Theraphosa Blondi

Theraphosa Blondi

(commonly know as “t. blondi”)

The Theraphosa (the-ruh-FO-suh) Leblondi, is the giant of the tarantulas.  The Theraphosa Leblondi, commonly known as the T. Blondi is the largest species of arachnids in the world. The word Theraphosa comes from the Greek language meaning beast of the goliath bird eater. Leblondi comes from the Latin language meaning “light”, referenced to the description of their color. It was first discovered and named by an explorer from the Victorian era, Jean Baptiste Le Blond. It is a terrestrial species meaning ground dwelling and is most commonly found in the African Rain forest. This species is not only the largest but the heaviest of the arachnids. This species is categorized as a “new world” species. The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas and sometimes Oceania. The term, new world, originated in the late 15th century when America was recently discovered by European explorers. Two scarcity issues are of concern and make this specie of tarantula a rare one.

  • Strict import restrictions were placed on the Theraphosa species in 2006.
  • Unsuccessful breeding and reproduction is common in captivity.

Location Description

The Theraphosa Blondi is also found in the northern South American countries of Surinam, Franska Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela. Its habitat is the wet swamps and marshy areas deep within the primary rainforest. This spider is a terrestrial species and lives in burrows under the ground dug by the spiders themselves, or abandoned by rodents. The female spends most of her life in her silk-lined burrow. This species is not to be confused with that of the fossorial species; fossorial meaning underground dwellers for example the trap door spider. During the flood season they leave burrows and retreat to the trees. They are nocturnal spiders and travel no more than a few feet from home, while resting in their burrows during the day. They require an exact temperature between that of 75 to 82°F and a humidity level of 80%. Humidity must be increased during the tarantulas molt sequence as they are so large it makes it very tough for them to squeeze through their exoskeleton. With higher humidity provides additional lubrication and minimizes the chances of an unsuccessful molt. A mix of peat moss and water, combined with under tank heating and a large shallow water bowl should help to provide these high humidity levels. Additional misting of the enclosure will also insure adequate humidity levels.

Color and Size

As I’ve addressed, the therasphosa blondi is the largest of the tarantulas. They range from a leg span of 25-30cm (10-12 inches). “Slight Mistomer”, the goliath bird eater housed at Chicago’s famous Shed Aquarium, has a relative size to that of a 12inch pizza. Females are generally larger than males which create for great intimidation during mating. Tarantulas molt, or “shed” their skin when they outgrow their exoskeleton. They either lay a web of silk on the ground or construct a silk hammock. They’ll then lie completely on their backs while forcing themselves through their exoskeleton, fangs and all. The Blondi is notorious for its molting problems. A significant number of T. Blondis will die as juveniles and never make it to maturity caused from the unfortunate circumstance of getting stuck within their very own molt, or by simply damaging themselves while molting. This is one reason why the humidity should be maintained at a high level. Legs have commonly been known to break off or get stuck in the Therasphosa’s exoskeleton.

Defenses

One of the first defense mechanisms used by tarantulas of the new world era would be the use of urticating hairs. Urticating hairs are stinging hairs with microscopic barbs at the ends of the follicles. These barbed hairs cover the dorsal and posterior surface of a tarantula’s abdomen. Many tarantula species will frequently kick thousands upon hundreds of thousands of microscopic hairs off their abdomens, directing them toward potential attackers. These hairs can embed themselves in the other animal’s skin or eyes, thus inducing physical irritation. These hairs can result in painful rashes, and have been likened to sharp shards of fiberglass. After a defensive maneuver, an urticating hair tarantula will have a bald spot on its abdominal region where the hairs have been flicked and removed. In humans a defensive cloud of urticating hairs can cause allergic skin reactions which can cause inflammation, rash and/or itching. The reactions can last for several hours or days. A chemical influence upon the skin and mucous membranes explains the different reactions of people to urticating hairs. These hairs have also been known to irritate humans; especially urticating hairs from the Theraphosa Blondi.

There are six different types of urticating hair known in tarantulas that contain them. They are all different and are categorized by shape and size.

