The large and typically hairy tarantula is a spider of the family Theraphosidae. While their appearance gives some people the creeps, they actually make great pets, especially for beginners. One of the most popular species as pets is the Curly Hair Tarantula (Tliltocatl albopilosus). It is docile, durable, easy to care for, and has the beautiful, unique feature of long curly hairs. Besides their unique appearance, I’ve always wondered what makes these spiders so popular, so here are some interesting facts about tarantulas. Let’s learn more!
23 Facts About Tarantulas
Although you may already know some of these 23 interesting facts, there are a few I’m sure will come as a pleasant surprise. Enjoy!
1. They Have Large Fangs
Similar to all spiders, tarantulas have fangs called pedipalps to release venom into their prey when hunting. Since these spiders are so large, their fangs are much easier to see than other spider species. Sometimes tarantulas can lose their fangs, however, they will grow back.
2. They Have Unique Defense Mechanisms
Depending on the species, tarantulas have two main defensive methods against their various predators. Asian and African species will rely on aggressive postures to intimidate their predators. This includes leaning back and raising their legs and heads to expose their fangs.
Other species have what is called urticating hairs that they can flick off their bodies. These special hairs have barbs that lodge into the predator’s eyes or skin. Some species also rub their legs together to make a hissing sound.
3. Their Venom Has Low Toxicity
Although the tarantula’s fangs look scary, they are generally harmless to humans, even if you accidentally get bitten. Most of them have venom that is as toxic as a bee sting. There is more risk if you get their urticating hair in your eyes or soft tissues, which rarely occurs.
4. Their Venom Has Medicinal Properties
Tarantula venom is being studied for its medicinal properties in treating blood clots and severe pain. For instance, University of Queensland researchers studied the venom of the tarantula species called the Chinese Bird Spider (Haplopelma schmidti). They found it can be used for chronic pain relief without the risk of addiction or side effects.
5. They Enjoy the Solitary Life
Tarantulas enjoy keeping to themselves and will mind their own business if you let them be. Most species are docile and would rather hide from humans than confront you or bite you. These spiders are also solitary animals that live alone and seek each other only to mate.
6. Some Species Are Great Pets
As previously mentioned, tarantulas can be unique pets. Since you only have to drop food into their enclosure once a week, they are easy to care for. However, make sure to be careful what you feed them during molting and right after. Besides the Curly Hair Tarantula, the Skeleton Tarantula (Ephebopus murinus) and Costa Rican Zebra Tarantula (Aphonopelma seemanni) are also great beginner pets.
7. Hollywood Has Often Portrayed Them as Villains
Despite being harmless to humans and great pets, Hollywood movies and TV shows have repeatedly portrayed tarantulas as villains. This created the myth and misinformation that they are dangerous. Examples of movies with scary tarantulas include Arachnophobia (1990), Tarantula (1995), and Eight Legged Freaks (2002).
8. The Goliath Bird-Eating Species is The Largest Tarantula Worldwide
The Goliath bird-eating tarantula (Theraphosa blondi) has a body size of up to 4.75 inches and a leg span up to 11 inches long. These tarantulas can eat most animals smaller than them, including birds, frogs, lizards, and mice.
9. Some Hide in Burrows
Most tarantulas prefer to live underground in burrows. They will borrow abandoned burrows or use their fangs to dig burrows themselves. During mating season, male tarantulas tend to leave their hiding places and wander boldly around in the daylight.
10. Some Climb Trees
Not all tarantulas live exclusively on the ground. There are tree-climbing species that have adhesive “hair-brushes” on their legs that allow them to climb. These tarantulas can vertically climb even the smoothest leaves.
11. They Make Silken Webs
Tarantulas make silken webs to build a home, handle certain food items, or create a molting mat. For example, they will line their burrows with the silk webbing to keep dirt and sand from trickling in.
