Amblypygi care guide
Amblypygi is an Order of unique arachnids called "tailless whip scorpions" or "whipspiders", although they are neither spiders nor scorpions. Like all arachnids, they have five pairs of appendages - three pairs are used for walking, one pair is modified into the front "pedipalps", and one pair is modified to serve the same purpose as an insect's anntenae, called "antenniform legs". Whipspiders have very dimunitive eyes and instead rely very heavily on their sense of "smell" via olfactory receptors on their antenniform legs. While their spiked pedipalps look intimidating, they are harmless and very rarely use their palps in defense.
adult female D. diadema with nymphs
juvenile D. johnstonii
juvenile P. whitei
whipspiders can mostly be found in the tropical regions of North, Central, and South America, Africa, and Asia, although there are some species found in Australia and in more arid regions. Most of the species in the hobby are of the tropical varities. They typically inhabit very humid microhabitats during the day, such as in the mouth of caves, under logs and leaf litter, bark crevices, etc, then come out to hunt and breed at night. They are very active hunters, using their long antenniform legs to seek out prey. Contrary to other arachnids in the hobby, whipspiders tend to freeze still as a defense mechanism if they cannot flee. This is often mistaken as a calm temperament or an enjoyment of being handled/disturbed, which is likely the opposite of what the arachnid is experiencing. Naturally they are an extremely shy invertebrate and will retreat at the slightest disturbance.
Body size of Amblypygi in the hobby can vary widely, with Phrynus species being on the smaller end and Damon and Acanthophrynus species on the larger end. Typically, providing an enclosure that is taller than it is wide allows for some vertical placement of climbing structures. Whipspiders tend to prefer to molt while hanging upside-down, so providing a horizontal structure at the top of the enclosure with some space to molt beneath it is recommended. Whipspiders seem to be a lot more delicate with their foot placement compared to tarantulas, and we have yet to see any get caught on a screen lid.
Most whipspiders cannot grip smooth surfaces like glass or acrylic, but they can grip rough surfaces very well. Some keepers use more practical material like styrofoam as a rough material for the animal to climb on and hide under. We prefer to use oak and cork bark, stacking multiple pieces vertically and providing tight spaces for the whipspiders to squeeze in between. They will also utilize horizontal space under some structures, especially when young.
Amblypygi seem to be much less sensitive to air flow than your average arboreal tarantula. In order to maintain high humidity, we tend to mist heavily very often and maintain evenly damp substrate. If we find that the substrate is drying out too fast in between routine mistings, we will reduce ventilation by covering half of it with cling wrap.
We prefer to use substrate mixes that absorb and distribute water evenly, such as our megamix TROPICAL substrate. The deeper the substrate, the more of a humidity 'bank' it can provide for the animal.
simple adult enclosure
juvenile hiding in between cork flats
At Marshall Arachnids, we strive to take each species’ natural history into consideration when designing and maintaining vivaria for all of our invertebrate pets. We provide our tropical whipspiders with a daily thermal gradient of about 72 to 80°F. These whipspiders are poikilothermic, just like many other invertebrates, so they will modify their behavior in response to provided temperatures. We also mist frequently to provide fresh water droplets to drink from and to raise ambient humidity temporarily. Unlike spiders, which usually have a hydrophobic body, small whipspiders can drown in deep water dishes, so take care to provide only very small dishes or provide a means with which a baby could climb out of the dish if necessary.
Whipspiders eat very often when small - we offer several food items at least twice a week, with much less often feedings once they mature. Molting is usually foreshadowed by a swollen abdomen and fasting. Handling is always a contentious topic; we do not handle our whipspiders except when absolutely necessary. If you do decide to try to handle your whipspider, be very patient and move slowly around them. Allow them to climb on you as they please, and hold them over a surface like the floor or a table in case they panic and fall.
the spiky tips of the pedipalps of Amblypygi are jointed, so they can angle them outward to help snag prey. they also use their spikes to help grab their legs in order to preen with their mandibles!