Newcomers to the hobby are often dismayed to find that they don’t have any good pet stores locally that are knowledgeable about tarantulas. This typically encourages them to ask in a forum how everyone else gets their T’s, which often turns into a discussion about buying them online.
As long as you are following local and federal laws, then buying tarantulas is perfectly safe to do online. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to network in the hobby and to get a hold of desirable species at lower prices than you would see in pet stores. If you are in the USA, then it’s important to know that there are some species that are restricted from interstate sales and that you should only purchase spiders from vendors who are also located in the United States.
When you’re buying tarantulas online be cautious of the method that the vendor uses for shipping, as well as any freebies that they may include.
What should I look for in an online tarantula vendor?
Companies and individuals that sell their tarantulas online should be easy to contact in the event that you have questions about your new pet.
They should have a live arrival guarantee in place, and you should also be able to find positive reviews about their method for packing and shipping spiders. If the vendor doesn’t display reviews on their website, you can often find reviews on Arachnoboards for dealers, pet stores, and individual forum users.
Will I get a freebie with my online tarantula purchase?
Some sellers choose to include a free spiderling with orders over a certain dollar amount. This is a very common practice in the tarantula hobby.
While most large vendors state upfront that they include freebies, some smaller hobbyist sellers don’t make any mention of them even if they include a free sling with orders. Often, you’re given a choice between available species, however, some vendors will make the selection for you.
The species that are typically included as freebies are ones that the vendor has in surplus and is having trouble getting rid of in a timely fashion.
This frequently is the case with species that breed readily but are in lower demand because they are so common in the hobby. Examples include Lasiodora parahybana and Pterinochilus murinus.
If you’re inexperienced with keeping tarantulas, then I would highly recommend reaching out to the seller to inquire if they will be including one and which species it will be if they do.
I’ve had OBT’s (Pterinochilus murinus) thrown into orders of New World tarantulas before without getting a head’s up, which is something I don’t think a person new to the hobby should be surprised with.
P. murinus is a feisty Old World tarantula with potent venom and an attitude to match its brilliant orange coloration. Not exactly something most people who place an order for New World T’s would be expecting!
It’s important to make sure that you will be prepared to house any additional species that are included as freebies with your order. I always make sure I have an extra sling container set up when I’m receiving a package of tarantulas just in case an undisclosed freebie was included in the box.
Can you ship tarantulas using USPS?
It is not legal to ship live tarantulas using the United States Postal Service (read their policy on nonmailable live animals at the bottom of this article).
Section 525.4 Poisonous Insects and Spiders specifically states, “All poisonous insects and all spiders, except scorpions under limited circumstances (see 526.5), are nonmailable. Other nonpoisonous and non-disease-conveying insects are permitted as stated in Exhibit 526.6.”
If you come across a person or company selling tarantulas online that is offering shipping via USPS do not purchase from them, regardless of how tempting the cheap shipping rate may seem. Look for a vendor that offers overnight FedEx shipping instead.
Although overnight FedEx shipping costs more, it is a legal way of shipping spiders and the overnight transit time will give your tarantulas a much higher chance of arriving safely.
There are many anecdotes on tarantula forums discussing spiders that arrived dead because they were improperly shipped through USPS and encountered mail delays that exposed them to extreme temperatures.
How do I unbox the spiderling after the package arrives?
Once the package arrives, you will want to immediately check all the spiders to make sure everyone arrived safely. Do not allow the package to sit outside on your doorstep after delivery. Most vendors have a limited window that you can contact them within for dead on arrival specimens.
Slings are often shipped in tiny pop cap vials or straws that are cushioned with moist pieces of paper towel. The paper towel is often just wadded up on the top and bottom of the container so that the spiderling is sitting in an empty part in the center.
However, spiderlings are also sometimes shipped fully wrapped in a paper towel. When you’re transferring the spiderlings from their shipping containers, you will need to be careful not to crush them if they were wrapped in the moist paper by carefully unrolling it as opposed to pulling it.
When I open the shipping containers I usually put on a pair of nitrile gloves. I don’t wear the gloves in an effort to protect myself against bites. Rather, I’ve found that nitrile gloves with textured fingertips give me a better grip, which means I can open tiny vials and other containers very delicately without spooking the inhabitants as badly as I would otherwise.
If I’m in the United States can I purchase tarantulas internationally?
Avoid tarantula vendors that advertise worldwide shipping who are located outside of the United States. While they may have no problem shipping to you, what you are actually doing is illegally smuggling spiders.
It is illegal to have tarantulas shipped into the United States from an international vendor without the proper import permits. These permits cost a lot of money, and most hobbyists do not have the means to justify the costs.
Tarantulas that are illegally shipped into the US are subject to confiscation and the individual who ordered them can face fines or other consequences. The practice of bringing tarantulas into the US illegally is referred to as brown boxing, and it is highly frowned upon and discouraged within the hobby.
It does not mean that the spiders are literally being shipped inside of a brown box. Instead, the term is referring to a package that was supposed to go through customs legally through an importation/exportation process but bypasses it because of an unscrupulous seller.
Are the tarantulas shipped directly to my door when I order them online?
When you purchase tarantulas online they may or may not be shipped directly to your house. It will depend on the weather at the time that they are being shipped.
If the vendor feels that the temperatures will be too cold or too hot for the spiders, then they may choose to have them shipped to an authorized FedEx pickup location. When the weather is good for shipping, the tarantulas are usually shipped directly to your door.
If you don’t know that you will be home for sure on the day of delivery to accept the package (it will need to be signed for), then having the spiders sent to a FedEx pickup location is recommended.
Final Thoughts on Buying Tarantulas Online
Online vendors are a great way to acquire interesting inverts, especially hard to find species of tarantulas! However, it’s important that you make sure they are using proper shipping methods and a legal mail carrier so that your spiders don’t die in transit or get confiscated. Additionally, if you are new to the hobby, it’s worth asking if the seller will be including any freebies with the order so you can let them know that you don’t want any Old World species.