Tarantulas, known for their large size and hairy appearance, are fascinating creatures that capture the attention of both arachnid enthusiasts and those looking to overcome their fear of spiders. With over 900 species populating our world, tarantulas come in various shapes, colors, and sizes, each with its unique characteristics.
Among the many species, you might be familiar with the Arkansas chocolate tarantula and the pink-toed tarantula, found in rainforest regions of northern South America. By exploring the different types of tarantulas, you can appreciate their diversity and gain a deeper understanding of these fascinating creatures.
As you delve into the world of tarantulas, remember that their behaviors, habitats, and diets differ depending on the species. Awareness of these distinctions will help you better comprehend the adaptations and survival strategies that have enabled these arachnids to thrive across various ecosystems.
Life Cycle of Tarantulas
Tarantulas have fascinating life cycles. Female tarantulas generally live longer than males, with lifespans reaching up to 20 years in the wild. Males typically live for shorter durations, around 5-10 years.
Tarantula reproduction starts with the female producing an egg sac, where baby spiders, or “spiderlings,” develop. The spiderlings hatch after a few weeks, and grow through a series of molts before reaching adulthood.
Tarantula species exhibit diverse physical characteristics. Some common features include:
- Large size, with leg spans ranging from 3.5 to 4.75 inches for male and female tarantulas, respectively
- Hairy bodies, often with a bald spot on the abdomen due to their unique defense mechanism
- Dense pads of hairs replacing the middle claw, unlike web-spinning spiders
Some tarantulas have distinctive color patterns, like a black body with white stripes. However, the size, color, and specific features can vary greatly among the different species.
Behavior and Habits
Tarantulas exhibit varying behavior, with some species being more docile and others more aggressive. They create burrows or hide in natural crevices as their hiding spots. Instead of spinning webs for catching prey like other spiders, they use silk to line their burrows and nests.
Below is a comparison of docile and aggressive tarantula habits:
|Relaxed around humans
|More likely to attack
|Less likely to bite
|Prone to biting
|Easier to handle
|Difficult to handle
Remember, tarantulas are fascinating creatures with diverse species, unique physical features, and varying behaviors. Getting to know them can be an engaging learning experience. Just be sure to respect their space and always approach them with caution.
Types and Regions of Tarantulas
North American Tarantulas
In North America, the Aphonopelma genus is the most common type of tarantula found in the United States. The Arkansas Chocolate Tarantula is a popular example, native to the state of Arkansas. In the southwestern region, spanning across California, Arizona, and parts of Mexico, you will find the famous Desert Blonde Tarantula, scientifically known as Aphonopelma chalcodes.
- Habitats: Deserts, grasslands, and forests
- Size: Up to 2 inches in length
Central and South American Tarantulas
When it comes to Central and South America, there is a diverse range of tarantulas. The Brachypelma genus is native to Mexico and covers species like the Mexican Redleg. Another popular tarantula, native to Brazil, is the Brazilian Black. In the rainforests of northern South America, you can find the arboreal Common Pink Toe Tarantula or Avicularia avicularia.
- Habitats: Rainforests, mountains, and semi-arid regions
- Size: Between 3.5 to 4.75 inches in length
African and Asian Tarantulas
Tarantulas from Africa and Asia belong to different genera. African tarantulas, such as the Pterinochilus genus, can be found across Africa. A common example is the OBT (Orange Baboon Tarantula). In Asia, tarantulas from the Chilobrachys genus inhabit countries like India, Malaysia, and Thailand.
- Habitats: Rainforests, savannas, and scrublands
- Size: Varies depending on the species
|Deserts, grasslands, forests
|Up to 2 inches
|Aphonopelma chalcodes, A. hentzi
|Rainforests, mountains, semi-arid
|3.5 to 4.75 inches
|Brachypelma, Mexican Redleg
|Rainforests, savannas, scrublands
By understanding the types and regions of tarantulas, you can better appreciate their diversity and habitats around the world. Whether you’re simply intrigued by these fascinating creatures, or considering one as a pet, always remember the importance of respecting their natural environment.
Tarantulas as Pets
Ideal Tarantulas for Beginners
If you are considering a tarantula as a pet, there are several species that are suitable for beginners due to their docile nature and easy-going personalities. Some popular options include the Chilean rose tarantula, the pink-toed tarantula, and the Honduran curly hair tarantula. These tarantulas are known for being safe, ground-dwelling, and ideal for first-time tarantula owners.
