Which is more dangerous: huntsman spider vs tarantula? In this article, we find out all the differences between these two species of spiders.
Hunstman spiders and tarantulas are both feared species of spiders due to their size and appearance.
While there are some similarities between the two, there are many differences between them as well.
Let us look at the key differences between these two species of spiders.
What Are They?
Huntsman Spiders belong to a spider family called Sparassidae. They get their name for the way they lie quietly, waiting for their prey, just like a hunter.
Huntsman spiders are known by many names: giant crab spiders, wood spiders, lizard-eating spiders, rain spiders, banana spiders, and so on.
The Sparassidae are most common in the tropics, where there are a thousand or more species of these spiders that roam in jungles and wooded areas.
Some species of huntsman spiders are unique in the way they are able to move. For example, golden wheel spiders can out-roll their enemies, like a car tire rolling down a sand dune.
Don’t believe us? Watch this spider go:
But that’s not even the weirdest spider in this family. That title would surely go to the Cebrennus rechenbergi, which can jump and move like a cartwheel!
Tarantulas belong to the Theraphosidae family of hairy spiders. There are nearly 1,040 species of this family that have been identified.
Tarantulas are a fairly common spider in the US, and this aggressive-looking yet gentle spider is also a favorite among pet enthusiasts.
However, some of the new world variants of tarantulas have urticating hairs, which can cause skin irritation and eye damage.
Tarantula spiders are hard to identify because they look like many other spiders, but the easiest way to distinguish them is to look at their claws.
If the claws face downward, it is a tarantula, but if they face each other, it is a different spider.
What Do They Look Like?
Huntsman Spiders have eight eyes, two in the front and the rest on their body. They are amongst the biggest spiders in the world, particularly because of their ridiculously long legs.
In fact, they are the largest spider by leg span.
The male giant huntsman spiders of Laos can have a leg span of almost 12 inches! In fact, their legs are so long that they are twisted at the joints, giving them a crab-like appearance.
This is why they are also called giant crab spiders.
Most huntsman spiders are brownish or greyish, but a few have characteristic black and white underbellies, and some are marked with red patches near the mouth, displaying aposematism.
While the legs are smooth, the rest of the huntsman spider’s body is hairy.
Tarantulas’ bodies are divided into two parts: the thorax and the abdomen. The spiders vary significantly in size within the family itself, going from as small as 2 inches to as big as 4.5 inches. Their leg spans are anywhere in the range of 3 to 12 inches.
Tarantulas, especially the big ones, can be quite heavy – the biggest of them can weigh almost as much as 3 ounces.
The goliath birdeater, one of the most formidable tarantulas in the world, can reach a weight of upto 6 ounces!
As the name suggests, this spider is large enough to consume birds; however, the reputation is fairly undeserved because they rarely attack birds.
What Do They Eat?
Huntsman spiders eat many types of insects, frogs, lizards, and small arthropods. In a way, they are great for a garden since they get rid of many pests.
It is a different matter that many people may not prefer having a large, foot-long spider in their garden.
These spiders hunt for their food rather than spinning a web and waiting for prey to fall in their lap. This is why they are known as huntsman spiders.
They eat using their strong and powerful fangs, which they use to hold the prey steady before they inject venom into it.
The venom immobilizes its prey, and then they make a meal of it.
Tarantulas are a breed of carnivorous spiders. They will eat any insect that falls upon their path, even ones larger than themselves.
Some of their prey include grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, crickets, small lizards, and even other spiders.
A few of the larger varieties can even eat rodents and snakes.
Where Do They Live?
Huntsman spiders prefer warm climates and tropics.
These spiders live in the tropical areas of almost all continents, including Africa, Asia, and America. They are very common in Australia as well.
These spiders are often found under rocks and inside dead tree barks. In recent years, due to deforestation, they have also learned to live around humans, in their garages and sheds and other such places.
Tarantulas prefer desert areas, and you can find them in deserts of Australia, South America, Central America, and Mexico.
They are also present in south Asia and Africa. For some reason, they are not present in the Sahara desert, though.
Tarantulas love to burrow nests, and most of the time, their place of habitat is a burrow in the sand of the desert.
