Monday, March 12, 2012


Tomorrow is the big day.

As part of an honors project, this semester, I'm going to attempt to sequence some DNA from one of my pet tarantulas. This is the first time I've ever attempted to directly work with genetics. I'm extremely excited, to say the least.

The spider we're using is one of my 1-year-old Psalmopeus irminia spiderlings that I bred myself. We're going to convince it to drop one of it's #3 legs, and we'll use that to attempt to extract the DNA. I should know by tomorrow night if we have successfully extracted any.

In two weeks, we will be using a primer to try and isolate a portion of DNA for sequencing. If we're successful, we're publishing it to an online database of DNA segments. This would be the first segment published for this species.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I worked on a really fun honors project for my Chemistry class last semester.

Over the course of two seven hour lab sessions, my teacher and I synthesized blatellaquinone, the organic compound that German cockroaches (Blatella germanica) use as a sex pheromone. It was really neat to learn how organic compounds can be altered by breaking off portions of them and attaching new structures. That wasn't the best part, though.

After we finished making the powdery compound, we tested it on male and female B. germanica to ensure we made it properly. As we expected, the female roaches didn't react at all, but the males went absolutely crazy. They were running in circles and even waving their abdomens around in mating displays. It was pretty cute.

Things got even more interesting as we tried the compound on other, very distantly related species of roaches. When we tested it on hissing roaches (G. portentosa), we were surprised to see the males ignore it and the females react strongly. It seems that hissers still use the same blatellaquinone compound to signal for mating, but the gender that uses it has switched somewhere in their evolutionary lineage.

We also tested it on Halloween hissers (E. javanica). The females ignored it, but the males went insane. To our amusement, they even started humping the vial we placed it inside of. Talk about ready for action!

I had tons of fun with this project, but really wish I had more roach species at home to test the compound on. That said, I did save it. So in the future, when I have adults of a new species, I'll probably break it out and see how they react. My curiosity is really piqued thanks to this simple assignment!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Additions

After some prodding, I talked my fiancée into starting a millipede colony in our spare fish tank instead of a new reef. We already had a young, female Archispirostreptus gigas, but I'm impatient.

Today, I picked up a package that was being held for me. It had two beautiful millipedes that I was expecting to be much smaller. The male is around 9" long, and the female 8". I placed them into their new home, and put them on a fresh plate of veggies, in case they were hungry.

I just checked back on our new critters and found them in the throws of passion. I don't think it'll be much longer before we have the pitter-patter of thousands of little feet!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Change of Heart

I was supposed to pick up another centipede in the trade I made for my spiderlings. The person I was working with told me he was getting six more Scolopendra subspinipes today. I decided to wait and see what color morphs he received, as he only had the brown body/ yellow leg morph yesterday.

When I stopped by today, he had the six new beasties, but they were all that same color morph, sadly. I was hoping he would have one with the reddish-pink legs. Since I didn't see any that stood out to me, I took a peek at his other animals.

Since there were no spiders, I perused the scorpions. I'm not a big fan of scorpions, but I do keep them from time to time. He had some neat species, but one caught my eyes. It's an Israeli gold scorpion (Scorpio maurus). They get up to about 2-3" in length, have very mild venom, but have a seriously bad attitude. I have a weak spot for very tiny bugs who act like they're the size of a Scottish wolf hound.

This little bugger is about an inch long, right now, and tried to pinch the holy heck out of my tweezers when I picked it up to put in its new cage. I'm enamored already. I think we're going to have a great friendship!

P. irminia --> B. smithi

I just sold and traded off the last of my excess spiderlings. As part of the deal, I got myself a beautiful sub-adult B. smithi. I decided not to sex this spider and hope to be pleasantly surprised. I have an adult female already. If I get another female, that's always a good thing. If I ended up with a male, I'm ready to try and breed them down the line. I can't lose.

Also, this little bugger is adorable!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wonderful Surprise

I stopped by the local exotic pet store (Alligator Alley) to grab some crickets on my way home from class today. I always enjoy looking in their arthropod case, and today was no exception. The first thing I noticed were two very large Scolopendra spp. At a cursory glance, based on color, I thought I saw an S. subspinipes and an S. heros. What they really were was much more interesting.

I've been keeping centipedes for about ten years, now. I've had hundreds as the years have gone by. Strangely, I've never seen one molt. Centipedes just seem to eat their skins very quickly.

The centipede at the shop that I pegged as an S. heros ended up being an S. subspinipes that had molted less than twenty minutes before I walked in! I decided to buy it, and had the shop pull the molt out for me, too.

I now have my first centipede molt drying on my dresser, waiting for me to mount and frame it tomorrow. Not only does it look amazing since it was found while still moist, but it's eight inches long! Talk about a wonderful specimen.

This beautiful centipede is going to have a special place in my collection, now. I can't wait to see what color its legs are once hardened.

EDIT: I'm still settling in to Blogger. I can't seem to get the two photos to look nice, so please forgive the formatting.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nauphoeta cinerea

I just cleaned out one of my roach bins, which is never a small chore. There's nothing quite like fresh water gems to make these critters go crazy.

I know lobster roaches are regarded only for their use as a feeder species, which is why I have them as well, but I really think they're quite a beautiful animal. In appreciation for their beauty, and as reverence for them giving their lives for my other bugs, I have one tattooed on my hand. It's neat to always be able to see these guys wherever I am, now :)