Commonly identified by their large, urticating hair covered bodies and long, turned legs, it is safe to say that tarantulas are a type of arachnids that give many people the creeps.
Apart from their painful bites, these hairy spiders are harmless for humans as they are not even very venomous. Tarantulas are a species of spiders that are spread all over the world from South America to Africa and even Asia.
According to certain estimates, this species has at least 800 subspecies and over 700 species of tarantulas. Moreover, this member of the arachnid family is a popular pet as well.
Luckily, it is easy to distinguish a spider from a tarantula because of the different characteristics each species possesses. Since tarantulas have become so popular, it is important to gain a basic understanding of this marvelous exotic pet species.
Identifying a Tarantula
Tarantulas are popular pets, but this species is commonly found in the wild as well. Because they have a unique body and appearance, it is quite easy to identify a tarantula.
The average size of a tarantula varies from 7 cm to 10 cm lengthwise, but there a few species that go over 30 cm in length. The color of every tarantula, its habitat, and its size vary depending on the species.
Even though there are a few characteristics that are common in the majority of the species, it is not important for every tarantula to share the same characteristics. The common characteristics among the tarantulas are:
- Black or brown colored bodies
- Hairy bodies
- Dense hairs (sometimes they are urticating hair)
- Some species have stripes covering the legs, which make their legs like appendages, making it easier to identify them
A tarantula bite is quite painful, and they produce mild venom that is very similar to the sting of a bee. The fangs of a tarantula are under its eyes. The legs of a tarantula are retractable and one leg has 7 segments.
Types of Tarantulas
Mexican Redknee Tarantulas (Brachypelma smithi)
A Mexican Redknee Tarantula is the classic pet tarantula and it is the most recognizable type of spider. This tarantula can live for 30 years and its leg can grow about 5 inches. These tarantulas are quite calm and they only need a small place to thrive and live happily.
Chilean Rose Tarantulas (Grammostola rosea)
Also known as a Chilean Fire, Chilean Common, Chilean Flame and Chilean Rose Haired Tarantula, this tarantula is a beginner spider that works well around humans.
The average leg span of this tarantula is 5 inches and the female Chilean Rose tarantula can live up to 15 years or more. Although they are known to be quite calm, it is important for a Chilean Rose tarantula to be in a humid, warm environment to thrive.
Costa Rican Zebra Tarantulas (Aphonoplema seemani)
A little bit smaller in size as compared to a Chilean Rose, the Costa Rican Zebra tarantula has a leg span of 4 to 4 ½ inches. This tarantula enjoys spending most of its time on the ground as it wanders.
Like the other species, this species is quite calm and fast at the same time. The female tarantula can live up to 20 years or more and they like staying in 70 to 85 degrees F with high humidity levels.
Mexican Redleg Tarantulas (Brachypelma emilia)
With the ability to live up to at least 30 years, a Mexican Redleg Tarantula has a leg span of 6 inches. There is no surprise in saying that the Mexican Redleg tarantula is a ground loving spider but it can easily be startled.
It loves spending time in temperatures that vary from 75-85 degrees F and the humidity rate has to be 65-70%.
Honduran Curly Hair Tarantulas (Brachypelma albopilosum)
Also referred to as the wooly tarantula or the curly hair tarantula, the Honduran Curly Hair Tarantula is a slow-moving, fast-growing, hardy tarantula.
Like the other species, this tarantula loves wandering on the ground and prefers spending time in small spaces. These spiders do well in moderate temperatures but they require humidity.
Pink Zebra Beauty Tarantulas (Eupaleastrus campestratus)
South America is the home to many tarantulas including the Pink Zebra Beauty Tarantula. Apart from being a hardy tarantula, these types of tarantulas are confused with another tarantula known as the Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula.
The female Pink Zebra Beauty Tarantula can live at least 25 years and its legs can grow up to 6 inches. As compared to the other tarantula species, this one has a calm personality.
Pink Toe Tarantulas (Avicularia avicularia)
A Pink Toe Tarantula (also known as a South American Pink toe, Guyana Pink toe, Pink-toed tree spider, or a Common Pink toe, these types of tarantulas do not like wandering on the ground. It has the ability to grow 3 ½ to 5 inches. The female Pink Toe Tarantula can live up to 10 years.
Unlike the other tarantulas, this tarantula species does not like walking on the ground, and it needs a big space to live. Moreover, since it does not walk on the ground, it likes to climb heights.
Brazilian Black Tarantulas (Grammostola pulchra)
The Brazilian Black Tarantula is pitch black and it has a wide leg span that adds to its natural beauty. The female Brazilian Black Tarantula can easily live up to 39 years and it needs to eat at least half a dozen crickets every single week. The living conditions for this tarantula are quite similar to the living conditions of the others.
Mexican Red Rump Tarantulas (Brachypelma vagans)
A Mexican Red Rump Tarantula is a human-friendly Tarantula and it has a leg span of at least 5 inches or more. Naturally, the Mexican Red Rump tarantulas have the instinct of living close to each other, so as a pet, it is recommended to get more than one. This way they stay the happiest.
Desert Blonde Tarantulas (Aphonopelma chalcodes)
A Desert Blonde Tarantula is more aggressive compared to the other tarantulas. Moreover, when it gets compared to the other tarantulas, this species of tarantulas have the ability to grow more, which is why they require a bigger place to live.
Understanding its Diet, Habits, and Behavior
Tarantulas are nighttime hunters and like to feast on insects like other species. These types of tarantulas prefer eating the following types of insects:
But since tarantulas are quite large, and some are extremely large, they prefer feasting on preys other than just insects. These preys would include:
- Toads and foods – (learn more about toads in our article here.)
