Xena Our Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula

BY JMDC STAFF

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Let us introduce you to our Mexican red-knee tarantula, Xena.

FACTS ABOUT XENA

Xena is a five-year-old female, Mexican red-knee tarantula, and has called JMDC her home for three years. She gets her name from the 1990’s television series Xena: Warrior Princess. However, Xena, the tarantula, is not nearly as fierce as her namesake.

DOCILE YET VENOMOUS

Xena is, in fact, very docile. Of the 900 tarantula species globally, the Mexican red-knee tarantula is one of the most docile. While the Mexican red-knee tarantula is venomous, it rarely bites. And if it were to bite a human, the pain from the venom has been compared to that of a bee sting, causing mild discomfort unless the individual has an allergic reaction to the bite.

More than likely, the tarantula will defend itself by ejecting urticating hairs from its abdomen and legs if it thinks it is in danger. The hairs will cause a stinging or prickling sensation. These barbed and mildly toxic hairs act as a defense mechanism as they embed into a predator’s skin or eyes, causing discomfort and irritation.

In humans, the hair can also cause an allergic skin reaction resulting in inflammation, rash, and itching. While this is not serious, the reaction can last for several hours or days. So despite her docile nature and mild venom, great care is always taken when handling Xena.

HOW MANY SPECIES ARE THERE

There are two different species of Mexican red-knee tarantulas. One is the Brachypelma hamorii, and the second is the Brachypelma smithi. Both species are native to Mexico, and both have a defining similarity: orange-red “knees” that contrast with their dark body color. Although scientists have pointed out slight differences in color and shape between the two species, these differences are subtle, and both species are referred to as red-knee tarantulas.

MORE FACTS ABOUT XENA

Xena belongs to the species Brachypelma smithi. She is recognized by those distinctive red-orange patches on the joints (knees) of her legs.

THE TARANTULA’S BODY

Legs
As do all spiders, Xena has four pairs of legs attached to her carapace (the hard upper shell). Like all Mexican red-knee tarantulas, she is quite talented and can hold her prey with her first two legs while walking with her other legs. Each foot has two claws, enabling Xena to climb slippery surfaces. An adult Mexican red-knee tarantula will grow to have a leg span of five to six inches.

Spinnerets
Xena has two pairs of spinnerets on the posterior (back) side of the abdomen.

What is a spinneret? Glad you asked.

Spinnerets are flexible, tube-like structures from which the spider exudes its silk. And speaking of their silk webs, tarantulas don’t usually create webs to catch prey like other spiders. Don’t get me wrong, they can use their webbing in the hunting process, as you’ll learn later, but they also use their web for structural support, more comfortable footing, and event molting mats.

Eight eyes
Yes, Xena and all Mexican red-knee tarantulas have eight eyes located around their head to see both forward and backward. Shockingly, however, their vision is relatively poor. For that reason, they use the hair on their legs to sense vibrations.

Taste, smell, and feel
Xena’s ability to taste, smell, and feel is due to her palps, a pair of elongated segmented appendages on the end of her legs nearest her mouth.

Growth
Mexican red-knee tarantula’s grow very slowly, molting every two weeks for the first four months of life, and then less frequently as they age. Females, like Xena, will infrequently continue to molt after reaching adulthood.

So what is molting? Molting is a process that removes external parasites and provides new undamaged sensory and protective hairs.

Life Span
Females, like Xena, can live between twenty to twenty-five years in captivity.

LIVING ENVIRONMENT

As their name implies, Mexican red-knee tarantulas are native to Mexico, primarily along the central Pacific coast. They live in dry areas with very little vegetation, such as in scrublands, deserts, or dry thorn forests.

In their natural habitat, the Mexican red-knee tarantula lives in a burrow in rocky areas, usually found at the base of thorny vegetation like cactus. Burrows will have one entrance that is a little wider than the tarantula itself. A carpet of web extends from the burrow out of the opening and is usually covered or coated in a substrate. These large spiders will use their web to catch prey as it walks in front of the shelter.

