Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the August 17, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

A few days earlier as I approached my casita after a morning of teaching Silvestre called to me not to overlook the jar on my step holding the tarantula seen below:

BRACHYPELMA VAGANS, Mexican Redrump Tarantula

That's BRACHYPELMA VAGANS, sometimes called the Mexican Redrump Tarantula, even though it also extends south into Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Tarantulas are docile and slow-moving, and don't bite unless obliged to. I've read that they "kick urticating hairs," urticating hairs being hairs that sting like nettle spines, so that's irritating but not serious.

When tarantulas "kick hairs" they dislodge urticating hairs from their abdomens and shower them at enemies, like sprays of stinging darts. This is a behavior evolved only among New World tarantulas, though not all New World tarantulas do it.

The individual in the picture is only partially grown. This species can have a leg span of five inches. The one shown is only about 3.5 inches. Males are typically smaller and thinner than females.

Like most tarantulas, Mexican Redrumps eat just about anything they can overpower, which is usually insects, but also small lizards and even rodents. Another student -- another Lupita since that's diminutive of the name Guadalupe, and many Mexican females are named after the Virgin de Guadalupe -- keeps a much larger Redrump as a pet, whom she feeds small toads and frogs.