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.
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?
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
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:
|Range in Florida
|Florida brown tarantula
|Mexican red-knee tarantula
|Limited, primarily in pet trade
|Limited, 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.
Habitats and Range
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
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 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
|Ideal for Tarantulas
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.
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.
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.
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 are a larger, common species in Florida. Their appearance resembles tarantulas, but they are not tarantulas.
- Nocturnal predators
- Often found near water
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 Spiders
|Brown Recluse Spiders
|Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider
|Pine rockland habitat
Venomous Effects and Treatment
Tarantula bites are usually quite rare and are typically not fatal to humans. However, when bitten, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Localized pain
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:
- Wash the bite area with soap and water.
- Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and pain.
- Elevate the bitten area if possible.
- 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.
|Pain, swelling, redness, rash
|Non-aggressive, more likely to bite when provoked or mishandled
|Risk to Humans
|Low, harmless in most cases
|Clean the area, apply ice, elevate, pain relief if needed
|Seek 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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about tarantulas. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Caribbean Tarantula
Hi Daniel and Lisa Ann,
I am hoping you guys will enjoy this picture of a Caribbean tarantula. I think it is Acanthoscurria antillensis Pocock, 1903. This one is 2 and a half inches in length, although apparently they can grow as large as 4 inches or so.
We found it in May, 2006, up at about 1,000 feet, at night, after heavy rains, sitting on a flat stone in a path, on the island of Nevis, Leeward Islands, West Indies.
The locals call it a “Donkey Spider”, I suppose perhaps because it is fuzzy and colored rather like a donkey. This is my first ever tarantula encounter, and I have to say it seemed to be a calm and peaceful beastie. Best to you,
Susan J. Hewitt
Thanks for providing us with a great photo and identification. We are not prepared to challenge your identification. The Donkey Spider anecdote is fascinating.
About ‘Donkey Spider from West Indies’
Hi again Daniel and Lisa Ann,
I was interested to see the Giant Crab Spider or Banana Spider (Olios sp.) from St. Kitts; images which R. Fields sent in on 1/25/2007. I vacation on Nevis each year and St. Kitts is the sister island, only 2 miles away.
English names are notoriously unreliable, but I believe that the creature which is usually referred to on St. Kitts and Nevis as the ‘Donkey Spider’ is the Antillean Tarantula, (Acanthoscurria antillensis), which is furry and colored like a donkey.
The image of the one I found on Nevis is on your Spider Page 8, listed as ‘Caribbean Tarantula (10/05/2006)’ and described as a Donkey Spider. On the same page there is an image of what is probably the same species, ‘Tarantula from Dominican Republic (01/05/2007)’.
I believe that on St. Kitts and Nevis, the giant crab spider (Olios sp. of the Sparassidae) is usually called a ‘Banana Spider’ or a “Yellow Spider”. Of course the two species are not at all closely related, but they are the two biggest spiders on those islands, they both only come out at night, and so I suppose some people might confuse them one with the other.
They both can bite if you hassle them enough, but neither is dangerous to people. Best,
Susan J. Hewitt
Subject: Second attempt
September 24, 2014 12:35 pm
Just wondered if you got my message asking if I can use the photo of the Caribbean tarantula that I sent you back in 2006. I would like to give the image to Wikipedia, but do I still own the copyright, or do you?
Signature: Susan J. Hewitt
You maintain all copyrights to your own images. What’s That Bug? has your permission to publish your images.
The disclaimer on our submission form reads: “By submitting an identification request and/or photo(s), you give WhatsThatBug.com permission to use your words and image(s) on their website and other WhatsThatBug.com publications.”
So, you are free to use your own images in whatever way you choose. Again, thanks for allowing What’s That Bug? to use your copyrighted images.
Thank so much Daniel. Another favor: do you still have the actual image I sent you? I mean the high resolution and uncropped version. If you still have that and can find it, would you send me a copy of it?
If we do have it, it is on an older computer and we haven’t the time to search right now. We can check over the weekend.
Letter 2 – Australian Tarantula
Would you pls be able to take a guess at what lives in this burrow??? I live in Victoria [Australia] and this hole was found in [my garden. I pour water down the hole and it is rebuilt the next day.]
WE cannot give you anything conclusive. Because of the silk, we are inclined to guess a spider.
Thanks. I now have the occupant of the burrow. Would you know how I go about having it identified???
This is some species of Tarantula. They often live in burrows. We would love to post your original burrow photo which we seem to have misplaced. Could you please resend it. We located a great website by Steve Nunn devoted to Australian Tarantulas.
I sent the pics to another gentleman and here is his reply…
Living in Queensland my knowledge of Victorian spiders is not as good as it is of Queensland ones. However, your spider is definitely a primitive spider (i.e. a mygalomorph) and appears to be a Chenistonia species.
In Queensland the equivalent spider is Namea salanitri which also places a sheet web over its burrow entrance during the day. Your spider has a size not much smaller than a funnel-web but its venom is not considered to be particularly dangerous to humans unlike funnel-web venom.
