If spiders don’t give you the shivers, they can make fascinating pets. Tarantulas are among the most popular pets and there are over 800 species of Theraphosidae that are native to a variety of areas and climates. Before deciding on a tarantula for your classroom pet, you’ll need to know a little something about them.
The best tarantulas for beginners are the slower-moving burrowing types such as Chilean Rose, Costa Rican Zebra, Mexican Redknee, Desert/Mexican Blonde or Curly Hair Tarantula. Female tarantulas generally live longer than males – sometimes up to 20 years! When purchasing a tarantula, find out the scientific name, age and sex of the spider so you will know how to best care for it.
Tarantulas don’t need a large enclosure, but they do need substrate to burrow in, a hiding place, and a secure, ventilated top to the enclosure. They are not social, and should be housed individually. Once you know the requirements of your species of tarantula, you can determine proper temperature and humidity levels. You may need to mist the enclosure once per week, or more frequently. The tarantula’s water dish should be shallow to prevent drowning. Most tarantulas don’t need to eat daily, but require a steady diet of crickets and other insects.
Handling the tarantula is not generally recommended, although they can become acclimated to being held on the palm of the hand. Spiders are easily injured if they jump or fall, and even a minor fall can be fatal. They can bite if provoked, resulting a bite much like a bee sting, and some species have hairs that can be irritating to the skin. Tarantulas can be a fascinating addition to your classroom study as students observe its behavior, feeding and molting process as it grows.
Pets in the Classroom is an educational grant program, to help you have a classroom pet for your students. Grants up to $150.00 are awarded to teachers, K-6th Grade, in Canada and the USA. Go to www.petsintheclassroom.org and apply for your grant online.