Are There Tarantulas in Florida? The Surprising Presence of Them in The Southern State

Florida, a state known for its diverse wildlife, is also home to various species of tarantulas.

These hairy, large spiders can be intriguing to some, while terrifying to others.

Understanding their presence in Florida and their habits can help shed light on this fascinating creature.

Tarantulas are predominantly found in tropical, subtropical, and desert regions.

Interestingly, one species, the Mexican redrump tarantula, has found its way into Florida.

Are There Tarantulas in Florida
Source: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCECC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These tarantulas are known to thrive in the warmer climate, using burrows for shelter and hunting for insects, small mammals, and sometimes baby birds.

In Florida, tarantulas face threats from various predators, like other arthropods, lizards, snakes, birds, and even tarantula hawks.

As tarantulas grow, they become less vulnerable to some predators, but small mammals can still pose a danger.

Being aware of the distribution and behavior of tarantulas in Florida can help residents and visitors coexist with these unique creatures.

Are There Tarantulas in Florida?

Native Species

Florida is home to one native tarantula species, the Florida brown tarantula (Aphonopelma paloma).

This tarantula can be found in some areas of South Florida, particularly in pine rockland habitats.

The Florida brown tarantula has some notable characteristics:

  • Brownish in color
  • Leg span of about 4-6 inches
  • Venomous, but not dangerous to humans

Non-Native Species

In addition to the native Florida brown tarantula, there are some non-native tarantula species in Florida.

These tarantulas are primarily kept as pets and occasionally escape or are released by their owners. Some examples include:

  • Mexican red-knee tarantula (Brachypelma smithi)
  • Pinktoe tarantula (Avicularia avicularia)

Here’s a comparison table for tarantulas in Florida:

SpeciesNative/Non-NativeRange in Florida
Florida brown tarantulaNativeSouth Florida
Mexican red-knee tarantulaNon-NativeLimited, primarily in pet trade
Pinktoe tarantulaNon-NativeLimited, primarily in pet trade

While tarantulas are not a common sight in Florida, it’s important for residents to be aware of their occasional presence and to respect these fascinating arachnids.

Tarantula

Habitats and Range

Florida Keys

Tarantulas are not typically found in the Florida Keys. These spiders prefer more wooded areas, such as the mainland of South Florida.

  • Examples: None specific to the Florida Keys

Pine Rocklands

In the Pine Rocklands, tarantulas may find a more suitable habitat with ample burrows for shelter.

  • Examples: South Florida wooded areas
  • Characteristics: Dry forests, rocky terrain

Swamps and Canals

Tarantulas are not fond of very wet environments, so swamps and canals are not ideal habitats for them.

  • Examples: Everglades, Cypress Domes
  • Characteristics: Wetlands, aquatic vegetation

Citrus Groves

Citrus groves provide the dry habitat and food sources tarantulas need, making them potential, yet uncommon, habitats in Florida.

  • Examples: Orange, grapefruit groves
  • Characteristics: Agricultural land, dry environment
HabitatIdeal for Tarantulas
Florida KeysNo
Pine RocklandsYes
Swamps/CanalsNo
Citrus GrovesLimited

In Florida, tarantulas are primarily found in South Florida’s wooded areas where they can create burrows for shelter.

Of the habitats listed, Pine Rocklands and Citrus Groves are more likely to host tarantulas, while the Florida Keys and Swamps and Canals are less suitable due to environmental factors.

Tarantula

Tarantula Behavior

Prey and Predators

Tarantulas are mostly nocturnal, which means they are active during nighttime searching for prey.

Their diet consists of insects like grasshoppers and crickets, but occasionally, they may also eat small mammals or baby birds1.

Some common predators of tarantulas include larger lizards, snakes, birds, and tarantula hawks2.

Physical Characteristics

Tarantulas have a unique appearance with various types of hair, including yellow and red hairs. The different types of hairs serve different purposes:

  • Yellow hairs: These are typically found on their legs and are used for movement.
  • Red hairs: These hairs, also known as urticating hairs, are found on their abdomen and play a vital role in self-defense3.

Silk and Urticating Hairs

Tarantulas produce silk, but unlike other spiders, they don’t use it to create webs to catch food. Instead, they utilize silk to:

  • Line their burrows for added comfort and protection4.
  • Create nests for laying eggs, providing a safe environment for their offspring4.

Tarantulas have a unique self-defense mechanism using their urticating hairs.

When threatened, they will rub their hind legs over their abdomen, releasing these hairs, which can irritate potential predators’ eyes and skin3.

This, combined with their venom, helps them to deter predators and protect themselves.

Rubber Tarantula, we suspect

Spider Species in Florida

Black Widow Spiders

Black widow spiders are venomous spiders in Florida, recognized by their black body and distinctive red marking on the abdomen. Their scientific name is Latrodectus mactans.

