The much-loved “Orange Bitey Thing” (or OBT for short) is the stuff of legends. A brilliant bright orange tarantula with a serious attitude!
Also known as the Usambara Orange Baboon Spider, this is one of the smaller species of tarantula, growing to just 5″ or so.
With their lightning fast movements, and propensity for attacking anything that comes near them, this is one species which is really only suitable for the more advanced tarantula keeper.
I have even had specimens try and attack me through the glass at reptile shows, simply because I was walking past their table.
Stories abound of beginners trying their hand at keeping OBTs, only to find themselves scared silly – so be warned!
Orange Bitey Thing Habitat
The Orange Bitey Thing – Latin name Pterinochilus murinus – is one of the most widespread of African tarantulas.
Originally described by Reginald Pocock in 1897, this species may be found in much of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, including Zaire, Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
The alternative name “Usambara” comes from the Usambara mountain range in Tanzania where many of the original specimens were caught over the years.
Being so widely spread, the OBT is a very adaptable species, which helps to make them sturdy spiders in captivity. They are most commonly encountered in dry savannah scrubland, but their method of survival varies.
While P. murinus may well burrow – both in captivity and in the wild – they are just as likely to make use of other hides. On more than one occasion they have been found living in hollow trees.
In captivity this means that the Orange Bitey Thing generally does best in a rather drier environment than many tarantulas. A humidity in the range of 40-60% humidity tends to work well.
As OBTs are so adaptable you may find them burrowing, or using any element of the tank to create a hide. These are spiders which produce a lot of web, which is used to create a suitable place for them to hide away.
Firstly, the good news. As reasonably modest-sized spiders that prefer drier environments the OBT has rather less specialist care requirements than some other species of tarantula. A mid-sized, well-ventilated container is likely the best idea.
That said, great care must be put into the practicalities of looking after an aggressive and fast-moving species such as this.
If your Chilean Rose Hair plods up the side of the container while you’re feeding them or replenishing the water then it’s no issue whatsoever to gently redirect them back into the cage.
An Orange Bitey Thing dashing towards you at the speed of light is rarely going to end well, however.
This is not a species you’ll want to lose around your home, and risk accidentally uncovering in the middle of the night!
The best tanks for OBTs are therefore normally top-opening cages. Here the lid can be very gently moved to one side for routine maintenance, allowing most of the top to remain covered. In this species, clear plastic containers are often used, with ventilation holes drilled in the sides, as it seems that shiny plastic is harder to scale than glass.
A cage of 8″ square should be considered the minimum dimension for this species, though larger cages can be more practical. The reason is simple; the larger the cage, the more time you’ll have to close the lid if your OBT decides to make a break for freedom during feeding time!
Whatever cage you opt for, it’s critically important that you heat it correctly. A range of options exist, including heat mats and heating cables. Just a third to a half of the cage should be heated, allowing your spider to build their lair in the area most suitable for them.
Water and Humidity
These spiders might prefer a lower humidity level to many tarantulas, but it is critical that they have fresh water available to drink at all times.
A shallow dish should be provided which is cleaned and refilled on a regular basis. That said, be aware that as the Orange Bitey Thing produces copious amounts of web, it may be that soon enough the water bowl becomes enveloped.
At this point you have a few options. Firstly, you may take the easy option and simply add a second water bowl.
Secondly, you might try to tease the water bowl out of the web, while taking care not to surprise the spider! Lastly, you might try to refill the water bowl “in situ”. To keep your fingers out of harms reach, investing in a long pair of forceps for routine cage maintenance can be well worthwhile!
Additionally, it is worth mentioning that raising the humidity of the cage slightly when a moult is expected can be beneficial. However spraying the tank is not advisable, as this too can surprise your spider, leading to it dashing up the side of the cage faster than you can react.
Instead, try pouring a small volume of water into the hottest corner of the tank. Here it will soak into the substrate, where it will start to evaporate and increase the moisture level.
As heavily-webbing spiders, there is little point trying to design an attractive naturalistic tank for Orange Bitey Things – all too soon the cage will be upended, and web will be everywhere.
There are, however, a few cage furnishings which should be ideally used. First, of course, you’ll want some substrate.
While there are a range of potential tarantula substrates, my own personal preference is for coconut fibre. This is organically insert (so houses no nasty parasites or bacteria) and does an excellent job of moderating humidity.
For a burrowing tarantula like Pterinochilus murinus the substrate also facilitates burrowing in captivity.
Unlike many other more sedentary tarantulas, for the OBT (which you won’t want to clean out too often for fear of your nerves) a thick layer is advisable.
Under this regime, you may well find your spider carefully digs themselves a burrow.
Secondly, it is advisable to include one or more hides of a suitable size for your spider. Heavy rocks should be avoided, lest they crush a tarantula trying to burrow beneath. Instead, lighter objects such as pieces of cork bark or plastic plant pots are ideal.
Be aware that, as discussed earlier, the lifestyles of this species vary considerably in the wild, so don’t be alarmed if your specimen opts to ignore burrowing completely and instead to make a home under the hide.
Lastly, it is always advisable to keep an eye on the internal temperature and humidity of your spider cages, such as with the use of a low-cost thermometer/hygrometer combination.
Feeding Usambara Orange Baboons
OBT’s are fiesty feeders, and will tackle surprisingly large feeder insects in captivity.
That said, as with all other areas of keeping this spider, maintenance routines should carefully limit the frequency with which you’ll need to pop your hand in the tank, so feeding liberally may not be the best idea.
A diet of crickets, locusts and cockroaches tends to work well, and most OBTs will tackle anything up to the length of their body.
As one of the faster-growing species of tarantula, it should be little surprise that they eat regularly. Males can mature in little over a year when fed liberally, with females taking only another six months or so.
The end result is this: feel free to feed your spider as much and as often as you like, but as with other tarantulas, uneaten insects should be removed.
This is to avoid stressing the spider out, and to prevent potential issues should a moult be on the horizon. Good luck to you grabbing those crickets though!
The Orange Bitey Thing is so-named for a reason. It is considered a very fast-moving and aggressive specimen. As a result only the most fool-hardy keepers will try to handle it.
In addition to this warning, be aware that it also reputedly has rather more potent venom than many other species. One scientific paper reports “intense local pain, swelling and episodic, agonising, generalised muscle cramps” thanks to a bite from this species – you have been warned!
It is best when trying to move this species to place their cage into the bathtub. From here, it is generally best to capture the spider by placing a clear plastic tub over the top, then sliding the lid underneath. Snap it shut and relocate the spider.