Oklahoma Brown Tarantula
Texas Brown Tarantula, Missouri TarantulaFamily: Theraphosidae Aphonopelma hentziPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Russ Gurley
The Oklahoma Brown Tarantula is one of the most docile species of tarantula!
The Oklahoma Brown Tarantula Aphonopelma hentzi makes an excellent pet for beginners and for use in classrooms. Also known as the Texas Brown Tarantula and the Missouri Tarantula, these are common tarantulas found in southern regions of the United States encompassing Oklahoma, southern Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, and in Northeast Mexico.
They are good natured spiders that require very little space. The Oklahoma Brown Tarantula is one of the calmest and most handleable tarantulas being kept as a pet. They are quiet, easy to care for, and are an ideal species for a beginner. They have a long lifespan, with males living about 7 - 12 years and females up to 36 years.
Oklahoma Brown Tarantulas are a moderately sized, burrowing spider with a leg span of about 4 - 5 inches (10 - 12.5 cm) at maturity. In nature they primarily live in burrows under wood or flat stones, though can also be found under ground or in the abandoned dens of other small critters. In the terrarium their native habitat can be easily simulated by providing a deep substrate topped with a shelter of bark or stone.
This is a highly underrated pet species. This is probably due to its drab coloration, a subtle mix of browns. However, the hardiness of the Oklahoma Brown Tarantula, and the large number of offspring they produce per egg sac will no doubt ensure their future in the pet world.
For more Information on keeping Tarantulas, see:
Keeping Arachnids and Other Arthropods as Pets
Habitat: Distribution/BackgroundThe Oklahoma Brown Tarantula Aphonopelma hentzi was described by Girard in 1852. They are found in southern regions of the United States; Oklahoma, southern Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas; and in Northeast Mexico. They are a burrowing species found in the "Southwestern Prairie" type of grasslands. Other common names it is known by are Texas Brown Tarantula and the Missouri Tarantula.
Description The Oklahoma Brown Tarantula is a medium-sized stocky spider. They have about a 4 - 5" (10 - 12.5 cm) leg span that is covered fine hairs in shades of brown. Females and immature males have a light brown to tan carapace, a coffee brown abdomen, and darker brown legs.
A final molt, indicating a mature male, is a rather dramatic sexually dimorphic change. At this time when the male molts, his stocky body type is replaced by a long-legged spindly spider. He then has a tan carapace, brown abdomen, and long black fuzzy legs. He will also have tibial hooks which he uses for breeding. These can be clearly seen on an adult male Oklahoma Brown. The females are stocky.
These spiders reach maturity around 8 to 10 years of age. The female can live up for up to 36 years while males live 7 - 12 years.
Housing I n nature the Oklahoma Brown Tarantulas live in shallow burrows under flat stones and logs, burrowed under ground, or living in the abandoned dens of other small critters. They then line the entrance of their home with webbing to detect passing prey.
This tarantula will thrive in a simple "Southwestern Prairie" type of enclosure. A 3" deep substrate of a mixture of sand and peat moss can be used as the base for the enclosure. On top of this layer, a shelter made from bark, cork bark, or a supported stone shelter should be added. This will provide a somewhat moist and secure hiding spot. The spider will use this area for shelter during the day and especially during molting time when the extra humidity becomes important.
Temperature and humidity requirements:
The enclosure can be maintain between 50° to 80° F with a humidity level of 50 to 60%.
Cage CareA good habit to get into is cleaning up any uneaten prey items the day after feeding your tarantula as decaying organic matter commonly attracts mites, fungus, mold and other potentially harmful organisms into the enclosure. If your pet has recently molted, remove uneaten prey items immediately. Newly molted tarantulas are vulnerable until their exoskeletons hardens.
Behavior The Oklahoma Brown Tarantula is one of the most docile species available in captive collections. They will rear up when agitated and will even occasionally bare their fangs. After a short display, they will beat a hasty retreat or more commonly will simply walk away.
Handling Carefully pick up these tarantulas by cupping them gently with the legs folded under their bodies. Another gentler method is to simply place a hand out flat in front of them and gently prod the tarantula's abdomen, forcing it to walk onto the hand. As they walk, simply place the other hand in front and have the spider walk across your hands.