- Chilean Rose Tarantula (Grammostola rosea): Native to Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia, this tarantula has a leg span of around 5 inches and is known for its velvet-like appearance.
- Pink-toed Tarantula: A small, tree-dwelling species native to northern South America with females having a leg span of 4.75 inches and males averaging around 3.5 inches.
- Honduran Curly Hair Tarantula: This tarantula, which is known for its unique curly hairs, is popular among beginners and has a similar size and temperament to the Chilean rose tarantula.
|Chilean Rose Tarantula
|Honduran Curly Hair Tarantula
|Similar to Chilean Rose
Care and Handling
Caring for a pet tarantula involves providing a proper living environment, a diet of live insects, and handling with care. Tarantulas should be housed in a secure enclosure with appropriate substrate, hiding spots, and proper temperature and humidity levels.
Feed your tarantula a diet of live insects, such as crickets, depending on the size and age of the spider. Adjust the quantity and frequency of feedings to ensure a healthy and well-fed pet.
When handling your tarantula, be gentle and move slowly. Although these beginner species are known for their calm demeanor, tarantulas are delicate creatures that can be injured easily.
Overall, tarantulas can make fascinating and low-maintenance pets for the right individual. Familiarize yourself with the specific care requirements for the species you choose, and enjoy the world of these intriguing, beautiful creatures.
Venom and Defense Mechanisms
Tarantulas, despite being venomous, usually have venom that is considered mild to humans. Most tarantula bites are similar to a bee sting in terms of pain and allergic reactions. However, some species might cause more severe symptoms. It’s essential to be aware of your own allergies and sensitivity to such bites.
In addition to their venom, tarantulas have fascinating defensive behaviors. A primary defense mechanism is the use of urticating hairs. These hairs can cause irritation and discomfort if they come in contact with the skin or eyes of predators or humans. Tarantulas may flick these hairs from their abdomen as a means to deter potential threats.
Another defensive behavior exhibited by some tarantulas is utilizing their silk to spin simple webs as an early warning system against predators, although they do not typically use webs for catching prey.
Danger to Other Animals
Tarantulas can be dangerous to other animals, such as birds, lizards, and snakes, which often prey on them. But due to their venom and defensive techniques, tarantulas can also pose a threat to these predators. The level of danger posed by a tarantula to other animals depends on the species and the specific situation.
In the context of tarantulas as pets, it’s crucial to ensure other pets and children are not at risk when interacting with a tarantula. Proper handling techniques and habitat setups are necessary for human and animal safety.
Overall, tarantulas are fascinating creatures with unique venom and defense mechanisms that play an essential role in their survival. As long as we respect their boundaries and remain informed about their potential risks, we can appreciate their presence in our world.
Mating and Reproductive Habits
When it comes to tarantulas, their mating and reproductive habits can be fascinating. Male tarantulas typically seek out females during mating season. It’s crucial for the male to approach the female cautiously, as she may mistake him for prey.
Males communicate their intentions using specific body movements and vibrations. If the female is receptive, she’ll allow the male to approach and mate. After mating, a male must retreat quickly to avoid being eaten by the female.
Female tarantulas lay their eggs in a protective silk egg sac. The number of eggs can range from a few dozen to hundreds, depending on the species. These are a few key points about the process:
- Females will guard the egg sac until the spiderlings hatch.
- The incubation period varies from species to species, typically lasting a few weeks to months.
- Once hatched, the spiderlings may remain with the mother for a short time before venturing out on their own.
In summary, tarantula mating and reproductive habits involve males searching for receptive females, careful courtship behaviors, and females safeguarding their egg sacs until the spiderlings hatch. Understanding these habits can help you appreciate the intriguing world of these incredible arachnids.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Trapdoor Spider
Location: Austin, TX
January 5, 2011 10:54 am
This spider was waiting for me at my front door when I got home from work last night. With legs spread, it’s probably 3 to 4 inches across. It moved rather slowly. I tried to search the web for identification, but every species I found that looked similar was not native to this area. Thanks for any information you can provide.
That is a very black Tarantula. We imagine it is in the genus Aphonopelma. According to the AgriLife Website: “There are 14 species of tarantulas in the genus, Aphonopelma, listed from Texas in a recent work. Identification of species is difficult and requires mature males, a microscope, proper literature and experience.”
Update: March 27, 2017
We will look into the possibility of this being a Trapdoor Spider.
Letter 2 – Texas Brown Tarantula
Texas Brown Tarantula
My wife saw this Texas Brown Tarantula crossing the road by our house and stopped to show our children. We later placed it in our garden and took these photos.