Digging burrows keeps them protected from the warm sun and also keeps them safe from some of their predators, such as tarantula hawks.
What is Their Lifecycle?
The act of reproduction in the huntsman spiders begins with their mating rituals.
Mating rituals in this species of spiders are quite protracted, and typically the female does not attack the male after it is over, unlike many other spiders.
Most of them live together in large colonies under tree bark.
Once mating is successful, the female of the species produces eggs in an oval sac.
It lays down her egg sac under a rock or inside a tree bark. Each sac may contain upto 200 eggs.
Female huntsman spiders are very dedicated mothers. They stand watch over their eggs for nearly three weeks, neither eating nor sleeping.
They are very aggressive during this stage and will immediately fight back if provoked. Some of them even carry the sac on their body.
Even after the eggs hatch, the mother spider stays with her babies for quite a few weeks. The young ones are usually pale in color and need to undergo several moltings before their outer shell hardens and they become self-sufficient.
Huntsman spiders live for upto two years, on average.
Upon reaching sexual maturity, Tarantula males create a web mat on a smooth surface and then release semen on it, which they absorb into their pedipalps.
Pedipalps are appendages in their body that look like small legs. Their function is to hold this semen and keep it viable until they find a suitable mate.
When the male and female tarantulas meet, they pass signals to each other that they are of the same species.
The signal also helps make the females more conducive to mating. The male then inserts his pedipalps into a hole in the female and fertilizes her.
Typically, once mating is over, the male will quickly make a move from the spot so that he does not become food for the female.
Females can lay as many as 50 to 2,000 eggs per year. They lay these eggs in an egg sac, and, just like a female huntsman, guard the sac with their lives.
They keep moving the eggs and turning them over so that they do not become deformed.
They are very aggressive at this time and will attack instantly if they perceive a threat.
It takes six to eight weeks for the eggs to hatch.
The mother and kids remain in the egg sac for some time, feeding upon the remaining yolk from their sac before they are ready to go out and face the world.
Tarantulas can live quite long. Many can live for as much as 30 to 40 years. They reach sexual maturity at around five years (some might take even upto ten years).
But once the males reach this point, they only have 1-1.5 years left to live, so they aggressively search for a mate.
While males cannot molt after adulthood, females can and do until they reach maturity.
Are They Dangerous?
We mentioned earlier that huntsman spiders are hunters, not web weavers. The same is true for tarantulas as well.
Huntsman spiders use their long legs to bag victims. They can run very fast and quickly overtake their prey when they want to.
Their bites are slightly venomous, and it can even cause serious problems for humans.
Some of the symptoms of a huntsman spider bite include headache, nausea, pain, vomiting, heart palpitations, and so on.
While huntsman spiders are usually not aggressive, they can become so if they are protecting their egg sacs.
Just like huntsman spiders, Tarantulas are also venomous. While their venom is not fatal for humans, it can cause quite a bit of discomfort that can last for several days on end.
Some species of tarantulas have venom so powerful that it can cause hallucinations in humans. Others can cause muscle cramps and pain that lasts for days on end.
They are particularly dangerous to those who are allergic to insect bites, and in such cases, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
Tarantulas indicate that they are about to bite by raising their front legs and the upper part of their body in the air. They also make hissing noises.
The next step is to slap their legs onto the intruder, and if that doesn’t work, then to flick their bristle-like hair onto it.
In most cases, tarantulas are more bark than bite, and if none of the above works, they are found running away as fast as they can.
In most cases, Tarantulas are not dangerous and will not bite us. However, it is important to keep a distance, especially if the female is taking care of her egg sac.
Both Huntsman spiders and tarantulas are often misunderstood as being aggressive due to their size and appearance.
Neither is very aggressive, however. They are both interested in hunting for their own set of prey and are least concerned with humans around them.
There is one point in their lives – when they are protecting their eggs, that both these spiders become extremely territorial.
Thank you for reading!
It is often hard to differentiate between a huntsman and a tarantula simply because both are quite common in the United States.
Read through some emails that illustrate how our readers have struggled to identify the right arachnid in the past!