12. They Don’t Hunt With Webs
Unlike other spiders that make webs to catch or trap their prey in, tarantulas don’t. Instead, they will hunt their prey through ambush and pursuit. Once they bite their prey, their fangs release venom that kills and helps dissolve the prey’s flesh, turning it into easily eaten pulp. Tarantulas can also use their strong jaws to crush prey.
13. They Go Through Molting
To grow bigger, tarantulas need to shed their exoskeletons and grow a new one in a process called molting. They will usually make a silken web mat and lay on their backs on the web.
Molting can take from 15 minutes to a full day. However, their bodies are still vulnerable and soft for a few more days until their new exoskeleton hardens. If you have a pet tarantula, make sure not to handle it during this time!
14. Some Lose Hair Before Molting
Some species of tarantulas will shed their hair as they prepare to molt. If you have a pet tarantula, some signs they are about to molt are thinning hair or bald spots on their abdomen. Some tarantulas will also appear shinier or darker than normal.
15. They Perform a Mating Ritual
Tarantulas will often face each other with their front legs and bodies elevated before mating. Mature males also have hooks under their front legs to keep female fangs away during mating. In some species, males also perform irregular beats on the female. Scientists believe this behavior helps relax the female’s fangs.
16. They Can Lay Up to 1,000 Eggs
Females can lay between 75 to 1,000 eggs per clutch. She can sometimes also lay multiple egg sacs from a single mating, known as multi-clutching. These spiders make a silk cocoon to house their eggs.
17. Females Protect Their Eggs
After a female tarantula lays the eggs, she will stay to protect them for 6 to 9 weeks until they hatch. During this time, she will ensure the eggs receive the right humidity and temperature to develop. After hatching, baby tarantulas stay with their mothers for 2 to 3 weeks before traveling to find somewhere new to live solitary lives.
18. Female Tarantulas Live Longer
Female tarantulas typically live longer than males and are bulkier and larger. A female can live up to 25 years or more, while males average around 5 to 7 years. Male tarantulas typically die not long after reaching maturity, since they tend to eat less and become weaker. As the next fact details, males are also at risk of being eaten by aggressive females.
19. They Can be Cannibals
Male tarantulas are often at risk during mating since the females tend to be more aggressive. Some species, such as the Greenbottle Blue tarantula (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens), are known for the females eating the males after mating.
Another surprising fact is that females can sometimes eat their newly hatched babies despite having spent time protecting the eggs. After hatching, the hundreds of baby tarantulas should not be kept together long as they may also eat each other.
20. They Prefer Warmer Climates
Tarantulas don’t like habitats that get cold or too wet and prefer warm, dry climates such as desert regions. However, sometimes you may find them wandering into homes during mating season. Some species also prefer the humidity of tropical rainforests.
In the U.S., you can typically find wild tarantulas in Arizona, Texas, and California. Around the world, there are species in Central and South America as well as Africa, Northern Australia, and some Asian countries such as Myanmar, China, Thailand, and Vietnam.
21. Spider Wasps Are Their Main Predators
Tarantulas have to protect themselves from animals such as skunks, birds, lizards, or raccoons. However, spider wasps are one of their most deadly enemies.
The spider-hunting wasp will enter a tarantula’s burrow, paralyze them with a sting, and drag them back to its own burrow to feed its larvae. One species called the parasitic Pepsis wasp will lay eggs on the tarantula’s body. After the larvae hatch, they feed on the living spider.
22. Dying Tarantulas Curl Their Legs
If a tarantula is weakened, injured, or severely dehydrated, they will curl their legs tightly underneath them. This position is also called the “death curl.” It is common to find dead tarantulas in this position. This is because they often use blood pressure spikes from their heart to help stretch their legs out and with weak heart rates (or none!) the flexor muscles in their legs naturally retract.
23. They Enjoy Keeping Clean
In contrast to the death curl, where the tarantula stops moving, they can sometimes be observed tucking their legs for grooming. They place their legs under their body as they use their mouth to clean their legs. Tarantulas also often wash themselves in water.