Thanks for sending us your wonderful image of a Texas Brown Tarantula, Aphonopelma hentzi. Also thanks for rescuing the hapless creature from becoming road kill.
Letter 3 – Unknown Tarantula from Ecuador
Subject: Large spider from Ecuador
Location: Vilcabamba, Ecuador
February 1, 2015 3:28 pm
Hey I recently found this spider hiding in my towel! Have tried looking at different possibilities but none seem to fit the bill. It was found in September, in Vilcabamba , Ecuador. Someone suggested it was called Jamaco by the natives here, a type of bird-prey spider, but im not convinced. Any help would be greatly appreciated to satisfy my curiosity of who this visitor was!
This is some species of Tarantula, but we are not certain of the species. The Spinnerets on the tip of the abdomen are especially pronounced in your individual. According to Tarántulas de México: “Spinnerets are movable structures located in the rear of the opisthosoma, and are in charge of expelling and placing the silk web produced by four internal glands. As the silk passes through the ducts and reaches the spinnerets, its molecular structure changes and becomes very resistant. It comes out through small tubes located by the hundreds in the lower part of the spinnerets; then the silk dries, and reaches the consistency we all know. Tarantulas have four spinnerets: The two lower ones are small, and the higher ones are larger and very mobile.” We did locate a similar looking Ecuadorean Tarantula on Susan Swensen Witherup’s Ithaca College profile. Maria Sibylla Merian’s 17th Century illustration of a Bird Eating Tarantula was a hotly debated issue in her time and that illustration caused her to fall out of favor among naturalists because of questions of its authenticity. According to Tarantulas of Ecuador: “Theraphosa Blondi
The largest species of tarantula is also called the goliath bird-eating spider, and its leg span can reach up to 12 inches. They are burrowers and spend the majority of their lives inside their homes, never moving more than a few feet away even while hunting. They prefer swampy areas near water, where their brown bodies will blend into the surroundings. Considered extremely aggressive, these spiders do not make good pets, and are prone to biting — their 1-inch fangs can do a great deal of damage, although the venom is not fatal to humans. The typical diet of this spider includes amphibians, rodents, insects, snakes and the occasional small bird.” It is pictured on Wonderful Insects by Frank Fieldler, and it does not resemble your Tarantula. Perhaps one of our readers can provide information on the identity of your Tarantula.
Update from Buglady
The image of the unidentified tarantula looks like a Linothele Megatheloides:
Letter 4 – Tarantula Spiderlings Exhibiting Unusual Behavior
Ed. Note: We have never heard of a situation where Spiderlings remain together after leaving the female’s protection, and we suspect the “conga line” you witnessed was of creatures other than Spiders. The behavior you describe is more typical of social insects like ants or immature Hemipterans. Are you able to provide an image?
Subject: spiderlings traveling in a “conga line”
Location: Chemuyíl Pueblo, México Yucatán
January 8, 2017 10:58 am
There are many unusual bugs in the jungle here, such as spiders and scorpions that carry their babies on their backs.
I was delighted to find your site – thanks!
Can you tell me about spiderlings traveling in a “conga line”, hundreds of them? Why?
Hi again Malcolm,
Thanks for sending an image. Our initial response to you expressed our doubt that Spiderlings would travel the way you described. We retract our supposition. These do indeed look like Spiders. We will attempt to find additional internet documentation that can explain it.
Tina Shaddock comments on Facebook
I believe these are plausibly Brachypelma vagans spiderlings and this article holds a bit of info about what is occurring in this photo.
Ed. Note: Here is a quote from the linked article: “The spiderlings, which have a body length of about 2-3 mm, stay in the maternal burrow for several weeks. Little is known of this gregarious stage in this species, although spiderlings have been observed moving around the entrance of the maternal burrow, in where their mother is hunting in a sit-and-wait position. They often climb over each other but avoid contact with the mother. During daytime, the spiderlings were known to remain active and visible at the entrance of the burrow for up to one hour after the female had retreated. They were able to move easily through the web covering laid by the female over the burrow entrance (Shillington & McEwen 2006). Authors hypothesized that the silk network around the burrow provides an important chemotactic cue for orientation (Minch 1978) and juveniles probably remain in contact with this network at all times. After this gregarious period, the spiderlings disperse in the form of columns of about 100 siblings walking away from the mother’s burrow (Reichling 2000, 2003; Shillington & McEwen 2006). Shi- llington & McEwen (2006) observed that during the night of May 24 th 2003, spider- lings left the maternal burrow in three lines. Then at random intervals, one individual left the column and headed in a different direction, causing successive forks in the column. The maximum observed distance of dispersal was 9 m from the maternal burrow. Dispersal is observed in several spider species, including several species of mygalomorphae, all using silk for ballooning (Coyle 1983) or orientation (Jean- son et al. 2004). Previous reports on B. vagans mention that the spiderlings walk in line like ants (Reichling 2000), but no work has recorded the use of silk during dispersal. During their gregarious and dispersal phases the spiderlings do not show any aggressive behavior toward each other, as many spiders do (Gundermann et al. 1986; Jeanson et al. 2004).”
