One major concern I hear from new tarantula owners is how challenging it is to feed tarantula spiderlings. Not only are the spiders themselves tiny, but their prey is even smaller. It’s all too easy to kill the feeder insects by mistake, or have them escape all round your house.
As someone who generally has several hundred slings on the go at any point, I’ve had to learn and adapt over the years. I’ve now got a system ironed out that allows me to feed all my hundreds of slings in just a few easy hours of work each week.
In this article I’ll show you step-by-step how I do it. You might just find it makes your life a whole lot easier!
Step 1: Choose the Right Feeder Insects
Choosing the “right” feeder insects will make your life a whole lot easier. My personal food of choice for small spiderlings is crickets. There are numerous reasons for this: hatchling crickets (sometimes known as “pinheads”) are miniscule and therefore suitable for even the tiniest slings.
Crickets are available in a range of larger sizes too, meaning that as your slings grow, you can just move up to the next cricket size range.
Crickets are also easy to breed, and so cheap to buy. You can even breed your own if you can put up with the chirping of the males.
If you’re in Europe I highly recommend you opt for black crickets. Black crickets are superior to normal brown or house crickets in so many ways. FIrstly, the black coloration makes any uneaten crickets easier to spot in your spiderling enclosures.
Secondly black crickets prefer to walk rather than jump in general. This makes them easier to handle.
Thirdly, black crickets reach a larger adult size, so they’re a more general meal for larger spiders.
For my friends in the US, you’re probably going to have to make do with brown crickets. They’re fine. They’ll do the job. They’re just a little more challenging.
If you have issues with brown crickets you can always pop the tub into the fridge for a short while. This will slow down their movement and make them far easier to deal with.
Step 2: Find a Plastic Container
Find yourself a plastic container that is larger than the cricket tub. Ideally quite a bit larger. You may have to play around with a few options. The goal here is that you can open the cricket tub, and any insects that jump out, will still be contained with the larger outer container.
Step 3: Shake the Insects Into the Tub
Next, you want to coax the crickets out of their tub and into the plastic container you’ve chosen. There are a few options here. Firstly, you could just be patient; sooner or later some will start jumping out.
Personally, I go for option 2. Lift up the newspaper or egg carton from within the cricket tub and gently tap it on the floor or sides of the plastic box. The baby crickets will fall off, into the floor of the container.
At this point, the cricket tub lid can be resealed, removed from the container, and set aside for later. Just repeat this open/tap process later if you run out of feeder crickets in your larger container.
Step 4: Shake the Tub
Now you’ve got a load of loose hatchling crickets running around your larger container, unable to escape. The next phase of the feeding process is crucial; move swiftly but carefully. Speed is of the essence.
Start gently shaking the container to “loosen” the grip of the crickets on the container. You essentially want them sliding around the tub. Then, once they’re loose, tub the tub so that the hatchling crickets all fall into one corner of the container.
Step 5: Tip the Feeders Into a Vial
With the baby crickets all concentrated in one corner of the container, quickly but carefully tip the container over, letting the crickets slide down the corner and into a ready-waiting plastic vial. If you go too slow, some of the crickets will manage to jump out so be as quick as you can here.
If successful, you’ll end up with a plastic vial containing dozens of baby crickets. Now you’re ready to start feeding your slings.
Alternatively “scoop” the crickets up from one corner using the vial.
Step 6: Shake Out the Insects to Feed
Feeding spiderlings with your vial becomes nice and simple. Just peel back one corner of your spiderling’s container, and by turning the cricket vial towards the horizontal and gently shaking.tapping it, a cricket should slide out of the vial and into the spiderling pot.
I’ll be honest; this takes a little practice, and is easier with black crickets than brown. Either way, it’s the easiest feeding method I’ve found. It allows me to rapidly fly through my collection, spending mere seconds on each sling before the lid is resealed and I move onto the next one.
Step 7: Replace the Lid
While this is the main method now complete, I do want to highlight a few “extra” pointers that you might find helpful.
The first of these is to choose a vial with a plastic lid. Why? Well you don’t want to tip that vial over by mistake; trying to recapture dozens of escaped pinhead crickets is not fun. By having a lid to hand, you can carefully seal the vial any time you need to – such as if the doorbell rings, the phone goes etc.
Step 8: Tip Back Into the Tub
When you’ve finished feeding your spiderlings, any leftovers can easily be tipped back into the original cricket tub. Just place the cricket tub into your large plastic container (to prevent escapees), open it up, and tip the remaining crickets into it from the vial.
Step 9: Check for Leftover the Following Day
Lastly, don’t forget to check for any uneaten crickets the following morning. Uneaten crickets can pose a safety risk to your spiders, so should not be left in the cage too long.
Removing tiny pinhead crickets is not easy. If you’re unlucky it can take forever. Personally, I just crush the pinheads. It’s a lot easier than trying to remove them alive. So in goes the tip of my finger – squish – then I wipe my finger on a bit of tissue, mark the sling with a Sharpie (so I know who is in premolt) and move onto the next.
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