply of water.
Common Health Problems
Most tarantulas are hardy creatures that rarely fall ill. However, due to their eggshell-like exoskeleton, even a fall from a short height can result in death. For this reason, you should always handle your spider while sitting down, preferably on a carpeted surface. Good husbandry practices should prevent this, but watch your spider closely to make sure it’s not exhibiting signs of low humidity stress.The mildly dehydrated tarantula may have a shrunken abdomen and can become inactive. A more severely dehydrated tarantula will have its legs curled underneath it to some degree. Once a tarantula becomes dehydrated, it requires tarantula first aid: Put the spider in a cup holding a wet paper towel. The lower abdomen of the spider is the location of the book lungs (tiny slits in the abdomen that serve as the air cavity), so it should never be placed in standing water, or it will drown.As with all tarantulas, the red–knee tarantula will go through the process of an annual molt. During this phase, your spider may not eat for days or weeks, it may act lethargic and tired, and it may even roll onto its back with its legs in the air. Don’t worry; it’s not dead! Just leave your pet be and carefully monitor its transformation as it slowly emerges from its old, small exoskeleton. Once the molt is complete, remove the exoskeleton from the habitat and refrain from feeding your spider for three to five days. Also, you must avoid handling your spider during this time and for many weeks after. Your spider’s new skin will be fragile and sensitive until it hardens, and any physical movement might tear it irreparably.
Purchasing Your Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula
Before you purchase a Mexican red–knee tarantula for a pet, be aware of its lifespan. A female pet tarantula is an extremely long-term commitment. Also take care to note that this spider, like most, is poisonous. While the mild venom of this species is rarely a threat to humans, it is possible to have an allergic reaction if you are bitten.Since the Mexican red–knee is a popular breed, sourcing a spider from a pet store or breeder shouldn’t be difficult. Purchasing from a reputable breeder, however, is highly recommended, mostly to assure the health of your pet. Breeders take great care of their spiders and practice proper husbandry and also human socialization techniques, assuring a well-adjusted pet.
Mexican redknee tarantulas live in the tropical deciduous forests, dry forests, and deserts of, you guessed it, Mexico.The Zoo has one tarantula in its Animal Embassy collection. Animal Ambassadors from this collection are introduced to audiences in education programs on and off grounds.Mexican redknee tarantulas hide during the heat of the day in their silk-lined burrows, which are located under thorny vegetation such as cacti. Once darkness descends, their burrows transform into the perfect location to ambush unsuspecting prey such as insects, frog, lizards, and mice. The burrow’s camouflaged silk welcome mat transmits the vibrations of passing prey to the tarantula so that it knows when to rush out and grab its next meal. After delivering a venomous bite, which paralyzes and liquefies the victim, the tarantula can then suck up the juices through its straw-like mouthparts. No need to fear for your own safety though, because while a Mexican redknee tarantula’s venom is fatal to its small prey, it’s only the equivalent of a bee sting to humans.Biting also isn’t a tarantula’s first line of defense. When threatened, tarantulas will rear up to display their fangs or flick the barbed hairs off their abdomen. These “urticating” hairs can penetrate the skin of the attacker and cause painful irritation, and if they enter the eye they can cause blindness. Speaking of eyes, despite having 8 of them, tarantulas have poor vision. Instead they rely on the ends of their legs to detect vibrations, smells, and tastes to help locate prey and other tarantulas. Each of their 8 legs is also equipped with 2 claws that help them scale a variety of surfaces with ease.Tarantulas have a unique claim to fame in that they were named after a high-energy Italian dance called the tarantella, in which the frenzied movements involved were thought to be the result of, or a cure for, the bite of a spider. Ironically, tarantulas are neither hyperactive nor are they spiders! While these slow-paced arachnids don’t have the same orientation of mouthparts required to be in the exclusive spider club, they still share many things in common with their spider relatives, from their signature 8-legged profile to their impact on the ecosystem. Tarantulas help to regulate insect and other small prey populations while acting as a food source for other predators.Mating occurs in the summer during the rainy season, though the male doesn’t stick around for long. The real work is left to the female, who waits until spring to deposit 200-400 eggs into a silk egg sac. She then carries, cares for, and protects her offspring until they’re ready to become independent. This process may take a while though, since the eggs hatch after 3 months but the tiny freeloaders, also known as spiderlings, don’t leave the egg sac for another 3 weeks! Give it another 2 weeks though, and then the spiderlings are finally ready to disperse from their mother’s burrow. Despite being able to care for themselves at this point, they won’t be considered mature adults until they are 4-7 years old.Many animals that eat insects are also able to prey upon the Mexican redknee tarantula, especially birds and lizards, but the most notable nemesis of the tarantula is the Pepsis wasp. Also known as the tarantula hawk, this wasp parasitizes the unfortunate arachnids, using them as a living nest in which to raise their young. The female wasp lures the tarantula out of its burrow by disturbing the entrance’s concealed webbing, then stings the tarantula to paralyze it and injects a single egg in its abdomen. The wasp then seals the eight-legged incubator in a burrow and when the egg hatches it has plenty of food to complete its life cycle and emerges as an adult.Mexican redknee tarantulas are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization. They were historically captured in the thousands for the pet trade. Currently, they are listed on CITES Appendix II, meaning that special permits are now required to collect them, yet the total population is still declining, and this is still due in part to over-collection. Another more pressing threat facing tarantulas is habitat loss due to urbanization, agriculture, and climate change. Not only is tarantula habitat shrinking or degrading as humans continue to develop the landscape, the changing conditions of the planet are resulting in more extreme weather patterns that lead to events such as extensive flooding, which influence habitat suitability.