Letter 1 – Huntsman Spider
A friend of my husband’s, Tom, works in the south-east sector of Yemen. Would you kindly help me identify Tom’s roommate? I’ve tried exhaustively looking through websites to help figure out what it is but to no avail. My husband (who also works in Yemen) thought it was a camel spider but from the pictures I’ve seen of camel spiders, Tom’s “roomie” looks nothing like them.
Tom’s roommate is a Giant Crab Spider known as a Huntsman Spider. These are shy nocturnal creatures that do not build webs. They are valuable, especially in tropical countries where they eat roaches. They are harmless.
Letter 2 – Huntsman Spider
What’s that bug? Spider from Kauai, Hawaii
My wife and I enjoyed looking at the spider pictures and explanations on your website. I wonder — can you tell me what this huge spider is? We spotted it in the bathroom of the condo where we were staying in Kauai, HI. This one was probably about 7 inches in diameter (comparable in size to a softball). Thanks in advance!
Phil & Julie Hamlin
Hi Phil and Julie,
This is a male Huntsman Spider, Heteropoda venatoria, also known as a Banana Spider. It is one of the Giant Crab Spiders and has a nearly worldwide distribution in warm port cities. Its favorite food consists of cockroaches.
Letter 3 – Huntsman Spider
Large Spider from Australia
Can you tell me what this spider is? It measured about 10 – 11 cm. We have had a few of these visitors in the house during summer.
This is one of the Huntsman Spiders, a Giant Crab Spider also known as a Banana Spider. The are secretive spiders that prowl around in the dark. They are harmless unless you are a Cockroach.
Letter 4 – Huntsman Spider
We found this strange but here in Phoenix Arizona. We see bark scorpions all the time and realize this is not a scorpion. The question is. At first glance when quickly passing this spider looked like a scorpion – is it attempting to mimic in some way or did it just loose some legs? Do you know what kind of spider it is?
Your Huntsman Spider, one of the Giant Crab Spiders, has lost two legs. These hunting spiders are shy, usually found at night, and are harmless to people.
Letter 5 – Huntsman Spider and Spiderlings
breeding huntsman spider
Your site was very helpful with identifying my pet spider. I think it is a huntsman or giant crab spider and definitely a female. Only her breeding behavior doesn’t match the description. I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and a friend found the spider in her basement. Instead of killing it she asked me to take it. After a couple of days of feasting on crickets and becoming VERY round, she started a kind of cocoon in one upper corner of her cage.
She was INSIDE the snowball sized construct and over a couple of days it became so dense, I couldn’t look through anymore. This was in January and yesterday the Mom spider came out of the cocoon, followed by about 100 tiny babies. I think, I won’t have a roach problem for the next couple of years…. Have you heard of a spider that is actually inside a cocoon with to lay her eggs or was that just an improvised burrow because the cage didn’t provide an ideal nursery place ? If so, she was pretty inventive. I’ll attach some pictures when she started the cocoon and some from yesterday with the babies and the VERY HUNGRY mom (has not eaten for three months). I transferred the “nest” to a bigger container without so many openings. You can see mom coming out of the crumbled looking cocoon (moving damage).
She later Squeezed the cocoon from inside and made it smaller and smaller and every convulsion made more and more babies to leave the safe home. They ran straight up towards the glass cover. You never stop learning with those amazing pets. I hope it’s not too much, but I’m really excited about it.
Your photo documentation is awesome. We believe this is a Golden Huntsman Spider, Olios fasciculatus. Our Audubon Guide says the “female carries egg sac in jaws until spiderlings emerge and disperse.” We are not sure about the nursery web behavior, but your photo documentation might be scientifically noteworthy.
Letter 6 – Huntsman Spider and Tarantula from Baja California, Mexico
Subject: Big Fast Moving, Baja California Sur Spider?
Location: Baja California Sur
November 6, 2012 11:54 am
Any idea what this bug is
You have enclosed two different species of spiders. The one on the yellow background is a male Huntsman Spider, probably Olios giganteus, which according to BugGuide can be identified by the “dark chelicerae, prominent heart mark.” Huntsman Spiders are shy nocturnal hunters that will help keep the home free of cockroaches. The other spider appears to be a Tarantula.