FOOD

Xena is a carnivore. She eats a variety of insects, along with small frogs, rodents, and reptiles. Once these tarantulas catch their prey, they hold it between their front legs and use their two hollow fangs to inject venom into their capture. As the toxin enters their catch, the poison liquefies their prey’s body, and eventually, the spider consumes the prey by drinking the juices. After a large meal, the tarantula can go up to a month without food. However, here at JMDC, there is no need for Xena to go so long between meals. We feed her a meal of crickets every few days.

POPULAR PET

Due to their docile nature and beautiful colors, Mexican red-knee tarantulas have become very popular in the pet trade. Unfortunately, their popularity has resulted in the species being commercially exploited within their natural habitat over the years.

Today Mexican red-knee tarantulas are rarely found in the wild and are considered “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is now illegal to catch and sell wild Mexican red-knee tarantulas. Those sold in the pet industry must be bred in captivity.

BRED IN CAPTIVITY

When bred in captivity, Mexican red-knee tarantulas have become one of the most popular arachnids used in movies because of their bright colors and docile nature. They are slow-moving and can be handled without causing the spider undue stress.

However, directors have learned that spider actors, like human actors, can be temperamental, requiring patience from both the spider handler and the director to get the perfect shot.

A fun example of this occurred during the filming of the 1981 blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark starring Harrison Ford as the infamous Indiana Jones.

Indy and his companion entered a cave looking for a hidden artifact in one of the earlier scenes. Inside the cave, Indiana Jones’ companion stops to remove a couple of large spiders crawling on Indy’s back. Do you remember that scene?

Indiana then checked his companion’s back, which had dozens of large Mexican red-knee tarantulas crawling over his jacket.

REFUSING TO LISTEN TO THE DIRECTOR

Director Steven Spielberg wanted the spiders to crawl all over the actor’s back, but at first, they remained perfectly still, refusing to move. Frustrated, the director had to figure out why the hairy actors refused to move. Finally, the crew realized that the spiders were all males, and once they introduced a female tarantula in the scene, the males became active, giving Spielberg the shot he had planned.

XENA MAY NOT BE FAMOUS

While our Xena is not a warrior princess or a famous spider actor, she is an interesting member of JMDC’s Critter Corner. She enjoys being held, and even the occasional tummy tickle. Xena, as with all of our Critters, is available for sponsorship.

Three Toed Box Turtle

Baby is one of our original Critter Corner Ambassadors.  She has visited with hundreds of school children during the years she has called JMDC home.  Baby came to us as a donation from a family that was no longer able to keep her.  Baby is very friendly and looks forward to her daily tasty worm snack.

The three-toed box turtle is native to south-central United States, from Missouri and Oklahoma south to Alabama and west into Texas. This turtle needs to live near water and prefers a combination of wooded and grassy habitat.  Populations of all 6 subspecies of Terrapene carolina, including the three-toed box turtle, are in decline. The species is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization. The main causes of decline are habitat destruction.

If you sponsor Baby, your donation will help pay for her food and care.

Just $5.00 per month or $60.00 per year will contribute to Baby’s food and upkeep.

Package #6 – Adventures in Adobe

Who doesn’t like to play in the mud?  An Adventures in Adobe party is the perfect combination of education and fun.  Party Explorers will hear stories about life during the Mission period in California.  Then be prepared to get dirty.  Party Explorers will take off their shoes, roll up their pants legs, and stomp in the adobe mud until it is perfect brick consistency.  Everyone makes a brick to take home.

JMDC Family Membership – $120.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $10.00 for each additional child/$3.00 for each additional adult. 

Non-Members – $180.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $10.00 for each additional child/$5.00 for each additional adult. 

Choose from our many available add-ons. 

Upgrade to deluxe surprise bags – $2.00 per bag 

Dippin’ Dots – $3.50 per person 

Paint a ceramic dinosaur – $7.00 per person 

Meet the Critters – $2.00 per person 

Add a second package – Save 30% on the lesser priced package 

Want more time for your party – Add an extra hour in the birthday area – $35.00 per hour 

Dinosaur Dig

Our Dinosaur Dig site is fun for budding paleontologists of all ages! This Expedition introduces Explorers to the world of paleontology through a hands-on dig experience.  Explorers take a walking tour of our dinosaur sculptures, and then help unearth an Allosaurus fossil, replicating an actual dig.  

