jumping spider care sheet

ENCLOSURE

Jumping spiders actually don't need a lot of space as long as they can find food and find a spot to "bask" (more on that under temperatures), they are relatively happy.  

Adults do great in Exo Terra Nanos or Big Fat Phid's Condos.  However, for the younger ones, I like domed lid smoothie/parfait cups available on Amazon.  If the lid already has a hole, I will hot glue organza tulle over it for ventilation.  If not, I will cut my own hole on the lid.  This works incredibly well for juveniles.  These cups are kept relatively bare, as I've found some of my juvenile spiders refuse to go to the bottom to hunt occasionally.  My choice of decoration are fake plants/flowers.  I will also add a thin layer of cocoa fiber to maintain slow-evaporating humidity.

HUMIDITY

Maintaining stable humidity is incredibly important for juvenile spiders that are going through molts as they grow.  However, with higher humidity needs also comes higher ventilation needs.  You do not want condensation that lasts for longer than an hour or two at the most.  Hence, adding water to the substrate, where evaporation happens slowly, is a good idea.  I like to use cocoa fiber or a small piece of cotton in a corner.  If using cotton, it needs to be changed out every couple of days.  I will add water twice a day; it keeps the humidity at about 50 to 60, which I've found from experience to be ideal.

MISTING

In addition to water in the substrate, I will spritz one spot of the enclosure with some water drops for the spiders to get a chance to drink.  I don't see spiders drinking from the substrate or cotton even though they will drink from a piece of wet cotton or paper towel if thirsty and hand-fed.  For very young spiders where drowning is a huge risk, I will make sure the droplets of water are very isolated and they can walk around it.  A thin mist is more likely to get walked in, where they may get stuck in the water and drown.  Remember their book lungs are on their underside, making the balance of humidity/water and ventilation extremely important to master.

TEMPERATURE AND LIGHTING

I find that my juvenile spiders do best at around 85F +/- 3F for optimal eating and growth.  They also need a good lighting in the form of indirect sunlight and a bright lamp during the day. 

My set-up for juveniles and producing females includes heat mats hooked up to thermostats (NEVER USE A HEAT SOURCE WITHOUT A THERMOSTAT) and LED (negligible heat) bulb lamps on a timer for 10 - 12 hours of light a day.  Across the spider shelf is a window for natural light.  

Juveniles need good light and warmth to stimulate healthy appetites.  If they don't feed enough, they will have mismolts as they don't have enough reserves to get through premolt and hydration during the actual molting process.  This is where jumping spiders differ from Tarantulas.

Adults that are not reproducing, I will take off heat after they've hardened from their molt to maturity and had at least a few good meals.  This will slow down their metabolism and allow them to live longer.  My room temperature is about 67F in winter and 75F in summer.  The males eat significantly less after maturity.  Mine will eat a good sized prey every 3 days to every week.  Do not be alarmed if mature spiders' appetites reduce drastically.  This is normal as long as they act normal, albeit less active because they're not hunting, and the "skin" on the abdomen looks tight.  Wrinkles on the abdomen means they need some more food or hydration.

PREY ITEMS

As a general rule of thumb, appropriate prey will be the size of a spider's abdomen to the full length of their body, depending on what they're willing to hunt and eat.  Some spiders may be less bold, and I've found after a molt, they may be less likely to tackle a large prey, so I start with smaller prey, then move up after a few meals on smaller prey.  I may also offer a variety and let them choose.

My spiderlings begin life eating melanogaster fruit flies.  Then, they will move onto hydei fruit flies.  A next step up will be 1 week  or 2 week crickets (I buy mine through Rainbow Mealworms), then house flies (I buy these from Mantisplace, then small crickets (pet stores will carry these) and/or Blue Bottle Flies (Mantisplace or Big Fat Phids carry these).  Waxworms, mealworms, and phoenix worms may also add a nice variety for spiders that will eat worms - you will just have to experiment.  Waxworms are mostly fat, so I will offer these sparingly.

