Keeping up with your Jumper: Feeding Part 1
At BFP, we love our jumpers and want to make sure they live a healthy life with their new families. Perhaps the most important thing we can stress to help new owners keep their jumper healthy is using the right food for the right spider. In fact, the most common questions we get are related to food. What should they eat? How often should they eat? How big should their food be? What is the best way to feed them? Etc. Etc. Etc.
There is a lot of information related to each of these questions, so this is part one about keeping up with your feeding. This first part is focused on the size and types of food that will help support your jumper. We have a handy feeding chart (see below) made by an amazing artist Nate Sipe. He also does commission work, check him out if you are looking for something specific.
For those that want more information about the different types of feeding, this will be a great read.
Food size does matter
Yes, the size of food you give to your spider friends makes a big difference in their health and happiness. They CAN take down food up to 3 times their size, but you may not want to do that with every feeder, or every time so be cautious. Some of the safer food is spikes (maggots), but be careful not to leave them in their webbing. They do wiggle and unfortunately, they have ruined a couple nests, which is not ideal if the spider is molting.
On the opposite end of the scale, be weary of feeding your jumper food that is too small. An adult won’t get enough nutrition with flightless fruit flies. We have used them to stimulate an appetite, but not as a primary resource. More on that in another post. But as a primary food source, this can lead to malnutrition and stunted growth. Think of it like feeding a teenager baby food. Sure, they might get something out of it, but those little jars of mashed up food won’t give enough calories or nutrition to sustain them for long.
So, what size is appropriate for your jumper? Well, check out this chart for a visual guide.
Basically, we at BFP try to keep their food about 1-2 times the body length of the spider. Yes, sometimes they get larger food, and sometimes they get smaller food, but we have found that to be a good average. Your food source should get bigger as your spider gets older.
With the size question tackled, one great question we commonly get is what to feed your spider. To begin with, we at BFP recommend starting with some common feeders. Once you get a little more knowledge, you can expand and figure out what works the best with your spider. Each spider has different preferences, so experiment and figure out what they prefer.
Flightless Fruit Flies
Flightless Fruit flies are great for the smaller spiders, including slings. They can be found at most pet stores, or from online distributors. There are also several recipes to help you culture your own fruit flies, which means one culture can create several others until you need to upgrade your spider to a bigger food source.
Once again, flightless fruit flies should NOT be a primary food source for bigger species.
There are many different species of fruit flies, but in the pet trades there are two common species of flightless fruit flies; melanogaster and hydei (click on the links for pronunciation). Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce them right the first time, most people pronounce them wrong. Don’t stress, people will know what you are talking about.
Melanogasters are smaller than the hydei, which means they are better for the freshly hatched and smaller spiders. There is also a short shelf life regarding how long they will be beneficial to your spider. They do breed much faster than the hydei, which means by the time your hydei have hatched into larvae stage, you will already have pupae and some newly hatched fruitflies in your melanogaster cultures.
Hydei are usually double the size of melanogasters, but a lot of that depends on how healthy of a food source they and their mother have/had. Because spiders outgrow melanogasters so quickly, we try to keep more hydei cultures going than melanogaster.
As mentioned above, one of the great things about fruit flies is they are easy to culture. There are several recipes online you can experiment with. We also sell some awesome pop-top cups to make feeding and culturing easy. These pop-tops can also be used for more than culturing, so when your little guys grow up, you can re-purpose them for the bigger food source.
Springtails are another great option for your slings. They are known for also eating bacteria, so if you live in a more humid area that can be prone to mold and other bacteria, you might want to check into these. At BFP, we don’t have a lot of experience with Springtails just yet. As soon as we find a good company, we will happily recommend them. For now, what we have seen is they will typically arrive on charcoal. Add water to the culture and they will float to the top, they can be scooped off and added to your spider's enclosure.
House Flies or Blue Bottle Flies
When your spider molts, you will probably want to consider upgrading from fruit flies and springtails. House flies are a good mid-size option, but we tend to skip directly to blue bottles. The main reason is because our supplier doesn’t currently offer house flies, but we are looking for a good source for them. Our supplier for spikes is amazing. They come directly from our supplier so they are fresh and still wiggling when you get them. The best thing we have found about them is the smell. Other suppliers we have tried came with a horrible stench. If you have ever bought blue bottle flies from someone else, you might know what I’m talking about.
These can be fed directly to your spider as maggots, or pupated into flies and fed as fliers. To help preserve the maggots until you are ready to pupate or feed them, leave them in the fridge. They can last about 2-4 weeks. Some people have had them last longer, but at BFP, we have so many spiders to feed we reorder about every 2-3 weeks.
Feeding maggots is simple; just place the maggot somewhere your spider is likely to find it and walk away. Some people hand feed, or use tweezers, both those options are fine. Some spiders won’t take food that way, but if yours does, it can be an awesome experience.
Feeding flies takes some preparation and possibly experimentation, but for those species that seem to only want flies, it is good to start experimenting and figuring out what works for you. We have found the best way is to pupate in batches. You will need a container to hatch them in, some bedding, spray bottle, and time. We will get into the details in another post, but this post is focusing on the types of common feeders.
Wax worms are an excellent food source for an occasional treat, or if your spider needs to put on some weight. At BFP we don’t recommend feeding them wax worms for every meal. They are very high in fat and too much fat is not good for your jumper, similar to eating cake for every meal. It may be tasty, but will probably not do much good for your health.
Wax worms also turn into wax moths and are a great option for your picky eaters that don’t like to eat crawling stuff. All you have to do is leave them out and they will pupate. Again, this is not intended for all meals, but it is an option.
Mealworms and Superworms
Yes, these are two different species, but I am putting them together to save some reading time for you. There are many people who swear by these, and we have used mealworms in the past. Most of our spiders have not had much interest in them so we tend to stick with the above options. However, if you would like to try them, don’t leave them alone with your jumper. Mealworms and superworms bite back and can hurt or kill your spider. Not to say that you can’t use them, but watch them close for the spider's sake.
Like mealworms and superworms, crickets can bite back and would love to munch a tasty spider. Yes, spiders will eat crickets, but crickets can also eat spiders, so watch them close. We only use them as a feeder if we have no other option. Again, many people use them as a primary food source, but we have so many spiders to feed, we can’t keep as close of an eye on them as we would need to. As mentioned above, size matters. Choose the right size cricket for the size of the spider.
There are so many options for feeding your spider that are not mentioned here, so please don’t think this is an exhaustive list. This is a brief guide to help you get started and to help your jumper stay healthy.