If there are more in the back yard, leave them there. They are unlikely to do you any harm although the males may come above ground in the breeding season (which I suspect will be autumn for this species) and may surprise you.
USQ CRICOS No. 00244B”
Are you sure it’s a type of Tarantula? Do they have burrows??? If you can provide any further info I would be grateful. Regards, Kelly
We would always defer to the local expert. We can tell you though that Tarantulas are considered Mygalomorphs. They are, as Ron states, primitive spiders. Mygalomorphs include not only Tarantulas, but also Trapdoor Spiders and Purseweb Spiders.
Letter 3 – Blue Tarantula???
Subject: Blue tarantula
Location: San Antonio, Texas
September 30, 2015 10:08 pm
I discovered this blue tarantula in my backyard this morning. I was having difficulties finding any information on it online. I’m located outside of San Antonio, Texas. The spider was around 3 inches long.
Signature: Ryan Walters
The only Tarantulas listed on BugGuide from Texas are in the genus Aphonopelma, and we did locate one image on BugGuide of Aphonopelma behlei that has a bluish cast, but not as extreme as your individual.
Perhaps someone with more knowledge on Tarantulas will be able to provide additional information.
Letter 4 – Brazilian Red and White Tarantula Molting in Captivity
Location: South Africa, in captivity
March 6, 2011
Attached are pictures of my Brazilian Red and White molting. I had a few good pictures but you can decide which ones to include. There is one of the shed skin that shows the size of the spider.
This is my Brazilian Red and White Tarantula molting. The scientific name seems to be Nhandu chromatus, but as you have mentioned I also use the web to do research and this may be wrong.
It almost seems as if she’s dead and a lot of inexperienced tarantula keepers do not realize this and many tarantulas have been thrown in the trash. If someone would like to have a pet tarantula, please do your homework before getting one.
They are fairly easy to look after but be prepared to have a pet “rock”. They will sit for hours and do nothing and some borrow underground and you might see them 5 times a year. They are however fascinating and I love these misunderstood creatures.
I hope you enjoy these pictures of my beauty molting.
P.S. Daniel, please let me know if I should rather submit through your site. I just struggle with uploading the pictures.
Thank you again for an awesome site! And I hope I am not flooding your mailbox.
We are sorry to hear you are having problems uploading images. Thanks for sending all these photos of your very pretty Brazilian Tarantula. We had a difficult time selecting three images that are representative of the molting process.
Addendum: We decided to add one more image of your freshly molted Tarantula playing dead.
Letter 5 – California Ebony Tarantula
Subject: Spider from Sierra Nevadas
Location: Grass Valley CA
May 1, 2016 3:35 pm
Hi there, this guy came waltzing into our garage last night, I can’t figure out if it’s a wolf spider or ebony taranchula, love to know your thoughts.
This is most definitely NOT a Wolf Spider and after doing some research, we are concluding you are correct that it is a California Ebony Tarantula or at least another member of the genus Aphonopelma.
Your individual is a male. Male Tarantulas are frequently found wandering in search of a mate. Female Tarantulas are more sedentary. News from the Bernard Field Station has some marvelous images and you can also find similar looking individuals on this BugGuide posting and this BugGuide posting.
Thank you so much for your reply, I am a teacher and I am really looking forward to sharing this with my class and encouraging kids to let them live in their gardens as they are awesome for the ecosystem.
Letter 6 – California Ebony Tarantula: Nursed Back to Life with Tender Loving Care!!!
Tarantula identification, please
First of all, you have a great website! The attached photograph is of a small tarantula that my friend fished out of her swimming pool here in southern California (Thousand Oaks in Ventura county).
She thought is was probably dead (drowned) and as she was removing it, a tarantula hawk wasp appeared and began dive-bombing her and “fighting” her for it. When she brought it to me, we found it was alive, but seemed paralyzed.
We theorized that either the wasp had already stung it and accidently dropped it in the pool on the way back to the nest or it was “brain damaged” from a near drowning (or both).
Just for fun, we kept it and “nursed” it back to health over several months. Initially, we had to hold it on its back, pry its fangs back, and put a prey insect or worm in place, then let go and let the fangs reflexively spring back into place trapping the food item.
Eventually, we just had to place the insect against the fangs and the spider was able to voluntarily grab it on its own with its fangs. With time, the spider regained its mobility and after several months was able to walk around its cage and catch a cricket on its own, but only if one crawled by it.
It still seems rather slow moving (compared to the Mexican red knee tarantula we have) and its not a voracious eater, but its still alive after about 8 or 9 months. It has not molted yet and it is rather small so I don’t know if its a female or an immature male.
It basically is just all black in coloration. Can you identify its genus and/or species? Thanks! Sincerely,
This is one of the most touching letters we have ever received. What a lucky California Ebony Tarantula, Aphonopelma eutylenum. We are basing that identification on a nearly identical specimen posted to BugGuide, also rescued from a swimming pool.
