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Harpactirella overdijki
-Overdijk’s Lesser Baboon Spider

Note: Harpactirella sp. (Lesser Baboon Spiders) are LEGAL to keep in South Africa.

Adult Size: 4-5cm Males & Females (Dwarf Species)

Type: Old World, Fossorial

Growth Rate: Fast

Temperament: Skittish and nervous.

Lifespan: Females (6-7 years) | Males (1-2 years)

Origin: Southern Africa

Recommended Climate: 22-26°C (Winter), 24-28°C (Summer)

Recommended Humidity: 60-70%

Basic Enclosure Requirements: Fossorial setup with at least 4 x the size of the spider in horizontal space, roughly 5-10cm of substrate with a shelter and a water dish.

Photo Credit: Danny de Bruyne

Description

Scientific Name: Harpactirella overdijki

Common Names: Overdijk’s Lesser Baboon Spider

This scruffy little baboon spider is found in many northern areas of Limpopo in South Africa, from Rustenburg all the way up to The Kruger National Park. It’s quite common to see males of this species running around in those areas during the evening as they search out suitable females to mate with. Although they are also found in hot tropical areas like the Blyde River Canyon near Hoedspruit, they also inhabit hot and dry areas like those surrounding the Pilanesburg National Game Reserve by living in narrow tunnels created at the base of large rocks that can shield them from the harsh summer heat, only appearing in the evening in search of any prey that might be near their burrows.

Harpactirella overdijki has golden setae/bristles over most it’s dark reddish brown body with a lovely gold starburst on it’s carapace and an ash-like appearance on the abdomen but does not have the strong spotted patterns seen on local baboon spiders like Harpactirella lightfooti – Lightfoot’s Lesser Baboon Spider. Light ribbing and spotting can be seen on the abdomen at most. Their legs vary from being golden brown to brownish grey in appearance with light striping and have fuzzy golden bristles protruding from all over the abdomen and legs as well. As a baboon species, they are skittish and very quick flapping their little legs in a blur to escape any disturbance, but it takes a fair amount of pestering before you will see a threat pose. The venom of these dwarf tarantulas is also quite potent, causing nausea a few hours after a bite and also brings on cramping in certain people for many hours or even days later depending on the severity of an envenomed bite.

It’s been said that this species can be kept communally but we disagree. Having discovered these lesser baboon spiders in their natural habitat ourselves, they are seldom found with other specimens in their burrows except in in a few instances where a mature male was present in the same burrow, but is never together with the female and rests or waits in another part of the tunnels. There are often multiple burrows near each other and even under the same rock which is perhaps why the communal behaviour is thought to be possible and may well be if specimens are kept in a large enough enclosure. But as mentioned above, of about 15 or 20 specimens discovered, we didn’t once find them living together communally in the same burrows.

What we find to be a favourite for this species as far as enclosure requirements go, is to use a dome shaped hide with a small front entrance like is often used for pet snakes to hide in, and bury it in the substrate about three quarters, only leaving a small hole that leads to the entrance of the domed enclosure. Harpactirella overdijki will quickly explore this kind of shelter and create a webbed tunnel for an entrance. Also, even though they live in a variety of areas, their burrows under rocks provide them with a cool and moderately humid environment the deeper the tunnels go, so don’t keep them in a bone dry environment but rather try keep one side of your enclosure’s substrate moist and as always, provide a small water dish.