Occasionally, once my spider has filled out on the bigger prey items, like crickets and waxworms, they become less interested in larger prey and will be more likely to eat house flies or blue bottles.  Variety is the spice of life for spiders too.  

WILDCAUGHT prey should not be given to pet spiders as a rule of thumb.  They can carry parasites and be affected by pesticides.  

HAND FEEDING/FORCE FEEDING

First, if a spider is off food, offer light and warmth as the first remedy.  Sometimes, when a spider has been weakened by the whole ordeal of molting, they may refuse any type of prey.  After about 3 days or 4 days without food for a juvenile (because, remember, older adults may not need as much food or have the appetite for it), I will attempt to hand feed.  I do this by taking a waxworm or cricket, killing it quickly, and taking a section of it with guts and holding it up to the spider's mouth.  It make take some chasing around to determine whether a spider is interested.  When they are interested, they will gently feel the food with their pedipalps, then latch on with their chelicerae. 

If they absolutely won't eat the food even if handfed, I will take some guts and tweezer/drip it on their face so they have to clean it off, and in the process, ingest some nutrients.  The ones that pull through are the ones that will eat by themselves after a few sessions (even if you have to offer a variety to figure out what they want to eat).  I do occasionally have a couple of spiders that need/want to be handfed, but if they are willing to latch onto significant portions of pre-killed prey, they will also be fine, albeit spoiled.  This is a delicate process, so be very gentle!

PREMOLT/MOLTING

When a juvenile jumping spider is ready for a molt, they will first go into premolt.  They will look very fat, stop eating, and build a thick nest (unless they've been disturbed in premolt and have to build a new nest, which will be thinner), then stay in there until they molt.

How long it takes for a jumping spider to molt depends on their size and how close they are to maturity.  It can range from 4 days to a month! 

Young spiders may only be in premolt for 3-4 days, they molt, and their exoskeletons dry within hours, and they begin eating again.

Premolt takes longer and longer for jumping spiders that are closer to maturity.  The premolt for their mature molt may take 2 weeks, on average.  It takes them about a day or two to come out to eat afterwards.  Some species take longer.  For example, my Floridian (orange) P. otiosus can take up to a month or so in premolt for their mature molt.

When they stop eating, it may be concerning, but if you've tried a number of prey, offered plenty of light, and they are fat and displaying reclusive behavior, then they are in premolt.  It is nothing to worry about!

Make sure the humidity is stable during this time even if they're not eating or drinking.  Low humidity may cause mismolts, which are often fatal.  Try to be patient and not disturb a spider during premolt, as that can also cause a mismolt. 

Occasionally, they will come out to take a walk, then go back in even if in premolt.  If the spider begins to molt outside of a nest, don't be alarmed.  They usually make it just fine if all other conditions are perfect.  You can put them on a paper towel as well, to give a big of traction to get out of their exoskeletons, but be very very gentle.  

If a spider has body parts stuck in their molt, and it's been more than an hour since the molting process has begun, it is likely they won't make it out of their old exoskeletons.  However, I would increase the humidity and hope for the best anyway.  If they only have a couple appendages stuck, they may amputate those appendages and be just fine afterwards.  However, if they have more than a couple legs or pedipalps stuck, it is often fatal.  Sometimes a spider will have a "wet molt", which I think, is where something goes wrong during the process of lubrication between old and new exoskeletons, and that is fatal.  Other times, injuries during molts may happen even if they're not visible to the naked eye.  It's not something anyone can control.  They rarely happen, but they do happen.

SPIDER LIFE CYCLE

Spiders are hatched as 1st instars.  The shedding of the egg membrane counts as one "molt".  Each "instar" denotes a molt.  Sometimes, instars are also referred to as stadiums or L1, L2, so on so forth.  

As first instars, these spiderlings are completely helpless inside the nest.  They have immature eyes and claws and can't hunt or eat.  They stay inside the nest until they molt once more before they disperse.  It's speculated that they will feed on internal yolk resources.  In one particular species of jumping spider, scientists found that the mother secrets a substance like unfertilized eggs for the young spiderlings to eat inside the nest.  I have not witnessed this for Phidippus species spiders.  However, within a clutch, there will be a certain ratio of unfertilized eggs.  It is totally within reason to speculate that these young spiderlings may feed upon the unfertilized eggs.  

