The Taratula Spider - Interesting Facts and Information

Female brown tarantula carrying babies on her back.
Female brown tarantula carrying babies on her back. | Source

The tarantula spider is the largest of the spider family and watching one will send chills up most peoples spines. Although they are large, hairy and rather creepy to most people, most tarantula spiders are the least aggressive members of the spider family. However, if you are like me, coming upon a tarantula will cause me to do my “spider dance”. You know the one, where you are jumping up and down and flailing your hands and screaming like a little girl! Learn some interesting facts about the tarantula spider and perhaps the next time you come across one, you won’t hurt yourself trying to run away!

Range Map

Range map of tarantula spiders.
Range map of tarantula spiders. | Source

Distribution

There are approximately 900 species of tarantulas, which belong to the Theraphosidae family of arachnids. Various species of tarantula can be found in western and southern parts of the US as well as in Central and South America, Africa, Asia Australia and several countries in Europe. The name, “tarantula” actually originated from a southern town in Italy called Taranto and was used to describe most any large, ground dwelling spider.However, now the name "Tarantula" is given to this one particular family of spiders.

Golaith Birdeater Tarantula

The largest of the tarantula spider family is the Goliath Birdeater.
The largest of the tarantula spider family is the Goliath Birdeater. | Source

Range in Size

Tarantulas can range in size from the smallest, the Aphonopelma mojaviensis, sometimes call the zebra spider due to the stripes on its legs, being about the size of a fingernail or approximately 5/8 of an inch, to the largest, the Goliath bird eater, which can have a leg span of up to 12 inches and be the size of a dinner plate. Leg span is measured by starting at the tip of the back leg and measuring to the tip of the front leg on the opposite side, just in case you ever decide you want to measure one!

Bald Abdomen of Tarantula

Bald area is where the tarantula has "flung" its spiny, needle-like hairs at a predator.
Bald area is where the tarantula has "flung" its spiny, needle-like hairs at a predator. | Source

Tarantulas Lines of Defense

Tarantulas are really quite docile and will bite only when they feel they are in extreme danger. The bite of a tarantula varies by species, but the tarantulas found in North and South America, is about the same as a bee sting in terms of toxicity. When threatened, tarantulas first line of defense is to raise their front legs and extend their fangs, hoping this will scare the predator away. If this isn’t enough, their second line of defense is to then “slap” the predator with their fore legs and some tarantulas can make a “hissing” sound.

For the tarantulas found in North and South America, their next line of defense is actually “throwing” barbed bristles at their attacker. They use their hind legs to scrape these bristles off their abdomen and will “fling” them in the direction of the threat. These bristles can cause an irritation and rash in humans.

If none of these intimidation strategies work to scare away the predator, they may turn and bite. Many times they will do what is called a “dry” bite, meaning they do not pump venom into the wound. Even when using their venom, the bite is not seriously toxic to humans and there has never been a death from a tarantula bite documented.

Tarantula Burrow

Tarantula hiding in his underground burrow.
Tarantula hiding in his underground burrow. | Source

What Tarantulas Call Home

Depending on the species, some tarantulas live in trees while others live underground. The arboreal species, which mainly reside in Asia and parts of Europe, will spin a silk tube tent for a home. The terrestrial species, mainly found in the US and South America, will dig a burrow underground. They still use their "silk" but instead of using it to capture prey as most spider do, they use their silk to stabilize their burrows using a silk wall. This also helps them by giving them something to cling to when climbing in and out of their burrow.


Hunting and Prey

Most tarantulas don’t “sit and wait” for their prey as most spiders are known to do, but actually go out hunting for their food. They eat mainly insects and other arthropods, which they will "pounce" on, the bite and paralyze with their venom. The largest of the tarantula spiders, the Goliath Bird Eater, is an ambush type of tarantula. They will "lay down" a trip wire of silk that lets them know what prey is just outside their burrow. Once the tarantula feels the vibration from the trip wire, they strike! The Goliath tarantula can take down larger animals, such as small birds, lizards, mice and small snakes. Watch the video below to see one in action...if you dare!

Tarantula Claws

Small claws at the end of each leg help the spider walk on smooth surfaces.
Small claws at the end of each leg help the spider walk on smooth surfaces. | Source

Claws, Jaws and Sight

Tarantulas, as all spiders, have eight legs. However the tarantula spider has either two or three small retractable claws at the end of each one. These claws are used to help the tarantula climb smooth surfaces, such as my glass storm door!

They have two chelicerae which are commonly called “jaws”, with fangs. These are hollow and contain venom glands. Tarantulas are not aggressive towards humans and rarely bite. The bite may be a bit painful, but as mention above, not very toxic.

Although tarantulas do use their eight eyes, they are not able to see much more than light and motion. They use touch and vibrations to find their prey, using hairs or spines which are actually very sensitive sensory organs called setae.

Mother Tarantula Moving her Babies

Female tarantula transporting her young to another location.
Female tarantula transporting her young to another location. | Source

Eggs and Young

Female tarantulas can have from 50 to 2000 eggs, depending on the species. The female will guard her silken egg sac for 6 to 8 weeks while waiting for them to hatch. During this time, she will turn the eggs sac often to keep the eggs from becoming deformed from sitting in the same position for too long. The baby tarantulas will stay in the nest for some time after hatching, feeding off the yolk sac before actually going out and hunting on their own.

If the female feels her young are threatened or her nest location compromised, she will load her young on her back and move them to another location. I took this picture one afternoon when hubby spotted this female moving her young. I don’t really like spiders and this really “creeped me out”! It was about all I could do to get close enough to take this picture. Thank God for zoom lenses!

