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The Intriguing Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula

Updated on April 10, 2010
GarnetBird profile image

Gloria taught for many years, and also worked as a mental health group facilitator.

A gentle and fascinating pet..easy to care for!

My Mexican Red Knee, Scarlett, lived for 18 years in her aquarium. This is the last photo I took of her before she passed away.
My Mexican Red Knee, Scarlett, lived for 18 years in her aquarium. This is the last photo I took of her before she passed away.
When fully alert, this is how she looked. Photo courtesy of Mahal.com
When fully alert, this is how she looked. Photo courtesy of Mahal.com
The clay burrow where Scarlett hibernated and molted;  it was always partially buried in sand for more privacy.
The clay burrow where Scarlett hibernated and molted; it was always partially buried in sand for more privacy.

A harmless arachnid..a teaching tool in the classroom!

The Mexican Red Knee Tarantula is difficult to spot as it is illegal to bring them in from Mexico. Several exotic pet stores breed and carry them, along with a host of other crawly creatures. My Tarantula, Scarlett, lived to be eighteen years old in the calm, peaceful environment of her aquarium, as pictured. When fully outstretched, she could almost cover a person's hand.

I had never intended to have a Tarantula in my life. Scarlett was in need of a good home when my boyfriend's daughter could no longer care for her. She found her way to the mantle in my livingroom, and I kept her for nearly ten years.Every time she molted her flame colors and velvet chocolate browns seemed to brighten. Of the 900 species of Tarantulas, I feel the Mexican Red Knee is among the most dramatic-looking.

Tarantulas are usually docile and dislike being confronted or handled. When irritated they will shoot prickly hairs off their backside's as a defense. These hairs can cause eye irritation if they find their way to the eye itself. A Tarantula should always be left alone when acting in this manner. They do not readily bite, but their bite is said to be likened to a severe bee sting. Mexican Red-Knees are not toxic or dangerous in many way, but handling them is not a good idea. For one thing, if they fall from your hand their tender abdomen will usually burst open, resulting in injury and death.

Tarantulas need a regular supply of crickets, as this is their favorite food. More than four crickets at a time would cause Scarlett to retreat to her cave-like "den" in disgust. {Tarantulas do not require a lot of drama in their lives}. Watching her pounce and wrap a cricket was somewhat fascinating. Scarlett, like all Tarantulas would dance in a circle after obtaining prey.This looks charming and is characteristic of the species.

Like most of her species, our spider lived in a spacious glass aquarium filled with sand and a few rocks to rest on. She also had a small heating pad. These creatures can pick up parasites and pesticides, so the material in their "home" must be clean. Water must be available in a small container--a Pickle Jar Lid filled with cotton balls and water is ideal. These creatures are loners and do not need company in their environments.

Male Tarantulas do not make good pets as their life span is too short. Many females live to be twenty years old. All tarantulas hibernate during cold winter months in their "caves."Molting causes them to grow larger and larger, and many of Scarlett's molts found their way into classrooms. Children were fascinated by her "coat" and found it confusing that the spider could shed its outer covering and still survive. If you turn the molt over, you will see that the fangs of the Red Flame Knee also molt. This is typical of all Tarantulas. This stirred up excitement in the classroom, I can assure you!

My own special memory of this creature came during a fierce Christmas Storm that knocked the power out in my cabin in Forest Falls, California. In order to keep Scarlett from freezing to death, I picked her up and placed her on a warm towel, using my hand-held hair dryer to thaw her out. She was so stiff I feared she was dead, but after a few minutes the warm air revived her. (I can still see her, stiffly shaking her legs out!) I had never handled her before, but the need was dire and I did what I needed to do. Soon she was grooming and cleaning her fangs as fastidiously as ever.

If you want a pet that is quiet, interesting, educational and undemanding, perhaps a Tarantula is the answer. If they escape their aquariums they will often climb up drapes and other surfaces, so to protect your pet you must make sure its environment is secure. Persons who are allergic to bee stings and spider bites might want to consider another pet. These creatures are docile and have no desire to bite and devour humans--they save that behavior for crickets!

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    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 months ago from North Texas

      I still remember having the only road on my way to the small airport here covered with golden knee tarantulas that were migrating for mating season. They covered the road for several days and unfortunately people had to drive over that road to get to work because it was the only road to the airport. I felt terrible because I had to run over them and they were huge. About the size of a dinner plate even before considering their leg span.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 5 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Best of luck!!Yes, They do make interesting little pets. Thanks for your comment!

    • profile image

      ewa 5 years ago

      nice article! :) i've just got a baby red knee a few days ago, very interesting little creature !:)

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 5 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you for reading--they're interesting, aren't they?

    • profile image

      lewis 5 years ago

      i have a flame knee and she loves being handled. i think every spider is their own so you cant put the whole flame knee species in the same category of being handled. i have 3 friends who also have this spider and they handle them all of the time. we all have female flame knee's

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Awesome..they're so easy to care for and really live a long time!

    • profile image

      Wyndwolf6 6 years ago

      My daughter had one for 15 years.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you--they are really interesting and docile, aren't they, unless handled roughly.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Finally got round to reading this sensitive and engossing hub with lots of good advice in the story. You must have been very sad when she died. I saw lots of these lovely arachnids when I lived in Mexico, they were calm, unafraid and curious. Well done! Bob

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Yes, she would make a small web and kind of string it along on the bottom of the aquarium. Thanks for your comment!

    • profile image

      kev 7 years ago

      do they make webs at all? I have one called shelob, its molted once while ive had it and i got it when really small. interesting read.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Wow! That is so neat! I find them fascinating. I had a junior high teacher who had a tarantula as a pet. It's really a beautiful spider.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Hi, Gaven--you can find one at most local pet stores. I had a Chilean Rose-Hair Tarantula that seemed to like people and would come to the glass of the aquarium when my students looked at her. They tend to be a nice bargin spider. If you get one and need any help let me know. They need a small dish with water and a few cotton balls to suck up at at times, and of course, crickets and a burrow to hide in.

    • profile image

      Gaven. 7 years ago

      A pleasant read, I was wondering as if where I could obtain one. I love and am intrigued by this species of tarantula. Also, RIP Scarlett.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      I was touched that Hub writers would be interested in my little mascot. I grew up with Horses (love them) and dogs and cats, etc...even a pet raccoon for awhile. This pet was so low maintenance. I hardly knew she was there. haha

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 7 years ago from California

      Very informative story of your pet tarantula! I had no idea that they could live up to 20 years. I've never seen or heard of these before, they look like the fashionistas of tarantulas! =)

    • valeriebelew profile image

      valeriebelew 7 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      Interesting hub. I would not have known they could live to be 18 years old, or older. It is sad she is no longer with you.

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      That is a pretty critter but I think I enjoyed your hub better than I would having this crawling around the house..

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 7 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Good read! Gotta get a tarantula!

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware

      Wow, never thought I would ever feel warm and fuzzy about a Tarantula. This was a good piece of writing, GarnetBird! Also didn't know they were capable of living 18 years!

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you; I miss taking her molts to classrooms as kind of a mini science lesson.

    • thevoice profile image

      thevoice 7 years ago from carthage ill

      very unique read always learning thanks