Creature Feature: Mexican Blood Leg Tarantula

Mexican Blood Leg Tarantula

Aphonopelma bicolouratum

Reptiles Alive Name: “Chewbacca”

 Chewie was one of 8 tarantulas, one scorpion, and one savannah monitor lizard that were rescued from a house fire by Fairfax County Animal Control in April of 2006.  Due to zoning laws, the owner was not allowed to have his animals returned to him, so we were given custody of all of the rescued animals.

RA Diet:
 Chewie’s favorite food are crickets.

Natural Diet:
 Tarantulas will eat insects, birds, lizards, and even small mammals.

Range: Mexican blood leg tarantulas are native to Mexico and South Texas.

Habitat: Blood leg tarantulas are found in deserts where they spend most of their time hiding in burrows.

 Blood legs are a relatively small tarantula, growing to about 3 1/2 to 5 inches

 Female tarantulas can live over 30 years – males do not live nearly as long.

 Tarantulas construct a golf ball sized egg sac out of silk. The female tarantula will care for her eggs by turning the egg sac on a regular basis. One egg sac may contain over two thousand eggs.

 Tarantulas form a vital part of the desert’s food web.   They control insect populations by eating them, and then, tarantulas are eaten by other animals such as lizards, birds, and mammals.

Cool Facts: Tarantulas rarely harm humans. They prefer to use the itchy hairs on their abdomen to irritate any animal that bothers them. The venom from tarantulas found in North America is not any more dangerous to people than bee venom.  The best thing to do whenever you see an animal is to just leave it alone.

Creature Feature: Nelson’s Milksnake

Nelson’s Milk Snake

Lampropeltis triangulum nelsoni


Creature Feature: Nelson’s Milksnake

Reptiles Alive Name: “Milkshake”

Hissstory: We received Milkshake from a reptile rescue group in 2004.

RA Diet: Milkshake does not actually drink milkshakes.  He much prefers defrosted frozen mice.

Natural Diet: Milk snakes have a varied diet including birds, small mammals, lizards, and other snakes – even venomous snakes!

Range: Nelson’s milk snakes are found in Mexico and Central America.

Habitat: Nelson’s milk snakes live in dry woodlands and rocky areas.  They spend most of their time hiding underground in burrows or rock crevices.

Size: Nelson’s milk snakes can grow 14-18 inches long.

Life Span: Milk snakes can live 15 years or more.

Reproduction: Female milk snakes lay 3-8 eggs in July.  The eggs typically begin hatching in September.

Cool Facts: 
Only mammals drink milk, so why name a snake a “milk snake?”  No one knows for sure how the milk snake got its name, but some people believe that when the first Europeans began settling in the eastern United States a farmer saw a snake biting the udder of a cow.  It is physically impossible for a snake to milk a cow. Perhaps the cow had stepped on the snake and the snake was trying to get the cow to move.

The milk snakes include species and sub-species living throughout North, Central, and South America.  They range in color, but most have a “tri-color” pattern of red, black, and yellow or white bands around their body.  Although this pattern makes them similar in appearance to the venomous coral snakes, milk snakes are completely harmless to humans.

Creature Feature: Hissing Roaches

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

Gromphadorhina portentosa

Reptiles Alive Name: Too many to name

Hissstory: Our first few hissing roaches were donated to us by Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, VA.  Within a few months, we had lots, lots more.

RA Diet:
 Chopped leafy greens, vegetables, monkey chow, dog food, fruit, leftovers. (Hey, they are roaches they like leftovers!)


Natural Diet: Roaches are scavengers – they will eat dead and decaying plants and animals laying on the forest floor.

Range: Madagascar

Habitat: Hissing roaches live in the tropical rain forests of Madagascar.

Hissing roaches are a relatively a large roach, growing to about 3 inches.

Lifespan: Hissing roaches live for about two years.

 Male hissing roaches have two large bumps on the tops of their heads. They use them to battle for females just like goats do. After mating, females will keep the eggs inside her body until they hatch. Gestation is 60-70 days. Females have about 30 young

Conservation: Cockroaches are one of the most important species on our planet!  As decomposers, they create soil by eating decaying plants and animals.  Without decomposers like cockroaches, plants and trees could not grow.  Without plants and trees, animals and humans could not survive.  So, you might not want to live with, hug, or kiss a cockroach, but cockroaches are a super important animal.

Cool Facts: Hissing roaches produce a hissing noise by pushing air through holes in their abdomen. There are at least five different hisses.  Different hisses are used in courtship, to defend territory, and warn of danger.