Cost – $10.00 per person. 

Meets CA Next Generation Science Standards – 3LS4.A; 3LS4.C; 4ESS1.C;

Fossils through Time

Discover facts about fossils and the geological timeline. 

Explorers examine fossils close up and take home a fossil of their own. 

Cost – $12.50 per person.

Meets CA Next Generation Science Standards – 3LS4.A; 3LS4.C; 4ESS1.C; MS8ESS1.C; MS8LS4.A   

 

Package #1 – Party with the Dinosaurs

The perfect party for the Rockhounder in your life. Through hands-on participation, Explorers learn identifying factors for some of the rocks and minerals we use every day.  A walk through the gardens follow, with stops along the way at the JMDC dinosaurs.  Your party Expedition Leader will share interesting dinosaur facts.  Once your group reaches Dino Mesa, Birthday Explorers are set loose in our collection area where twelve treasures of their choice can be added to an egg carton to take home.

JMDC Family Membership – $120.00 for 10 children and 30 adults.  $10.00 for each additional child/$3.00 for each additional adult. 

Non-Members – $180.00 for up to 10 children and 25 adults.  $10.00 for each additional child/$5.00 for each additional adult. 

Choose from our many available add-ons. 

Upgrade to deluxe surprise bags – $2.00 per bag 

Dippin’ Dots – $3.50 per person 

Paint a ceramic dinosaur – $7.00 per person 

Meet the Critters – $2.00 per person 

Add a second package – Save 30% on the lesser priced package 

Want more time for your party – Add an extra hour in the birthday area – $35.00 per hour 

Package #2 – Diggin’ the Dinosaurs

A party for the future paleontologist or dinosaur enthusiast.  Party Explorers will hike through the gardens where they will learn about the dinosaurs from their knowledgeable Expedition Leader.  Upon arrival at the dig site, Explorers will learn the proper technique for excavating a fossil, and then try their hand at uncovering a mock Allosaurus skeleton.

JMDC Family Membership – $120.00 for 10 children and 30 adults.  $10.00 for each additional child/$3.00 for each additional adult. 

Non-Members – $180.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $10.00 for each additional child/$5.00 for each additional adult. 

Choose from our many available add-ons. 

Upgrade to deluxe surprise bags – $2.00 per bag 

Dippin’ Dots – $3.50 per person 

Paint a ceramic dinosaur – $7.00 per person 

Meet the Critters – $2.00 per person 

Add a second package – Save 30% on the lesser priced package 

Want more time for your party – Add an extra hour in the birthday area – $35.00 per hour 

Package #3 – Strike it Rich! Gold Panning

Return to the days of early California with this wild west birthday adventure.  Participants will travel back to the Gold Rush Days of California.  Hear stories about the gold rush, learn panning techniques, then strike out to find some gold.  Keep the gems and minerals you discover.

JMDC Family Membership – $150.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $13.50 for each additional child/$3.00 for each additional adult. 

Cost (Non-Members)- $210.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $13.50 for each additional child/$5.00 for each additional adult. 

Choose from our many available add-ons. 

Upgrade to deluxe surprise bags – $2.00 per bag 

Dippin’ Dots – $3.50 per person 

Paint a ceramic dinosaur – $7.00 per person 

Meet the Critters – $2.00 per person 

Add a second package – Save 30% on the lesser priced package 

Want more time for your party – Add an extra hour in the birthday area – $35.00 per hour 

Package #4 – Storytelling with Pictographs

A party experience for creative folks of any age.  Party Explorers will experience the art of storytelling using pictures rather than words.  They will grind minerals into paint and, after a little practice, paint their story on wooden shingle using a yucca brush.

JMDC Family Membership – $130.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $11.00 for each additional child/$3.00 for each additional adult. 