They do not like to be blown upon and will jump, scurry away, and may even flick urticating hairs or bite if disturbed too much. All in all, these guys are very tame and make wonderful pets.
Reproduction The adult male Oklahoma Brown Tarantula goes through a rather dramatic sexually dimorphic change on their final or penultimate molt. They change from a stocky brown spider to a slender spider with long spindly legs and an overall black coloration. They also have tibial hooks and swollen tips to their pedipalps, used for breeding.
The Oklahoma Brown can be bred in captivity if certain pre-mating conditions are maintained. The females seem to benefit from a cooling period of a couple of months prior to mating. Once a mature male is produced, and he makes a sperm web, he should be introduced into the female's enclosure.
He will approach the female's shelter cautiously, tapping and vibrating his legs. The female will be "lured" out of her burrow or shelter and the male will typically lunge forward to use his hooks to hold the female's chelicerae and to push her into an almost upright position to give himself access to the female's epigyne for mating. The male will insert either the left pedipalp, right pedipalp, or both alternately into the female's epigyne and inject the fertilizing fluid into this area.
If fertilized, the female will produce an egg sac in the following weeks. This species produces large egg sacs, usually containing in excess of 250 babies. A mature male can be introduced to multiple females or can be reintroduced to a female to enhance the possibilities of a successful pairing. Typically, the male will die in the weeks following a successful mating.
Diseases: Ailments/TreatmentsTarantulas are generally quite hardy and adaptable if they are provided with the right environment. A few signs that may indicate that your pet is not acting or feeling normal are a loss of appetite, lethargy, looking overly skinny, or pacing the enclosure.
A tarantula on its back is probably not sick. Most tarantula species flip onto their backs during molting. Though this is a very stressful and delicate time for tarantulas, if the humidity and warmth levels are correct, they will molt their exoskeleton, roll over, harden up, and within a week or two be ready for their next meals.
One of the most common reasons for your pet to demonstrate unusual behavior is due to a molting period. As they outgrow their existing skin all tarantulas regularly go through an extensive molt, shedding their entire skin as well as the linings of their mouth, respiratory organs, stomach and sexual organs.
The process starts well before the actual molt. For several weeks prior to shedding they will be growing a new skin under their old one. During this time it is not unusual for a tarantula to get quite lethargic and even stop eating. There may also be lots of web spinning activity as they prepare to molt.
When they begin to molt, they lay on their backs with their legs up in the air looking as if they are dead. Be sure not to disturb your tarantula when you see this. The shedding process goes quickly and smoothly as long the environment has adequate humidity.
Once they have shed, their new skin is pale and very soft. The amount of time it takes for your pet to fully recover and be back to eating well will vary from a day or so up to several weeks depending on its size. Smaller spiders recover much quicker than larger ones.
- Other Problems
Other problems are usually the result of some type of environmental stress. There may be a drop in the temperature of the enclosure, there may be parasites, or the tarantula may just not be comfortable with the depth of its hiding place. These things can be easily adjusted or changed, or you can try moving your pet to a new enclosure.
Availability Oklahoma Brown Tarantulas or Texas Brown Tarantulas are sometimes available from dealers / breeders who have found a wild-caught female with an egg sac in the later stages of development. This only occurs sporadically in the trade.
Oklahoma Browns and many of the terrestrial species from North and Central America have confused tarantula breeders. Often a pair will mate but the female will never lay eggs. Occasionally a female will lay eggs, fold up her egg sac, and either eat it or abandon it after a few days. We are experimenting with conditioning females by cooling them in a wine cooling rack. We believe that perhaps these females need some "triggers" to breed and produce spiderlings successfully.
- Animal-World Resources: Reptiles, Amphibians, and Land Invertebrates
- Russ Gurley, Tarantulas and Scorpions in Captivity, Living Art Pub, Serpent's Tale NHBD , 2005
- Samuel D. Marshall, Tarantulas and Other Arachnids, Barron's Educational Series; 2nd edition 2001
- Russ Gurley, Color Guide to Tarantulas of the World I, Living Art Publishing 1994
- Philippe de Vosjoli, Arachnomannia, General Care and Maintenance of Tarantulas & Scorpion, Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1991
- John G. Browning, Tarantulas. T.F.H Publications, 1989