  • Females: larger, more venomous
  • Males: smaller, less venomous

Brown Recluse Spiders

In Florida, brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) are another venomous species. These spiders have a violin-shaped marking on their dorsal side.

  • Brown to dark brown color
  • Six eyes (unlike most spiders who have eight)

Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders are a larger, common species in Florida. Their appearance resembles tarantulas, but they are not tarantulas.

  • Nocturnal predators
  • Often found near water

Jumping Spiders

Jumping spiders are another common Florida spider species with excellent vision and jumping ability.

  • Small, compact body
  • Diurnal, active during the day

Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider

The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider is a rare species unique to Florida.

  • Trapdoor-style burrows
  • Lives in pine rockland habitat
 Black Widow SpidersBrown Recluse SpidersWolf SpidersJumping SpidersPine Rockland Trapdoor Spider
VenomousYesYesNoNoNo
DistinctiveRed markingViolin-shaped markingResembles tarantulasExcellent visionTrapdoor-style burrows
HabitatNear humansWooded areasNear waterVariousPine rockland habitat

Venomous Effects and Treatment

Bite Symptoms

Tarantula bites are usually quite rare and are typically not fatal to humans. However, when bitten, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Localized pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Rash

Non-Aggressive Nature

It is important to note that tarantulas are generally non-aggressive creatures.

They are more likely to feel threatened and bite when provoked or handled improperly.

In comparison to other venomous creatures, tarantulas are considered relatively harmless to humans.

First Aid and Medical Care

If you get bitten by a tarantula, follow these first aid steps:

  1. Wash the bite area with soap and water.
  2. Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and pain.
  3. Elevate the bitten area if possible.
  4. Take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed.

In very rare cases, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction or more severe symptoms. In such instances, seek medical attention immediately.

To summarize:

Tarantula CharacteristicsDetails
Bite SymptomsPain, swelling, redness, rash
NatureNon-aggressive, more likely to bite when provoked or mishandled
Risk to HumansLow, harmless in most cases
First AidClean the area, apply ice, elevate, pain relief if needed
Medical CareSeek professional help if allergic reaction or severe symptoms occur

Tarantulas as Pets and in Trade

There are various species of tarantulas popular in the pet trade:

  • Chilean Rose Hair: Affordable and easy to care for, with mild venom.
  • Mexican Red-knee: Attractive and docile, with a relatively long lifespan.
  • Greenbottle Blue: Known for its striking blue and green colors.

Legality

Depending on the country and the species, various laws regulate tarantula trade. In the US, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is responsible for overseeing wildlife importation and trade to protect endangered species.

Tarantula

Ethical Considerations

When considering tarantulas as pets, remember:

  • Wild caught vs captive bred: Wild-caught tarantulas may harm natural populations, so look for captive bred specimens.
  • Habitat destruction: Ensure your tarantula is not directly contributing to habitat loss.

As always, research the specific species and provide proper care.

Footnotes

  1. PDF tarantula fact sheet – U.S. National Park Service

  2. Tarantula – U.S. National Park Service

  3. Mexican redrump tarantula- Brachypelma vagans (Ausserer) 2

  4. Tarantulas and Other Spiders – U.S. National Park Service 2

Conclusion

Yes, there are tarantulas in Florida. Only one is native to the state, the Mexican Redrump.

Apart from this there are other species that are mostly kept as pets that are present in Florida, including the pinktoe tarantula and the Mexican red-knee.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

13 thoughts on “Are There Tarantulas in Florida? The Surprising Presence of Them in The Southern State”

  1. Hi, my sister also found a California Ebony Tarantula and watched a tarantula hawk wasp sting it and paralyze it. we have had it for 4 days and after reading your post we have just fed it a roley poley. Could you please email me with more details about how you kept yours alive and saved it?

    Reply
  2. Yes, this is definitely Nhandu chromatus, commonly known as Brazilian Red and White Tarantula. There are 2 similar tarantula to this which includes the Acanthoscuria geniculata, known as Brazilian White Knee. Both have a voracious appetite, possess urticating hairs and can be quite skittish. Infact I’ve personally found N. chromatus to be a bit more aggressive than their larger cousins A. geniculata.
    The moulting process of such large tarantula can take over 12 hours, which leaves them in a rather vulnerable state, but they’ll be quite dormant whilst they recover from shedding not just their outer body, but their lungs, stomach pump and a complete replacement of their sexual organs!

    Reply
  3. It’s a trapdoor spider, bite symptoms include localised pain and swelling as well as nausea. Not leathal, but will make you wish it was.

    Reply
  4. I believe that someone may be pulling your leg. This appears to be a female Chilean Rose Hair tarantula Grammostola spp. Our own G. rosea is almost identical to your specimen. They are common in the pest trade, and many are bred in captivity. The tarantulas in the West are of the genus Aphonopelma, and are typically dark, brown, and somewhat smaller than other tarantulas.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the ID. We suspect you mean pet trade and not “pest” trade. It is nice to know that they are being bred in captivity.

      Reply

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