Brachypelma boehmei, commonly known as the Mexican Fireleg or Mexican Rustleg is truly one of the most beautiful tarantulas in the world.
Hailing from the Western Pacific coast of Mexico, this is a “chunky” looking spider with brilliant orange legs and carapace, contrasted against black femurs and abdomen.
Originally described by taxonomists Schmidt and Klass in 1993, this is a slow growing and long lived tarantula, which is rightly popular in the pet trade.
Brachypelma boehmei Natural Habitat
The Mexican Fireleg naturally inhabits the thorn forests of south-eastern Michoacan and north-western Guerrero state.
Here two distinct seasons are experienced; firstly the drier, cooler winter, where temperatures average around 25’C running from November to May. Following on from this comes a wetter, warmer summer with temperatures up to 32’C.
It is in this moister period of the year that the Mexican Fireleg breeds, with males often migrating over great distances to locate a suitable female. The eggsac is laid later on in the season with several hundred spiderlings being produced.
Brachypelman boehmei is a terrestrial species, often found in subterranean burrows of its own design, or alternatively thriving in scrapes under rocks or fallen trees. Here the temperature and humidity is more modest, with less impact from the more extreme weather experienced here.
It is interesting to note that Mexico is considered one of the tarantula hotspots of the world, second only to Brazil in terms of species. At the time of writing twenty different species of Brachypelma alone are known to science.
Cages for the Mexican Fireleg Tarantula
The Fireleg tarantula is reasonably easy to accommodate in captivity, as it is slow-moving and reaches a modest 5-6″ in legspan. As with all tarantulas, a cage should be designed in such a way as to prioritize as much natural behaviour as possible.
While a range of plastic or glass containers have been used successfully in the past, a specialist tarantula tank measuring a minimum of 8″ deep by 12″ long is recommended for adults. This provides adequate space for the spider to move around, hunt or hide away during daylight hours.
My personal favorite type of tarantula cages are the Exo Terra and ReptiZoo ranges, which offer a very attractive yet practical solution.
They offer, among other things, variable ventilation (important to prevent mould build-up in a humid tank), a “lip” of glass below the door which helps to keep both substrate and spider in during routine maintenance, and a slightly raised base, allowing for easy heating.
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Into this cage should be placed a suitable substrate which should be chosen both on its ability to moderate humidity and to facilitate a degree of burrowing.
I personally use around an inch or so of coir coconut substrate, but peat-free potting compost is another suitable alternative. Click here to read about a range of tarantula substrates which you may opt to use.
- ECO-FRIENDLY ORGANIC and 100% BIODEGRADABLE unlike some reptile substrates that are contributing to deforestation and then go to the landfill
- INCREASES HUMIDITY for animals that need moderate to high humidity
- ABSORBENT composition allows it to soak up messes and odors, leaving a cleaner habitat for your pet
Water & Humidity
Classically the Mexican tarantulas often require a slightly drier environment than you might be used to if you have kept more tropical spiders in the past. The cage should in no way be left bone dry for periods of time, however.
A good rule of thumb with any tarantula is to provide a shallow bowl of water which is changed regularly to prevent bacterial build-up.
Feeding Mexican Fireleg Tarantulas
The Mexican Fireleg is a reasonably slow-growing species, with adults taking an estimated 4-8 years to reach maturity in the wild.
Of course, with the proper feeding and environmental conditions we can speed this up considerably in captivity, but don’t go thinking that the spiderling you’re considering will be at breeding size by this time next year (unlike some other species like Poecilotheria regalis).
All the same, I have found that Brachypelma boehmei is a pretty steady feeder, rarely going off it’s food apart from just before a moult. The standard range of insect prey may be given, including crickets, locusts and roaches of an appropriate size.
I tend not to stick to a regular routine with my specimens, but most likely feed youngsters twice a week, and adults once every week or so.
In terms of feeding volumes, it’s best to take a hint from your spider. Pop some insects in and pay attention to what is left over by the following morning.
If there are still insects in there then pull them out; if they’re all gone then consider feeding more feeder insects (or feeding more frequently) next time. Note that at no time should feeder insects be permanently present in the cage, as they can cause harm when your tarantula changes its skin.
Handling Brachypelma boehmei
Brachypelma boehmei is a reasonably docile species, which is far more prone to defence than attack. That said, this is a skittish species, with some fearsome urticating hairs.
I have found that this species seems more prone to kicking off these hairs than almost any other (apart from the Goliath Birdeater perhaps) and even after all these years of keeping spiders they can cause quite an irritation. It is not unusual to find me scratching for several days after maintenance.
Handling is therefore best avoided in this species. While you’re unlikely to get bitten, the irritation you’ll likely experience won’t be too pleasant.
In the same vein, take great care when the cage is open to avoid inhaling these hairs or getting them in your eyes. I always recommend keeping this species at arms length when changing water or feeding, just in case.
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