I’ve always been a bit cautious of tarantulas, but still incredibly fascinated and I had just acquired a spare tank, so why not give it a try?
This blog post looks at my experience, some of the facts about tarantulas I found and my recommendations if you’re thinking of doing it yourself…
My local exotic pet shop are brilliant and are happy to order Tarantulas in as per a customers request; its not something they keep in-house. Unfortunately, I’m impatient. I had a tank, I’d set it up weeks ago, and I wanted an eight legged friend as soon as possible.
I decided to have a look for a UK retailer online, and came across So Many Legs. Placing an order with them was smooth and simple, and they actually have a pretty wide variety of species available. I also like the fact that the species I was looking for was captive bred – I try not to support wild-caught species, especially ones like mine that are classed as vulnerable in the wild.
Deliveries are received next day (if ordered before 1pm) so I only had to sit and wait a couple of days for my new friend to arrive. I was sceptical about receiving a tarantula via Royal Mail special delivery – but it seemed the done thing in the invertebrate world, so I didn’t even think to question.
It was a signed for delivery and I work full time, so I needed to ask my neighbour to receive the parcel on my behalf. They thought I was trafficking drugs at first, so I had to assure them it was only a tarantula and then convince them it wouldn’t eat them before I finished work.
Take a look at the moment I received my delivery and fell in love…
I found when posting this video, I had a lot of surprised responses to receiving the little guy via Royal Mail, as well as some questions as to whether it was safe.
I decided to do a little further research into the way these guys take in and use oxygen, the way it was packaged and the general idea of whether travelling by post was actually as safe as it makes out…
Please bear in mind the below information is based on what I’ve recently learned via research on the internet and not from qualifications or education so don’t take it as gospel…
How do tarantulas take in oxygen?
So, tarantulas don’t breath like mammals. They still require oxygen, but instead of bringing it in to an internal cavity (via “taking a breath”) to allow oxygen to be diffused into the blood, they have something called book lungs, which sit at skin level on their underside. These allow oxygen to be directly brought into the lungs by diffusion – skipping out the breathing stage.
They’re called book lungs, because they are made of sheets of high vascular skin, layered like the pages of a book.
Here’s a pretty good article I found to explain it well, referring to how spiders can’t hold their breath because of how their lungs function – https://www.burkemuseum.org/blog/myth-spiders-hold-breath-when-sprayed
How do spiders use oxygen?
I struggled to find any hard facts on this point, none that my brain could understand anyway. Basically, they do have a heart, that pumps “blood” around their bodies – which is actually a liquid called haemolymph rather than actual blood. This liquid carries the oxygen taken in at the book lungs and deposits it where needed.
They do not use oxygen to fuel an internal thermostat like mammals, and use it instead for digestion and locomotion. They take warmth from their environment like snakes and lizards.
I can’t find any stats on how much oxygen they actually use, but in my own logical head, this effectively suggests that a non-moving tarantula uses barely a scratch of oxygen to maintain itself. During increased activity, they can expand their book lungs to increase surface area and therefore the input of oxygen.
How does packaging promote this process?
Okay, so we now know how oxygen is used by the tarantula – but does being in the post for up to 24 hours cause problems?
I first noticed that the tarantula was packed up in a small space, probably enough room to fit its body in two or three times. You may think, “but that’s hardly enough space for it to move!”. Well, that’s the point. A non-moving tarantula uses barely any oxygen, making it much more sustainable. It also reduces the risk of being thrown around and injured during transit.
Second, air flow isn’t completely restricted. I know from my video, it looks like plastic upon plastic, but each layer was made carefully to ensure there was no air-tight seal, at any stage. There were air-holes in the tub it was immediately secured in, the bubble wrap surrounding the tub was very loose, and the cardboard box was never going to stop air flow.
Finally, a heat pad or hand warmer was included in the outer layer of the box, ensuring the tarantula would not become too cold on its journey. It also states on the retailers website, that if temperatures are expected to drop overnight, dispatch would be delayed.
The only other risks are: getting lost in the post – special delivery and signed for can help this one; the spider molting in transit – providing moist tissue paper in the tub can help, but is inevitably a risk that you can’t account for much; and the package being knocked around – avoided as best they can with ‘FRAGILE’ tape and ‘Live Invertebrate’ stickers.
So what are my suggestions when purchasing a tarantula online?
- RESEARCH – I will never not advise someone to research properly before getting any pet! Check out my previous blog post – “Research – Where To Start”…
- Find the right retailer – you want someone who has the tarantulas best interests at heart. Who knows how to package them and sources from captive breeders. Find someone who offers a live arrival guarantee – for your own protection, but also someone who could lose out if it dies, will make extra sure it doesn’t!
- Make sure someone is home – a tarantula is not going to enjoy being stuck at the post office waiting for you. If you can’t be around, deliver it to a neighbour who will be – just make sure you let them know!
- Unwrap it slowly – There’s no point taking every precaution to make its journey comfortable, to be tossed and turned at the last hurdle. My video is using 8x speed because I took it super slow!
- Give it space – you have to be prepared to leave it alone for a few days after being transported. Let is become accustomed to its new home and acclimatise before you start feeding or handling it.
My main advice?