Letter 7 – California Tarantula
Tarantula and Thanks For the Great Site
I think your site is great. I used to be terrified of many bugs and had to have someone else remove them from places I lived, especially spiders, but after spending time in Jamaica and almost 2 months in El Salvador I got very used to them. Now I want to identify everything I find.
This was a Tarantula I found near my apartment in California on the border of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, and I was able to catch it and it is now a pet, it is small for a Tarantula, only about 1 1/2 inches for the body length.
I know it is a tarantula but would like to know the exact species, I know that may be difficult but any help would be appreciated. Also please feel free to use this image on the site. It is one of the better shots I got of it. Any response would be appreciated. Thanks in Advance,
According to Charles Hogue in his wonderful book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin: “Aphonopelma eutylenum is also recognizable by its overall brownish clor and relative hairiness. Aphonopelma reversum tends to be gray-black to black and less hairy.” Our money is on Aphonopelmus reversum.
Letter 8 – California Tarantula
What is my new friend?
I found this female (or sexually immature male) tarantula outside my home in Placerville, California. I have seen plenty of male tarantulas in the fall during their yearly stroll to find a mate, but have never happened across a female or her burrow before.
What strikes me as odd is that she is very blue in certain light, almost as blue as my female Haplopelma Lividum. All the male Tarantulas I’ve seen in my area are always brown, and she is very short haired with no articulating hairs on her abdomen.
Her cephalothorax and abdomen are about 1 1/2 inches, with legspan 3-3 1/2 inches. Any information you can give me would by greatly appreciated!!
It already sounds like you probably know more about Tarantulas than we do. Of the species we have in Southern California, Hogue writes of Aphonopelmus reversum, (possibly now Aphonopelma): “tends to be gray-black to black and less hairy”.
Letter 9 – California Tarantula
Subject: California Tarantula?
Location: Thousand Oaks CA
July 6, 2014 9:41 pm
Thank you for such an interesting and informative site!
I went for a walk with my husband and kids tonight- a hot July evening in Thousand Oaks CA, and my husband spotted this crawling up a curb.
I tried looking through your site for anything similar, but it didn’t seem to match anything I could find. It was almost as big as my hand, and the main part of the body appeared to be hairless, but the “butt” was hairy, and narrower than the main part of the body.
Tarantula sightings in much of Southern California are becoming rarer and rarer due to habitat loss, and now they are only seen in areas that abut natural open space. Most North American Tarantulas are in the genus Aphonopelma which is represented on BugGuide.
Letter 10 – California Tarantula
Location: Westridge Park, California
August 26, 2017 12:13 pm
Running with my dog in Westridge Park and almost stepped on this big harry guy!
This is a Tarantula, and you are in California, making this a California Tarantula, an unofficial name for members of the genus Aphonopelma, the only North American genus of Tarantulas known west of the Mississippi River.
See BugGuide for more on the genus, including this information on identification: “The Aphonopelma of North American are poorly known. Although many species have been described few specimens can be properly identified either by using available keys or by wading through species descriptions.
Most identifiable specimens belong to species found in Mexico or Central America that are easily recognized by unique color patterns, such as that of A. seemanni. Correct identification of specimens collected within the United States is often suspect since determinations must be based on the process of elimination using collection dates and locality data in combination with coloration, coxal setation, and metatarsal scopulation.”
Are they as dangerous as their reputation? Could Finn or I get bit/stung and could it cause issues? Thanks What’s That Bug for 15 years of awesome knowledge and assistance:)
Tarantulas are reluctant to bite, but should one decide to bite, it might be painful and might produce a local reaction. The venom is not considered dangerous, however, Tarantulas do have urticating hairs that could cause an irritation. According to Amateur Entomologists’ Society:
“Urticating hairs are possessed by some arachnids (specifically tarantulas) and insects (most notably larvae of some butterflies and moths). The hairs have barbs which cause the hair to work its way into the skin of a vertebrate. They are therefore an effective defence against predation by mammals.”
These hairs are much more likely to cause problems than a bite, and a nose-full of urticating hairs would not be a pleasant experience for Finn and it might require a trip to the vet.
Letter 11 – Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula
August 10, 2016 5:33 pm
My husband was just given this from a teacher who says it was found wild and they thought it was female. At first we were told Chilean Rose Hair but now thinking California Ebony?? Thanks!
Signature: Stephanie Heckman
Once a wild creature is taken from its habitat and becomes a “pet” and then changes hands, and if a chain of custody cannot be established, it might be difficult to establish actual species identity. We do not have the necessary skill to identify Tarantulas to the species level, but this does appear to be a female.
Perhaps one of our readers who has more experience with Tarantulas will be able to provide a proper species identity. As a cautionary lesson to our readers, we would strongly advise folks never to remove Tarantulas from their environment as they are becoming increasing rarer in the wild.
Since they are desirable spiders sold in pet stores, “collectors” frequently remove native species from the wild to sell them, a habit we strongly discourage.