Non-Members – $190.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $11.00 for each additional child/$5.00 for each additional adult. 

Choose from our many available add-ons. 

Upgrade to deluxe surprise bags – $2.00 per bag 

Dippin’ Dots – $3.50 per person 

Paint a ceramic dinosaur – $7.00 per person 

Meet the Critters – $2.00 per person 

Add a second package – Save 30% on the lesser priced package 

Want more time for your party – Add an extra hour in the birthday area – $35.00 per hour 

Package #5 – Paint a Dinosaur

This art oriented party is an excellent choice for children and adults alike.  Explorers can choose from a variety of premade dinosaur (or another ceramic figure) to paint, limited only by the imagination.  Our professional ceramics instructor will be there to offer tips and teach new painting techniques.  Each Party Explorer will take home a hand crafted work of art.  This package includes ceramic figure, paint and brushes.

JMDC Family Membership – $150.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $15.00 for each additional child/$3.00 for each additional adult. 

Non-Members – $210.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $15.00 for each additional child/$5.00 for each additional adult. 

Choose from our many available add-ons. 

Upgrade to deluxe surprise bags – $2.00 per bag 

Dippin’ Dots – $3.50 per person 

Paint a ceramic dinosaur – $7.00 per person 

Meet the Critters – $2.00 per person 

Add a second package – Save 30% on the lesser priced package 

Want more time for your party – Add an extra hour in the birthday area – $35.00 per hour 

 

Package #7 – Fossils Through Time

This party is designed for the celebrant who loves fossils.  Your party leader will take Explorers through the fossil time line.  Explorers will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with all types of fossils.  Conclude the fossil experience by polishing an ammonite to take home.

JMDC Family Membership – $150.00 for 10 children and 30 adults.  $13.50 for each additional child/$3.00 for each additional adult. 

Cost (Non-Members) – $210.00 for up to 10 children and 25 adults.  $13.50 for each additional child/$5.00 for each additional adult. 

Choose from our many available add-ons. 

Upgrade to deluxe surprise bags – $2.00 per bag 

Dippin’ Dots – $3.50 per person 

Paint a ceramic dinosaur – $7.00 per person 

Meet the Critters – $2.00 per person 

Add a second package – Save 30% on the lesser priced package 

Want more time for your party – Add an extra hour in the birthday area – $35.00 per hour 

Panther Chameleon

Rango has been part of the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center Critter family for the past year.  His vibrant colors and his tong like feet which allow him to grip tight to narrow branches make him a favorite with Critter Corner visitors.

Panther Chameleons are native to Madagascar.  They live in tropical forests and bushes. Panther chameleons have very long tongues (sometimes longer than their own body length) which they are capable of rapidly extending out of the mouth.   At the tip of this elastic tongue, a muscular, club-like structure covered in thick mucus forms a suction cup. Once the tip sticks to a prey item, it is drawn quickly back into the chameleon’s mouth.

If you sponsor Rango, your donation will help to pay for his food and care.

Just $10.00 per month or $120.00 per year will contribute to Rango’s food and upkeep.

Package #8 – The Roswell Archaeology Experience

This is archaeology at a new level.  Excavate fossils and artifacts that may have been left by visitors from other planets.  You never know what you may find when exploring at JMDC. 

JMDC Family Membership – $120.00 for 10 children and 30 adults.  $10.00 for each additional child/$3.00 for each additional adult. 

Non-Members – $180.00 for 10 children and 25 adults.  $10.00 for each additional child/$5.00 for each additional adult. 

Choose from our many available add-ons. 

Upgrade to deluxe surprise bags – $2.00 per bag 

Dippin’ Dots – $3.50 per person 

Paint a ceramic dinosaur – $7.00 per person 

Meet the Critters – $2.00 per person 

Add a second package – Save 30% on the lesser priced package 

Want more time for your party – Add an extra hour in the birthday area – $35.00 per hour 

 

Package #9 – Create Your Own Birthday Party Experience

JMDC Staff will work with you to create a one-of-a-kind birthday experience.  Bring your big ideas and we’ll see what we can do!  