A major difference between a spider and tarantula is that a tarantula does not use webbing to hunt prey; it just goes out and hunts. Tarantulas have to be extremely sneaky when they are hunting.
There are a few species that leave thin, small silk lining outside their burrow that successfully allows them to be alerted with the news that their prey is near.
As mentioned before, tarantulas go hunting during the night. They are slow and careful. They have the ability to feel vibrations of their prey with the hair on their legs and body. When they feel that prey is near, they start moving quickly and attack the prey by pouncing on it.
Their tactic is to grab the prey with their front legs and then they bite into the prey, injecting its venom into the prey so it is paralyzed. Then, with the help of their fangs, they kill the prey. The injected venom turns the preys into liquid so the tarantula can consume it without any problem.
For the smaller species, it is hard to chew on solid foods, but the larger ones are strong enough to eat the prey without having to paralyze it.
When a tarantula knows it’s in trouble, it protects itself with the sharp barbs on its abdomen. When the tarantula starts to rub these barbs (or hairs) together, they get released into the air, attacking the predator. The predator starts feeling irritated and flees. The biggest threat for tarantulas is humans.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
It is important for male tarantulas to mature before they can start reproducing with female tarantulas. After the male tarantula matures, it becomes motivated to reproduce.
When they are looking to mate, the male tarantula leaves its territory so it can find the perfect female tarantula. Keep in mind, it is risky for males to do this because they are closer to human this way.
A male tarantula has to create a sperm web where it deposits its sperm. After the webbing is made properly, the male tarantula attracts a potential female tarantula and traps it into the web. Once the female tarantula enters, the male fertilizes her and escapes.
The reason why the male has to escape as soon as possible is that the female tends to eat the male after the reproduction is done. The interesting thing is that even if the male successfully escapes, it will die a few months after the intercourse.
After that what happens is:
- The female tarantula deposits her eggs into the egg sac
- The incubation occurs
- The eggs hatch and baby tarantulas are born
The female tarantula molts her entire life, but a male cannot molt after it reaches its maturity. Each molting period is longer than the previous molt. A female tarantula can live to 35 years or more, whereas a male tarantula passed a few months after intercourse.
Common Habitats and Distribution
Tarantulas are found all around the world, but the species varies in every continent. It is common to find tarantulas in:
- Central America
- North America
- South America
There are many estimates stating how there are more than 850 types of tarantulas. The United States of America alone is home to more than 50 different types of tarantulas.
Tarantulas like to live in places like:
- Forest slopes
- Desert basins
- Mountain foothills
There are a few tarantula species that live in trees as well. Moreover, it is common to find tarantulas in rain forests and jungles as well. They create their own homes by using their fangs to dig in the ground. Spinning a web is not common among these arachnids, but what they do is create soft walls with silk.
Bites and Treatment
Tarantulas have fangs, and when they bite, it can be extremely painful. Their mouth openings are like straws and they have barbs on their stomach, which are used for self-defense when danger is near. Although a tarantula is a venomous arachnid, the venom that secretes from this species is not as dangerous as the venom of others.
Tarantula bites do not kill a human, but if a tarantula bites, it is common to experience:
A tarantula bite is similar to the sting of a bee, so you will experience some kind of pain. For the individuals that have immune deficiencies or are prone to allergies, the venom can cause more symptoms than usual. Tarantula bites can cause:
- Low blood pressure
- Fast heartbeat
- Difficulties in breathing
Until and unless the allergic reaction to tarantula bite is extremely severe, there is a low chance in suffering from any of the extreme side effects. It is important to know that it is common for a tarantula bite to cause reactions which is why it is very important to seek medical help. When you call for medical help, you may receive:
- Intravenous fluids
- Breathing aid
If you are in the lucky lot that does not get any allergic reaction to a tarantula bite, it is important to follow these home care tips so that the pain can lessen. Here are the steps you should follow:
- Thoroughly wash ten affected area with water and soap
- Place an ice pack directly on top of the tarantula bite
- Take the ice pack off after 10 minutes or so
- And repeat
It is important to repeat the process as many times as possible in a day so the swelling can lessen and the effects of the venom can be diminished. If you have issues with good flow, make sure you are keeping the ice pack on your skin for shorter amounts of time so your skin does not get damaged.
Where Do They Hide
Tarantulas are known as burrowing spiders. The tarantula species that live in the United States (especially in Arizona and California) are commonly found in underground burrows. They like to dig themselves underground with the help of their fangs or they will bury themselves in an already made burrow.
When they are not hiding in their burrows, they like to hide in places where they will be out of sight. However, when the mating season arrives, the male species has to take a bold step and walk around in daylight.
Tarantulas are nocturnal. What this means is that they hunt during the night time, and this species of spiders actually have to do the hunting instead of making webbing and trapping insects.
How Does A Tarantula Move?
Just like other spiders, a tarantula has 8 legs that allow it to walk and move forward with ease. At the end of their legs, tarantulas have tiny claws attached that allow it to climb up and hold onto walls and ceilings.
However, the majority of the tarantula species are ground dwellers and enjoy spending most of their time in their underground burrows.
A tarantula has to coordinate its movement with its eight different legs. The first and third leg on one side of the body will move the same way the second and fourth body will move on the other side. This allows them to take careful steps as they make their way around.
Because of the way their muscles on the legs are arranged, the legs of the tarantula have leg joints on them that make the legs bent at all times. If they want to extend their legs, a Tarantula has to increase the fluid pressure in the body (known as the hemolymph) so their leg can extend.
A tarantula is an exotic looking spider that has wondrous characteristics. This type of arachnid is commonly found all around the world. The best part is that if you are an arachnid enthusiast, you can even keep a tarantula as a pet. Do thorough research on tarantulas and get your hands on this beautiful creature.