Spider Wasp

Spider wasp with paralyzed huntsman spider.
Spider wasp with paralyzed huntsman spider. | Source

Predators and Life Span

Predators of the tarantula spider vary by species but most are eaten by large predatory birds such as owls and hawks. Weasels, skunks and snakes will also make a meal of the small to medium sized tarantula. One of the main predators of the tarantula spider is the Spider wasp. The female wasp will sting the spider, paralyzing it. She will then keep the paralyzed spider in her burrow. Once her babies hatch they will begin to eat on the paralyzed spider. Man is also a predator of the tarantula as in some countries, tarantulas are fried and eaten as a delicacy. All I can say about this is, “ain’t no way”!

Female tarantulas can live for 30 years or longer in the wild and over 20 years in captivity, where males only live 5 to 10 years either way.

Are you afraid of tarantulas?

  • Absolutely
  • Maybe a little
  • I'm not really afraid of spiders
  • I would let one crawl up on my hand
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24 comments

Alexis Cogwell profile image

Alexis Cogwell 9 months ago from Indiana/Chicagoland

That's a lot of spiders... Love the hub, great information. :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 12 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

That would definitely creep me out! One at a time is bad enough! Thanks for the pin and share! :)


moonlake profile image

moonlake 12 months ago from America

Years ago when we lived in Calif. The tarantulas would hang on the side of our building in the evening. I guess they were coming out from the orange grove. It was creepy. Pinned and shared.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 15 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello, Elsie! I wouldn't say that I am afraid of spiders, but I don't like them. All those little legs, just give me the creeps! Anytime I see one, I call for hubby to remove it! I'm glad you have never been bitten, please be careful!


Elsie Hagley profile image

Elsie Hagley 15 months ago from New Zealand

I have learnt a lot about Tarantula spiders in this article expressly how they carry their babies, but I'm glad I have never seen one here in NZ.

I'm not afraid of spiders, my husband is and I'm usually the one to remove them, as it was always my job when my children were around, now they are all grown up, most times I pick them up and put them outside, I have never been bitten, here's hoping it stays that way.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 15 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

You are quite welcome, Cornelia! I'm glad someone loves spiders. I have to admit that all spiders really give me the creeps. They are amazing creatures, but all those legs just give me the chills!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 15 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

I do my spider dance every time I see one, Peggy! I can't stand to watch when hubby lets one crawl up on his hand! I am surprised you haven't seen any in Houston, I would think they would be there too. I'm glad you found my hub interesting and I thank you for all your support! I hope you are having a wonderful summer! :)


CorneliaMladenova profile image

CorneliaMladenova 16 months ago from Cork, Ireland

Thank you very much for this interesting and informative hub, Sheila. I love all kinds of spiders and the Zebra is my favorite Tarantula. Had no idea that weasels, skunks and snakes eat them. :)


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 16 months ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Sheila,

I would definitely do a spider dance like you if I saw one of these tarantulas anywhere nearby. I can't say that I have actually seen one in person but from looking at the range, they should definitely be living here as well as where you are. This was very interesting. I had no idea that their sizes ranged from tiny to so large as up to 12 inches. Up votes, pinning & sharing.


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 17 months ago from India

Great hub.

I don't really like them and am scared of them

But it is an interesting read


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 17 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Lastheart. I don't like spiders either, but living in the country I have to "deal" with them all the time and am becoming a little less creeped out by them.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 17 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Mel! Hubby will let one crawl up his leg or hand and up his arm, that creeps me out soooo bad! I don't think I have ever actually seen a tarantula hawk wasp, but I have heard being stung by one hurts like hell! I think I would be more afraid of one of them! Thanks for stopping by, my friend!


Lastheart profile image

Lastheart 17 months ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

Very good hub even though I can't deal with spiders.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 17 months ago from San Diego California

I wouldn't let one crawl up my hand, but they don't particularly creep me out. What really creeps me out are those tarantula hawk wasps. I have always given those nasty things a wide berth. They are supposed to have one of the most painful stings of any insect. Great hub!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 17 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello aviannovice! As much time as you spend outside, if they were in your area you would have seen one. We see them crossing the roads all the time. They must not be that far north in Oklahoma. Come down to Ardmore and you will see plenty of them!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 17 months ago from Stillwater, OK

Wow, this is so fascinating. I have only seen these spiders at the pet store. I would love to see some in the wild. There must be some around here somewhere. Where do I look?


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 17 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Flourish! I have to admit I was pretty "creeped out" when I saw her and all her babies, but it was really fascinating at the same time.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 17 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Poetryman! You just really don't know how "creeped out" I was while taking this picture! I swear, my skin crawled for the rest of the day! Thanks for stopping by!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 18 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

We don't kill the tarantulas we find here. I usually just walk around them. I did find one in my house one day, crawling up my kitchen cabinet. I did my "spider dance" and hubby removed it to the woods.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 18 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Bill! The only time I really "freak out" over a tarantula is when I find one in my house! I found one crawling up my kitchen cabinet one time and "the dance" was on! Hubby got him on the broom and carried him out to the woods.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 18 months ago from USA

I was most fascinated to learn about their behavior. What interesting information. Well done!


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 18 months ago

So there is something worse than a tarantula. Namely a tarantula walking around loaded down with young tarantulas!


colorfulone profile image

colorfulone 18 months ago from Minnesota

I learned a lot about tarantulas, they are interesting spiders. We do not have any of these around here. I have been seeing a 3" Wolf spider recently and as long as it doesn't act aggressive it can live.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 18 months ago from Olympia, WA

I'm not really afraid of spiders. Bev, on the other hand, would die of shock if she saw one of these. :) Great facts!

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