JMDC Family Membership – Price is quoted based on your imagination. 

Looking to make your party even more special? 

Choose from our many available add-ons. 

Upgrade to deluxe surprise bags – $2.00 per bag 

Dippin’ Dots – $3.50 per person 

Paint a ceramic dinosaur – $7.00 per person 

Meet the Critters – $2.00 per person 

Add a second package – Save 30% on the lesser priced package 

Want more time for your party – Add an extra hour in the birthday area – $35.00 per hour 

Volunteer Requirements

  • Enjoy people and interacting with others
  • Completed training and demonstrated comprehension of information and techniques
  • Have an interest in nature, or the willingness to learn
  • Have an open mind that is ready to learn and experience new things
  • Be willing to represent Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center in a friendly and professional manner
  • Be able to communicate clearly and calmly
  • Be responsible, committed, punctual, flexible and neat in appearance
  • Have free time to devote to the position

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches can be found in tropical forests, near river banks, and around trees and logs. Their geographic range in limited to Madagascar.

In the wild, cockroaches consume various plant and animal matter. At Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center, we feed them greens, fruits, and vegetables.

Cockroaches can live from 2 – 5 years.

If you sponsor me and my family, your donation will pay for my food and care.

Just $5.00 per month or $60.00 per year will feed a family of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches for one year.

Volunteer Application

Frilled lizard

Nigel is a hybrid ¾ New Guinea ¼ Australian Frilled Lizard; and the newest member of the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center Critter family.  As a yearling, Nigel is still small.  When he is full grown, he will be about 24” long.  Nigel is an insectivore.  We feed him a diet of super worms, cockroaches, and crickets. 

Frilled lizards have a unique mode of defense.  When they are frightened, opens its pink or yellow mouth, and stands up on two back legs. It then pops up the large piece of colorful thin, extra skin surrounding its neck, like an umbrella. 

If you sponsor Nigel, your donation will help pay for his food and care.

Just $10.00 per month or $100.00 per year will contribute to Nigel’s food and care.

Motley Marble Golden Child Reticulated Python

Toby, is nearly two years old, and has called Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center home for the past year.  During his time here, Toby has grown from a mere 5-foot yearling to nearly 7 feet long.  When he is full grown, he can reach anywhere from 12 – 14 feet in length.   

Reticulated pythons are native to South Asia and Southeast Asia.  In their natural habitat a reticulated python will eat birds and mammals.  At Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center, Toby eats large rats.

If you sponsor Toby, your donation will help pay for his food and care. 

Just $20.00 per month or $240.00 per year will contribute to Toby’s food and upkeep.

Green Iguana

Zilla, our Green Iguana, came to live at Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center over three years ago when the family with whom she was living could no longer care for her.  She is one of our original Critter Corner residents.  Zilla loves to have her head scratched, and one of her favorite treats is blueberries.

The green iguana is native to South America and some portions of central and North America where it typically lives high up in trees in the rainforest. The iguana is mostly an herbivore, meaning that it likes to eat plants including leaves and fruit.  An interesting feature of green iguanas is their third eye. This is an extra eye on top of their head called a parietal eye. This eye is not quite like a normal eye, but it can help iguanas detect the movement of a predator sneaking up on them from above.

If you sponsor Zilla, your donation will help pay for her food and care.

Just $20.00 per month or $240.00 per year will contribute to Zilla’s food and upkeep.

California Rockhound

This expedition offers an excellent opportunity for Explorers to become familiar with the rock cycle.  Covered topics included rock formation from magma (igneous rocks), water and wind erosion (sedimentary rocks), and heat and pressure (metamorphic rocks). Also included is a discussion about the importance of rocks and minerals as a natural resource. Each Explorer receives a set of eight rocks and eight minerals to take home. 

Cost – $12.50 per person.

Meets CA Next Generation Science Standards – 2ESS1.C; 2ESS2.A; 2ESS2.C; 4ESS1.C; 4ESS2.A; 4ESS3.A; 4ESS3.B; 7ESS3.A;

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