On the morning of August 4th we took our daily glance at the tank and sure enough there was mum with a very large egg-sac. Had the male given himself up as lunch voluntarily after mating or did he have little say in the matter? Several weeks passed until we noticed the mother was wandering about her tank. The egg-sac was still there, and intact but she was unusually restless. In these circumstances we try to figure out whether the spider is merely stretching its legs, seeking food/water or even making sure there are no predators about for the imminent arrival of her offspring.
Once again, gut feeling came into play and we had to decide whether to leave the egg-sac or remove it and finish incubation ourselves. We have no mind-bending theories for this and eventually decided (always quite reluctantly) to extract the egg-sac. This is always a tense affair because we respect the fact that the parent has spent so much effort and sacrificed much to get this far only to have it all taken away so suddenly. However, once again we state that when one has made a decision about such issues then there must be no regrets.
The egg-sac was duly removed after a momentous struggle from the female to hang on to it. Incidentally we then tried the old trick of substituting the egg-sac for a ball of cotton wool to dupe the mother into thinking it was the egg-sac. I should say that we never usually try this because even if the female was tricked, she would still at that stage have felt the young moving in the egg sac and now there would be nothing, therefore possibly distressing her even more. Additionally the female actually DID discard the cotton wool within the hour so she could apparently differentiate real from false egg-sac. We will never try this again as there is nothing worse than a false dawn, either for a human being or a spider.
It only took several days for the spiderlings to emerge from the egg-sac.
It makes you think "what triggers them to emerge and which one takes the lead role?" We have been known to make a small incision in the egg-sac to assist the young in their task but had not done so on this occasion.
There were plenty of spiderlings. Unfortunately, they emerged just before we had to leave the UK, so we did not have time to count them all before giving them to a friend to look after. We were disappointed not to have got the exact count as this is a major item of information but we reckon there were approximately 170 spiderlings.
All spiderlings were soon split into jars in denominations of five and ten. Some others were housed singly. This may give us information on communal habits etc.
So that is it! We have spoken to several people who fancy a go at breeding tarantulas but feel they have not enough experience etc. To them we say make sure you know the reasons WHY you are breeding, then have a go. Make as many notes as you can and do not be afraid to talk to experienced people about it. The best way to learn is to do!
Susan and Carl Portman
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