Thank you! That description sounds entirely likely – location, environment, and behavior. And attached is a photo of an adult found outside the house. Who would have guessed? I feel happy to understand the critters here in more depth.
For what it’s worth, I’d wager the spiderlings stay in line visually. From their non-colliding dynamics, and seeing individuals lose their place in line and orient from an inch away to rejoin.
Thanks for sending an image of what we believe to be an adult male Tarantula. We will be featuring your posting for a spell.
Letter 5 – Texas Brown Tarantula
Subject: Tarantula Came A-Walkin’
Location: Coryell County, Texas
October 16, 2016 6:06 pm
Hello again! Just discovered this tarantula crawling across the yard at sundown, 7 PM. We had a male tarantula on our front porch several years ago, also in the fall, that you kindly identified. We tried not to disturb it too much as we took some photos, and then it crawled into the dry creekbed behind our yard.
Letter 6 – Unknown Tarantula from Ecuador
Subject: Huge black funnel web spider need identification
Location: Tumbaco, Ecuador
May 9, 2015 11:23 am
This pretty spider lives outside my brother’s house (came with the house). She’s black and the size of his hand (+_ 8 in / 20 cm). He tried getting it identified with no luck. Any help identifying what type is highly appreciated and welcome! They call her “viper” and she’s the guardian dog 😉
PS: I was told it could be in the Dipluridae family, either a Diplura or Linothele. It looks a lot like the spanish funnel web spider except it’s 3 times larger…
The size you have stated seems to indicate a Tarantula. Those spinnerets at the end of the abdomen are impressively long, and that is probably going to be a significant indication of the proper identification, though this image of an Ecuadorean Tarantula with long spinnerets from our archive has never been properly identified. A close-up of the eye pattern would also be of tremendous assistance. Unless we hear otherwise, we are going to speculate that this is some species of Tarantula. According to the American Museum of Natural History, the family Dipluridae is classified with the Mgyalomorphs, primitive spiders that include Tarantulas and Trapdoor Spiders. Tarantulas can live for many years, so Viper may be with your brother for a long time.
Thanks for the information I love your site 🙂
I’ll try to get my brother to get a close up of the eye pattern but I’m not sure he’ll be up to it as he is quite intimidated by it…
The image of the unidentified tarantula looks like a Linothele Megatheloides:
Letter 7 – Taratantula Hawk from Argentina
Subject: Weird big bug
Location: Potrerillos, Mendoza Province, Argentina http://goo.gl/maps/zYxOA
March 5, 2014 11:37 am
Hi! I’m from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and while visiting Mendoza we found this weird big bug in the mountain area ( http://goo.gl/maps/zYxOA ). It kind of looks like a hornet, but very passive and apparently more a walker than a flyer.
We asked some locals and it doesn’t seem to be very common (at least not closer to the city area). We took three very clear pictures, as the insect was hardly moving. This is my first submission but I remembered your page (I loved it) and thought of giving it a shot. I hope you can help, and manu thanks in advance!
Signature: Santiago Alvarez
This magnificent creature is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompillidae, and it is most likely one of the Tarantula Hawks, a group of large Spider Wasps in several genera that prey upon Tarantulas and other large Spiders, including Trapdoor Spiders. The female is the hunter and the Tarantula Hawk hunts for a Tarantula which she stings and paralyzes. She then buries the Tarantula after laying an egg on it. The egg hatches and the wasp larva feeds on the paralyzed Tarantula, eating it while it is still living and helpless, ensuring that the meal will always be fresh meat. Sometimes a Tarantula Hawk loses its battle with the Tarantula and becomes the prey instead of the predator. These large, active wasps are sure to attract attention when they flutter their brightly colored wings while running on the ground. The sting of a female Tarantula Hawk is reported to be quite painful.
Thanks for the nice and quick reply! It’s great to know!