The mother does guard the eggs, refusing to leave the nest at all until the eggs hatch about 2-4 weeks after laying.  Sometimes, they will accept a prey tweezered to them in their nest opening.  Otherwise, they will not eat until the eggs hatch, then they leave to hunt.  As the spiderlings approach time for dispersal (about another 2-4 weeks), the mother will come out more to hunt.  

After they disperse, spiderlings may molt up to another 10 or so more times before maturity.  Males and females generally mature in different amount of molts, as do different species, and even individuals will mature at different rates.  So, age does not correspond to maturity.

A mature male will have completely modified bulbous scoop-like ends to their pedipalps.  Pedipalps store sperm, which then gets inserted into the female during mating.  A mature female will have a round indent between the book lungs called an epigynum.  This is where the males insert their sperm into and where the females lay eggs out of.

DO THEY BITE?

Anything with a mouth can bite.  The domestic dog and cat also can, and do, bite.  Just like pet dogs and cats, jumping spiders also have the ability to bite.  Their fangs - called chelicerae, however, are not designed to bite what they don't intend to eat.  If they do bite what they don't eat, it is usually defensively.  Jumping spiders are not medically significant in terms of their venom unless someone is allergic to them.  

As long as you don't stick a finger in their web, pinch them, or squeeze them, they are unlikely to bite you.  When they are agitated, their body language reflects it too.  They will bare their chelicerae, and spread their front legs outwards, moving/posturing stiffly.  Just like it's unwise to kiss a dog exhibiting warning signals, this is the human's signal to back up.  

SAFE HANDLING PRACTICES

Always remember safe practices of handling:
1. wash your hands beforehand. 
2. handle on a long flat surface so if you lose the spider, it's easy to see where they are and intercept, and if they do jump, there's not a big distance for them to fall and hurt themselves. 
3. have a soft paintbrush and catch cup ready to intercept the spider with when needed.
4. if they spider jumps off, don't move the hand/object from where they jumped off as the spider might have attached a dragline and is dangling. If you move the hand/object, it could project them through the air and into another area, which risks losing them or hurting them.

Jumping spiders instinctually want to move upwards. So try to present your hand to them a little higher to where they currently are.  Being still is very important.  They won't jump on and stay on a surface that is shaky.  
If they won't climb onto your hand, and you need to keep them contained by holding them, gently place the spider between two fingers and nudge them onto your hand from the side or from behind.  If this isn't done gently and steadily enough, the spider will panic.  So be very careful.  After they realize that skin isn't so gross and it's a safe place, they will become more receptive to staying on your hand and jumping to and fro. 

If the spider is too skittish, they are a lot safer being left alone. 

HOW TO KNOW WHEN A JUMPING SPIDER IS MATURE

Mature male jumping spiders have completely modified pedipalps.  The ends of the pedipalps will look like old-school telephone receivers.  At subadult sage, the males will have bulbous pedipalps where the ends are thickened, but without the telephone receiver shape.

Mature female jumping spiders will have an epigynum that looks like a smooth/hairless indent/opening in between their book lungs.  It is easiest to see if you place the spider in a clear cup/on the side of a clear enclosure and take a look at them from the underside.

HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE THE SEX OF JUMPING SPIDERS

Mature jumping spiders will have modified pedipalps and mature females will have a visible epigynum on the underside.  In many species, the females will also have hairier "lips" (hair right above their fangs) and faces, whereas the males have a lot less hair/coloring on their faces.  

In P. regius specifically, the two sexes are usually highly dimorphic, with females being predominantly hues of grey to orange and males being black and white.  However, there are dark varieties of females as well, in that case, checking for the epigynum, looking at pedipalps, and hair over the chelicerae are better indicators of sex.

In many other species, both sexes will look the same until sub-adult age where the males give away their sex only due to their newly developed bulbous pedipalps.

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