  • Type I (0.2–0.6 mm)
  • Type II (0.5–1.5 mm)
  • Type III (0.3–1.2 mm)
  • Type IV (0.06–0.2 mm)
  • Type V
  • Type VI

If Theraphosa Blondi type III urticating hairs are inhaled severe coughing and irritation will occur and can last for several hours. Type III urticating hairs are the longest and most penetrating of all six known urticating hair types found on 95% of the New World tarantula species. Once the spider uses most of its barbed weapons it cannot regenerate others until its freshly molted. When urticating hairs land in the eyes or nose of a predator, it can cause severe irritation and even blindness.  On human skin, the mechanical burning and itching irritation effects from these penetrating hairs can last from weeks to months until the hairs are absorbed. The Goliath bird-eating spiders are considered to be very aggressive and do not make good pets (although I have found that the juvenile Blondis are the ones that tend do be more aggressive). This species is mainly recommended to enthusiasts and not beginning hobbyists.  The goliath can make a hissing noise to frighten off predators and threats. They will also rear up on their hind legs in a threat position. Their two fangs can reach a length of 1 inch and contain poison glands at their base. Although they are not very toxic to humans, they can cause severe pain, nausea and sweating. If bitten by this species hospitalization is recommended for monitored care as some react differently to the venom than others. The venom works on the nervous system to paralyze its smaller victims. This spider’s venom is not only beneficial for the tarantula but beneficial to humans because a chemical in its venom is used to treat strokes, seizures and neurological disorders.

Prey

After a tarantula injects venom into its prey, the spider then secretes a liquid that demulsifies the victim from the outside in. As this liquid is secreted, the venom being injected not only paralyzes the victim, but breaks down the insides including tissues and organs. This process of liquefaction enables the spider to suck its victim dry. Spiders do not have teeth as their mouths are shaped like a straight tube that directly connects to the stomach. After the prey has been sucked dry the spider releases a crispy dried carcass known as a bulisk.

Theraphosa Blondi tends to be nocturnal feeding on frogs, small snakes, beetles, insects, lizards and even bats and pinky rats. The T. Blondi also do not build webs or leap on their prey, they tend remain stealth to sneak up on their prey and pounce at the right moment while injecting the victim with paralyzing venom. Also, the silk lining on the T. Blondi’s burrow entrance or attached to nearby foliage can detect the movement of potential prey items. Upon acquisition of their food, the Blondi will often carry their prey back to their burrow or a safe location to eat it at leisure by regurgitating digestive juices onto their victim and sucking up the liquid. In captivity most hobbyists will gut load Blaptica Dubia Cockroaches to feed to this species of tarantula as these roaches can reach up to three inches in length. These Dubia roaches are excellent feeders because they store their food and nutrients in their stomach for up to 48 hours from ingestion.

Breeding

The Theraphosa Blondi is a solitary animal. Mates find each other with the use of specialized chemo- and mechano-sensitive hairs called setae, located on the ends of the appendages. The male can detect receptive females by means of pheromone traces of silk around or near a female’s burrow.  Pheromones are a chemical produced by an animal, which stimulates a behavioral or physiological response by another member of the same species. After a female is found the male taps his forelegs near or at the female burrow entrance to ‘test’ what type of response he’ll receive;  if he receives an aggressive response from the female, the male retreats and may or may not try again.  If receptive, the male will maneuver the female in the position for mating. Sexual Cannibalism is very common in the Theraphosa species. The male, being almost half the size of the female, is extremely vulnerable as he must lift up the female entering from underneath while inserting sperm web with his sexual organ known as an emboli located on his front pedipalps (two small legs located closest to the fangs). Mature male tarantulas also may have tibial hooks on their front legs, which are used to restrain the female’s fangs during copulation.

Lifespan

Males have much shorter life spans than females because they die relatively soon after maturing. Few live long enough for a ‘post-ultimate’ molt. It is unlikely that males live long in natural habitats because they are vulnerable to predation, but it has happened in captivity if rarely. Most males do not live through this molt as they tend to get their emboli, mature male sexual organs on pedipalps, stuck in the molt. Most tarantula fanciers regard females as more desirable as pets due to their much longer lifespan. Wild caught tarantulas are often mature males because they wander out in the open and are more likely to be caught. Female specimens have been known to reach 30 to 40 years of age.

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